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Calcium – An essential nutrient for physically active officials

By Dr. Dan Davis on July 21, 2015 officials Print

Why calcium is important to your health?

Calcium is a mineral that’s essential for building strong bones. It has other crucial functions and fitness benefits as well. For example, your muscles are lined with calcium ions which help enable your muscles to flex, contract and extend. I’m sure you’ll agree that strong bones and healthy muscles that flex properly are important contributors to your ability to run up and down a basketball court or a football or soccer field. Additionally, remember that your heart is a muscle, so it’s essential that your body has enough calcium to enable the heart to do what it has to do and perform its function in a healthy manner.


How much calcium you should have?

Generally speaking, most adults up to the age of 50 need 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day. Women past 50 need upwards of 1,200 milligrams a day, and the same is true for men over 70. Age aside, if you officiate a sport that requires you to do a lot of running, you need more calcium than the normal daily minimum.


What are the health risks of not getting enough calcium?

For one thing, a calcium deficiency can lead to muscle cramps. Consider also that every time you move a muscle, you are using up some of the calcium in your body and in fact, it is being taken from the most calcium-rich part of your body – your bones. When you deplete bone calcium, it can weaken your bones, resulting in osteoporosis. Plus, you could be more susceptible to stress fractures and other injuries, any of which could keep your off the court or field of play. No official wants that to happen.

Can you take in too much calcium?

Excessive calcium can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, heart disease and heart attack, so you should make yourself aware of how much calcium your body is getting on a daily basis.


How can you be sure you get enough calcium but not too much?

It’s best to get calcium from food rather than from supplements. Dietary calcium is what the body absorbs. Calcium from supplements does not get absorbed and stored in your bones. Instead, it could even end up causing kidney stones.


What are good sources of calcium?

Milk and dairy products are very good calcium sources. Three glasses of milk a day can provide the 1,000 milligrams of calcium that you need on a daily basis. Milk is especially important for youngsters to build strong bones, but don’t give them skim milk, because it does not promote developing proper bone structure. Some dark leafy green vegetables such as bok choy and collard greens are excellent sources of calcium. Sardines and salmon with soft bones are good as well. Total cereal is an excellent source of calcium, as are cheese, yogurt and tofu. When it comes to yogurt, however, be a careful consumer. Not all yogurts are created equal. Greek yogurts which are so popular today contain less calcium than most people think. Some yogurts provide as much as 50% of the recommended daily amount of calcium, while others provide as little as 15%, so be sure to read the product label before you buy. Also, some yogurts are high in saturated fats which are not good for you, so consider a low-fat option.


How does Vitamin D help build strong bones?

Your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. We are finding these days that more and more people do not have as much vitamin D as they need and that can lead to a lessening of bone density. Vitamin D is available naturally in a few foods, such as tuna and salmon. Beverages, such as orange juice, may be fortified with calcium and vitamin D, but some people may still need to take vitamin D supplements. Remember: You should consult with your physician before taking any supplements.

Calcium is essential for healthy bones and muscles, including – and especially -- your heart. You need upwards of 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day – more if you are athletically active, as you are when you officiate a sport. You should be able to get as much calcium as you need from a proper diet without having to resort to calcium supplements. And keep in mind that your body needs calcium throughout the day, so you should intake certain foods and beverages that are good calcium sources at different times of the day. Finally, be an educated consumer when it comes to buying foods that you think provide sufficient calcium. Read the labels, and then decide. Stay strong and healthy by getting the right amount of calcium every day.