Practice, preparation, and proper hydration are keys to achieving peak performance. A commonly overlooked component of athletic success, however, is bone health. No athlete can achieve success when sidelined due to fractures or bone injuries. Optimizing bone health starts early. Nutrition research shows childhood habits can contribute to adult osteoporosis.
What can young athletes do to ensure optimum bone strength and development? In addition to practice and regular physical activity, eating foods rich in calcium, vitamin D, and loading up on the health benefits of dairy are important ingredients to building peak bone mass.
- Calcium is a mineral you can only get through food or proper supplementation. Foods rich in calcium include milk, cheese, yogurt, broccoli, spinach, and kale.
- Vitamin D is needed to absorb calcium. Foods rich in vitamin D include fortified milk and yogurt, sundried mushrooms, wild salmon, tuna, and whole eggs. Most individuals can benefit from 5-30 minutes of sun on bare arms, legs, and torso several times per week to allow one’s body to make vitamin D.
- Protein plays a key role in enhancing bone integrity. The recommended daily protein intake will vary depending on age, weight, sport, etc., but a good goal is getting 20-30 grams per meal. Foods rich in lean, high-quality protein include milk, Greek yogurt, beans, chicken, lean beef, nuts, and fish.
Fueling up with chocolate milk, which has protein, calcium, vitamin D and carbohydrates, can support the muscle development and bone health of young athletes now and into the future. Share bone health facts and dairy recipes from the Southeast Dairy Association to get athletes the nutrition they need for bones built to last a lifetime.
Jamie Meeks, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN
Jamie is a board-certified specialist in sports dietetics overseeing nutrition needs for the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans sports teams. Prior to fueling the Saints, Jamie directed the sports nutrition program for Louisiana State University. Jamie is a public speaker active with her local and state dietetic associations and is a member of the Collegiate and Professional Sports Dietetics Association. Connect with her on Twitter at @JamieMeeksRD and Instagram at jamie_meeks.