Improving Bone Health in Student Athletes

Getting sufficient fuel through a variety of foods in the form of breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks is of utmost importance to young athletes who are growing, developing and building bone density. But did you know only 38 percent of teens eat breakfast? It’s a good bet some of your athletes are skipping meals and snacks, leaving them under-fueled and their bones at risk of injury.

The bones provide mobility, support and protection for the body, but each year, athletes suffer broken bones, stress fractures and shin splints. You’ve heard about calcium and Vitamin D and how important they are for healthy bones and decreasing fractures. You may not know about the other nutrients required to build bones—phosphorus, zinc, chromium, folate/folic acid (B9), magnesium, copper, boron, vitamins A, B6, B12, C, K, and protein. None of these nutrients work in isolation. That’s why it is important for young athletes to eat a variety of foods and not get into a pattern of eating the same thing day in, day out.

Athletics play a valuable part in building healthy bones by offering weight-bearing exercise. However, the rigors of athletic schedules may leave the tank of an athlete empty and lacking in variety. This fuel deficit can prevent bones from being built or healing. Erase the energy deficit with healthy, portable foods such as milk, yogurt and whey protein. For those who are sensitive to lactose, cheese (which is generally low in lactose), nuts, vegetables and fruits are essential for building and maintaining strong, healthy bones. This Grand Slam Snack Mix is portable and full of bone-building nutrition and energy to keep athletes fueled and healthy.

Charlotte Caperton-KilburnCharlotte Caperton-Kilburn, MS, RDN, LDN, CSSD, FAND is a private practice, registered and licensed dietitian in Charleston, South Carolina, working with individual athletes and those suffering from disordered eating. She is a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics and a Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She is the co-founder of the South Carolina Coalition for Overcoming Eating Disorders (SC-COED) and co-author of the third edition of “Winning the War Within,” available in late fall 2016.