Let’s be honest, when someone says calcium, you probably think bones, and since that’s where 99% of calcium is stored in the human body, it’s safe to think that.  But, calcium plays other, very vital roles within the body, which provide marketing departments with a plethora of ideas to help you increase your athletic ability with their calcium supplements.

Your muscles would not be able to contract without calcium. The basic foundation of muscle contraction is a process called the “sliding filament theory.” Essentially, to get a muscle to contract, two types of proteins from opposite directions slide over each other.  You can kind of picture it as if it were an airport moving walkway, but the belt is broken, and instead you stand on the belt, put two hands on the bars, and push yourself forward, and the belt moves.  You are the myosin protein. The bars of the walkway are the actin protein.  Calcium is what tells you (myosin) to attach on to the bars (actin) and begin the sliding motion.

The thought is that if you can increase the amount of calcium within a body, you could potentially increase how fast, and for how many times, your muscle can contract.  Faster contraction times mean faster output, so perhaps we could see Usain Bolt sprint 100m in under 9.58 seconds if he were to just take extra calcium. And, you could have better, stronger bones.

Calcium is also thought to aid in decreasing heart disease, protecting bone strength and structure, and lower blood pressure.

Perfect, right?

Here’s where things get tricky though; some supplements can be taken and act just like the normal element from food (whey protein, for example). Calcium supplements don’t act like that, and they’re easily blocked by other elements in food, which makes calcium absorption even more complex. 

Men and women over the age of 18 are recommended to intake 1000mg/day of calcium. The best sources of calcium come from dairy products, and certain green vegetables: kale, broccoli and parsley. “Certain” green vegetables exclude spinach and Swiss Chard, because they contain oxalates, which limits the body’s ability to absorb the calcium within those vegetables.  Should you not like dairy products, or are intolerant/allergic, AND adverse to the small list of calcium-available green veggies, calcium supplements may be a way to meet that recommended goal.

Not always. 

  • Calcium, especially in supplement form, because it is a different form than what is generally found in food, isn’t absorbed as well unless it is taken with Vitamin D.
  • Many legitimate studies have found that calcium supplementation is actually correlated with a nearly 30% risk of heart attack.
  • Other studies found that supplementation didn’t help older women prevent or repair bone health.

If you think you might be low on calcium stores, add some dairy in to your life! If you’re not a dairy fan, focus particularly on broccoli, kale and parsley as vegetable options for calcium intake, as well as tofu and almonds. And splurge on some sushi – that nori seaweed has excellent calcium stores for you, but you will need a LOT of it!

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