Female Runners and Calcium
I wanted to ramble on a topic that has hit home for me. Recently I was asked to write a post about female runners and calcium. For any runner, especially female runners, Calcium and Vitamin D are essential for bone health.
If you don’t have proper bone density, you set yourself up for stress fractures. You cannot outrun your bone health.
Granted, getting enough calcium and Vitamin D is essential for males too, it is especially important for females. For females that have lost their period, this is EVEN MORE important (Do not ever argue, it’s not reasonable to not have your period). Females that have lost their periods do not absorb calcium correctly and their bones become weaker, which can lead to a stress fracture or bone break. When you do not have your period, your bones do not heal as quickly or as frequently.
As a Female Athlete, Why Should You Have More Calcium and Vitamin D?
- Both Calcium and Vitamin D play an essential role in Peak Bone Mass
- Less risk of Stress Fracture and Strong Bones
- Less Bone Loss
- Running is weight-bearing and as a distance runner you have your body weight impacting with every stride
If you have one stress fracture…you are much more likely to have another…and another…and another…
The woman who asked I post about female runners and calcium asked me to mention her backstory. She was a college-aged female who was busy, active and quite a fast runner (now top 50 marathoners in the US).
She didn’t get enough calcium. Her nutrition wasn’t terrible, but it was not spot on either. She was at a very rigorous school as well as being a varsity runner, so she had a lot going on. While nutrition was essential to her, it wasn’t the number one focus. She would also like to point out that, like many bloggers and female runners out there, she was not into drinking or partying.
As college continued, she began losing a lot of bone mass and density. This happened over a few years and by senior year, it led to her first stress fracture (ending her collegiate season). It healed eventually, and she was able to run again (and still be mind-boggling fast), but her bones were far weaker.
As she is 30 now, her bones will never be as strong as that of someone who got enough calcium during that time. She now gets stress fractures repeatedly. As in saying 8 weeks…no big deal…I’ll start running again after it heals..try doing that every few months because your bones are too weak. Female runners need both calcium and Vitamin D to maintain healthy bones. Vitamin D supplements are equally as crucial in the incidence of stress fractures.
I’m not saying that will happen to you; I think as young people, we take our health with a grain of salt and live in that “we aren’t injured now” so let’s keep going along the way we are…think about the future when it comes…
If you are a female lacking your period, you need to be getting more calcium then a regular person (runner or not). An ordinary person needs about 1000 mg daily and a female lacking a period needs 1700 mg of calcium or more. If you don’t have your period, you should talk with your doctor. Any female runner can benefit from calcium supplementation.
I strive for about 2000 milligrams a day because I’m paranoid about getting another stress fracture. You should aim to get your calcium intake from dairy, food. Plus, I enjoy a lot of dairy in my life. I usually take a calcium supplement as well as my multivitamin, which brings me pretty far up.
If you aren’t sure what to do, I suggest speaking with a sports medicine doctor or certified dietician. I cannot emphasize the importance of female runners and calcium and the importance of not losing your period.
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Question for you: Female Runners: Do you get enough calcium?
aah this is such an important issue! I have had so many doctors be like “why are you worried about no period, it’s not like you’re trying to get pregnant!” and it just boggles my mind cuz yeah, it’s not normal. I’m always working on getting enough calcium, and I do take a supplement. I also have to say that you’ve got to pay attention to getting enough food in general so that your body can actually metabolize and use the calcium you’re getting!
Wow, I’ve never even heard of a doctor ignoring a period! And yes to eating enough! 🙂
I seriously eat so much dairy that I don’t worry too much about it. It’s pretty excessive but I love my yogurt and cheese. I don’t think it’s so much to be worried about overdose though, and with my track record of bone issues (even though density scans say they’re okay) I’m not risking it!
after my stress fracture last year I have so up on my calcium. also runners don’t realize you should take vitamin d as well so that you can absorb it!
Hi, I’m a long time lurker 🙂 really enjoy reading. I just wanted to say, thank you, this is a very important issue. I’m not a runner, I’m a dancer, but I’ve had stress fractures too. I just wanted to say, calcium is so, so important, BUT – PLEASE make sure you are fuelling your body with everything else it needs too. I found that out the hard way – I have been taking huge amounts of calcium for years and years, but I still have severe osteoporosis. If your body is lacking in other nutrients, it’s not going to be able to USE the calcium you give it – remember that. Also if you are at a point where you stop getting periods, you don’t have the hormones essential to menstruate OR to build bone – I found that our hormones are, if anything, just as important if not more important than calcium. In a nutshell (or glass of milk :)) don’t restrict anything – feed your body in a way that allows it to get and use all the nutrients, and don’t get too thin. Your bones will thank you for it 🙂
Thanks for commenting Fiona! Anyways-I actually know a serious dancer who got a stress fracture for not fueling herself well too. It’s so important!
It’s a shame that so many of us find out after it happens, then it’s too late! Really appreciate you blogging about this for that reason 🙂
Hmm… my multi has 500 mg in it, so yeah, I guess I should probably get some more (I don’t have a period). I do eat a lot of dairy but leafy green veggies, though. Ironically the multi says 500 mg is half your daily value but I guess that’s for your average person who gets a period and probably doesn’t work out a lot.
I eat so much cheese it’s sick.. Well that and milk with my cereal.. all day everyday. I wish I had another bowl of cereal right now!
great post! osteopenia runs in my family, so I constantly worry about this. I make sure to drink milk with breakfast and dinner and try to keep track of the calcium in other foods. One thing you also have to think about is getting enough Vitamin D, which is even harder to come by than calcium, but without it, you can’t absorb the calcium. I probably get less Vitamin D than calcium, but they go hand in hand.
THANK YOU FOR THIS POST!!!
I am currently without a period but I too am OCD about getting 1500+ mg calcium daily. I don’t count calories – I count mg of calcium 😉 I do think its important to get bone density scans yearly if you can because they are a lifesavor
This is such an important topic. I take vitamin D supplements because I rarely get sun where I live, but I need to take calcium too because I can’t stand dairy. It’s so important, though, and so many people don’t get that.
Thank you so much for bringing attention to this issue! It made me realize that I’ve been neglecting supplementing my diet with calcium as I am one of those females that needs to…
Kinda freaking out now though :/ I’ll be making a trip to the pharmacy to pick up some supplements today!
Oh my stars! I hope I didn’t freak you out too much! This isn’t supposed to do that LOL, just raise awareness to the issue! 🙂
Thanks so much for this post! I thought I ate a lot of calcium because I eat cheese and yogurt more than the average person, but I just added up how much I have on average and definitely think I’ve been skimping. Now I’m going to go get a supplement!
Keep in mind that the main issue with losing bone mass due to Amenorrhea is because the hormones responsible for your monthly cycle are also required in order to ABSORB calcium. Most amenorrheic females get super focused on eating all this calcium, taking supplements, etc.–but the whole problem is that their bodies’ can’t absorb it.
On the other hand, athletes who maintain sufficient energy balance have body’s that produce the hormones required for fertility and bone remodeling, are typically solid with great bone mass with adequate calcium intake [as opposed to the over-focus on calcium intake vs. calcium absorption in the amenorrheic athletes].
With my computer being crapped out I haven’t been able to blog creep as much,but I’m glad you posted this. I think it’s really important as females/athletes to get more vitamins/calcium/minerals than normal because of how much our bodies go through. Great post Hollie!
This is such a great post, with lots of useful information! I take calcium supplements and really love dairy, so I think I am getting enough 🙂
I have actually broken my leg from running with weak bones- but I have always exceeded the RDA for calcium- my problem was that I was profoundly low in vit D.
You can eat all the calcium you want, but if you are low in vitamin D hardly any calcium will be absorbed- so I think really you have look at nutrients as a more whole perspective in achieving strong/healthy body and bones. Ya know , looking at the bigger instead of focussing on specific nutrients. Iv learnt this through treatment I’m receiving for osteoporosis right now.
I think raising awareness about this is awesome! Fab post Hollie- I also love what has been said by some of the other commenters:).
I still don’t get my period after three years now (?). Long time. I eat a lot of calcium and do eat. I just don’t get one. I never talked to anyone about it because I remember having my kickboxing teacher tell me that sometimes when females work out/run/ect., their testosterone goes up so they don’t get a period. Well, duh. I don’t think it is always due to not eating enough. I don’t know. I’m not a doctor.
Nice post Hollie. But I also think that when a female loses their period, there are MUCH bigger issues going on than calcium absorption, such as the true cause of ammorhea.
Because I hate milk, I know I probably don’t get the amount of calcium I should be getting. I try to take supplement and vitamin d but sometimes I forget. I really should get better on this!
Great post!!! Thank you!!! I am dealing with shin splints and I am starting to worry that it is a stress fracture. How did you treat your stress fracture? Did you need a boot or brace?
I think you would know honestly if it was a stress fracture. You def wouldn’t be able to run on it and 99% of the time (I made that stat up but it is very very uncommon to have stress fractures in both spots of a leg). I did not have a boot because mine was too high up on the tibia. You can email me at email@example.com if you want to chat more! 🙂
I’m so glad you wrote this post, this is really important! And I tend to eat a ton of dairy, so yup 🙂 I was looking through your lower posts – girl, you’re gorgeous! Also loving the red dress 🙂
I don’t eat dairy anymore and even when I was I wasn’t getting that much calcium, but I always buy almond milk brands that are fortified with calcium so I can boost my intake somewhat. I’m also on birth control to get a period and I was told that it helps strengthen bones but I’m really not sure that it does, so I really need to invest in some kind of calcium and vitamin D supplement.
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