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Blog & Recipes

  • Alexandra Inman, RD

Calcium: An Essential Nutrient for Training for the Vancouver Sun Run

After the first three installments in this blog series, readers know about the importance of a well-balanced diet and adequate iron to fuel your performance for the Vancouver Sun Run. In this fourth and final installment, we'll delve into why calcium is indispensable for runners and how you can ensure you're getting enough of it to support your training and overall health.

First things first, let's get acquainted with calcium. This mineral is the most abundant in the human body and is primarily stored in our bones and teeth. However calcium’s role extends far beyond just structural support; it is also crucial for muscle function, nerve transmission, and even blood clotting.

Why Runners Need Calcium:

  • Bone Health: Running is a weight-bearing exercise, which means it puts stress on your bones which is essential for building stronger bones. However, it also means your bones require adequate amounts of calcium to act as building blocks for bone density and strength.

  • Muscle Function: While many people associate calcium with bones, its role in muscle function is equally significant. Calcium is involved in muscle contraction and relaxation, allowing for smooth and efficient movement. Runners need adequate calcium to prevent muscle cramps and optimize their performance.

  • Electrolyte Balance: Electrolytes like calcium are essential for maintaining fluid balance in the body. When you sweat during a run, you lose electrolytes, including calcium. Replenishing these electrolytes is crucial for preventing dehydration and maintaining proper muscle function during exercise.

  • Injury Prevention: Adequate calcium intake not only supports bone health but also contributes to overall injury prevention. Stronger bones are more resilient to the stresses of running, reducing the risk of stress fractures and other bone-related injuries.

photo of a variety of dairy products, such as milk and cheese
Dairy is a great source of calcium!

The recommended daily intake of calcium varies depending on age, sex, and other factors. For adult runners, the general guideline is between 1000 -1300 mg per day. Fortunately, calcium is readily available in many foods, making it easy for runners to meet their needs through diet alone. Here are some excellent sources of calcium to incorporate into your meals:

  • Dairy Products, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese

  • Soy products, including tofu (if made with calcium sulphate) and edamame

  • Dark, leafy greens like kale, spinach, and collard greens

  • Fortified foods such as plant-based beverages (soy, almond, oat) and breakfast cereals. Check the nutrition labels to see if they are fortified with calcium!

  • Canned salmon and sardines are excellent sources of calcium, thanks to their soft, edible bones

  • Almonds, chia seeds, and sesame seeds are also good sources of calcium

While it's ideal to obtain calcium from food sources, supplementation may be necessary for some runners, especially those who have dietary restrictions or struggle to meet their calcium needs through diet alone. However, it's essential to approach supplementation with caution and only under the guidance of a healthcare professional because too much calcium can lead to adverse health effects. If you are looking for personalized nutrition support in preparation for the Sun Run or any other upcoming athletic event, book a consultation with one of our knowledgeable dietitians at Vancouver Dietitians.

In the world of running, many nutrients play a crucial role in optimizing performance and supporting overall health. Calcium, often overshadowed by other nutrients, deserves special attention from runners due to its multifaceted benefits. From strengthening bones to supporting muscle function and injury prevention, calcium is an indispensable nutrient for runners of all levels. By prioritizing calcium-rich foods and paying attention to your individual needs, you can ensure you're getting enough of this vital mineral to fuel your runs and keep your body strong and resilient for miles to come. So, lace up your shoes, fuel your body, and let calcium be your running companion at the Vancouver Sun Run!


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