Nutrition for Bone Health in Athletes

by Dr. Jason Barker October 13, 2016

Nutrition for Bone Health in Athletes

Keeping bones healthy is critical for long-term performance and health. There’s more to bone health than just calcium! While calcium is important, there’s a lot more you can do in terms of nutrition to ensure your bones stay healthy for years.

Vitamin D For Keeping Bones Healthy

Calcium requires vitamin D for absorption in the gut. If you’re deficient in vitamin D, chances are your absorption of calcium is less than optimal, regardless if it comes from food or supplements.

When exposed to UV light (sunlight), our skin can make copious amounts of vitamin D. 15 minutes of exposure in light skinned people, and 30 minutes of exposure in dark skinned people is typically enough to generate ample amounts of vitamin D….but, the majority of us have indoor jobs, or live in places where the sun isn’t out enough to warrant that much exposure. Additionally, wearing sunblock will block the production of vitamin D. This is why we often recommend supplementation with vitamin D. Otherwise, foods like oily fish (salmon), eggs, dairy products and some fortified foods (soy/almond/coconut milks, orange juice, some cereals).

Phosphorous For Keeping Bones Healthy

Phosphorous is the second most abundant mineral in the body, and is required for bone growth; however, too much phosphorous can lower calcium levels in the blood, which in turn causes calcium to be pulled out of bone to help maintain homeostasis. Excess phosphorous also decreases vitamin D production from the skin, further impacting calcium absorption.

Phosphorous is found in many different and commonly eaten foods and drinks, making consuming too much often the concern. In particular, colas are high in phosphorus and consuming them in excess can contribute to phosphorus overload. Additionally, other calcium sources like milk and milk alternatives end up getting replaced when cola intake is high.

There are several research studies that correlate a high soda intake with increased risk of bone fractures, particularly in women and girls. Yet another reason to avoid soda, especially in excess.

Ipriflavone For Keeping Bones Healthy

Ipriflavone is derived from soy and is used in combination with calcium for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis (weak bones) both in older women and in those that take certain medications that can cause osteoporosis. It’s also used in reducing pain associated with osteoporosis and in combination with vitamin D to reduce bone loss in people who have had a stroke that has paralyzed one side of their body.

Even though it’s derived from soy, this doesn’t mean you can (or should!) consume a lot of soy in hopes of getting some Ipriflavone in your diet. Ipriflavone is not found in food and therefore must be taken as a supplement.

Ipriflavone can be an important part of supporting bone health and like all supplements you should work with a health care provider who’s knowledgeable in nutritional health if you decide to take it.

Low Acid Diet For Keeping Bones Healthy

A low acid, or alkaline diet is one where alkaline (basic) foods are emphasized while acidic foods are avoided or limited. The idea behind it is to reduce the acid load on the body. When the pH of our blood tends more towards acidity, there are mechanisms in place to bring the pH back to the desired neutral level of about 7.4; one of these mechanisms includes drawing calcium out of bones. Some believe that over time this could lead to weaker bones and osteoporosis, but there does not appear to but substantial evidence that a low acid diet can be protective bone health and against osteoporosis.

Rather than looking at it that way, more alkaline foods include most vegetables and fruits, certain protein foods (almonds, chestnuts, and tofu), and some spices (cinnamon, curry, ginger, mustard, sea salt). These are excellent foods to increase in the diet regardless, because of their vitamin, mineral, and phytonutrient content. And from the perspective of acid-base balance, these foods can help balance out more acidic foods such as animal meats, fish, dairy products, and whole grains.

There’s a lot of confusion out there about low acid diets; but you still can’t go wrong increasing your vegetable and fruit intake!

Boron and Vanadium For Keeping Bones Healthy

Boron and vanadium are trace minerals that play a role in bone metabolism. Both of these minerals are abundant in a varied, whole-food diet. Some foods that contain good amounts of boron and vanadium include fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, mushrooms, black pepper, parsley, shellfish and whole grains. If you eat a diet like this, there’s no need to supplement. However if your diet isn’t the best and you’ve got poor bone health, there are some bone-supportive supplements that contain these minerals.

In addition to including calcium rich foods in your diet (milk, milk-products, milk-alternatives, fortified foods, blackstrap molasses, and leafy green vegetables), having an adequate vitamin D status (and supplementing if necessary), eliminating soda, and eating more fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, and grains are all just as important for bone health.

References

Agnusdei, D., and L. Bufalino. "Efficacy of ipriflavone in established osteoporosis and long-term safety." Calcified tissue international 61.1 (1997): S23-S27.

"Alkaline Foods." The Acid Alkaline Association Diet. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Sept. 2016.

"Ipriflavone." CVS Pharmacy. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Sept. 2016.

"IPRIFLAVONE: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions and Warnings - WebMD." WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 07 Sept. 2016.

Rosenbloom, Christine. Sports nutrition: a practice manual for professionals. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2012.

Schwalfenberg, Gerry K. "The alkaline diet: is there evidence that an alkaline pH diet benefits health?." Journal of Environmental and Public Health 2012 (2011).

Dr. Jason Barker
Dr. Jason Barker


Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.


Also in Natural Athlete Solutions

Hydration And Electrolytes
Hydration And Electrolytes

by Dr. Jason Barker October 12, 2017

Read More
Orange Tempeh for Bone Health Recipe
Orange Tempeh for Bone Health Recipe

by Lauren Larson MS, RDN October 10, 2017

Here's a delicious dairy-free, calcium and nutrient-rich recipe that will help you build your bones, and make your mouth happy!
Read More
Measuring And Treating Inflammation
Measuring And Treating Inflammation

by Dr. Jason Barker October 10, 2017

Read More
Subscribe To OUr Weekly Newsletter