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Why Calcium Matters for Sports and Where to Get It

sources of calcium

Calcium is one of those underappreciated workhorses of the body. It stabilizes blood pressure, promotes blood clotting, maintains brain function, promotes insulin sensitivity, and even helps your muscles contract. Oh and it helps keep your bones and teeth strong too. In fact, the role of calcium is so vital throughout your body, that it will pull calcium from bones to make sure everything else functions properly if you’re not taking in enough from your diet.

From a sports perspective, trace amounts of calcium can be lost in sweat (especially in long-distance races in warm environments) and adequate calcium is required to promote bone growth in the young skeleton (30 years or younger) and bone maintenance in the aging skeleton (over 30). Consider the impact your activities have on your bones – if you want to continue to run far and lift strong, you should be getting adequate calcium.

The recommended daily allowances (RDA) for calcium are:

Boys 9-18: 1300 mg

Men 19-70: 1000 mg

Men 71+: 1200 mg

Girls 9-18: 1300 mg

Women 19-50: 1000 mg

Women 51+: 1200 mg

Of course, more isn’t always better – excessive supplement intake has been tied to potential cardiovascular events. In fact, research shows that there isn’t a huge increased need for daily calcium intake for athletes. Rather, it’s all the more vital that athletes get the recommended amounts to ensure adequate repair and recovery.  As with most things in life, food is usually a better source than supplements.

In addition to dairy sources, eating a varied diet rich in dark leafy greens (including bok choy), fruit, nuts, seeds, beans and fish with the bones in (i.e. sardines) will give you plenty of calcium – and you’ll get other health benefits from these foods as well. Vegans, don’t despair, there are plenty of non-animal sources of calcium!

To meet 1200 mg of calcium a day, an example range of foods for one day would be: 1 cup of milk, 6 oz. of yogurt, 3 oz. salmon, 1 cup broccoli, 1 cup cooked green beans, 1 orange, 1/4 cup almonds (23 total). Here’s a list of different foods rich in calcium:


Calcium (mg)


Calcium (mg)

1  cup of milk 300 3  oz salmon 180
6  oz of yogurt 350 1/2  cup oysters (canned) 60
1  oz hard cheese (cheddar) 240 1/2  cup shrimp (canned) 40
2  slices processed cheese 265 1/2  cup bok choy 75
1/4  cup cottage cheese 120 1  cup kale 94
1/2  cup soft serve frozen yogurt 100 1  cup broccoli 178
1/2  cup ice cream 85 1  cup celery 54
1/2  cup tofu 258 1  cup cooked green beans 58
1  cup pinto beans or chick peas 80 1  cup cooked butternut squash 84
2  Tbsp. flax seeds 52 1  cup cooked sweet potato 70
1/4  cup almonds 95 1  medium naval orange 56
1  Tbsp almond butter 43 2/3  cup raisins 53
1  Tbsp sesame seeds 90 10  medium dried figs 269
1  Tbsp Tahini 63 1  cup calcium-fortified orange juice 300
1/4  cup Brazil nuts or hazelnuts 55 1  cup enriched soy milk 300
8  medium sardines (canned) 370 1  cup enriched rice milk 300
Source: USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory


Topics: Nutrition
The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.