Calcium has a number of key functions in the body. See what they are.
Calcium is so important for muscle function that if its levels in the blood drop, the body will “take” the right amount of bone, where most of this mineral is stored. However, any such process leads to a weakening of bone density and, consequently, bone strength. That is why it is important to provide a large amount of calcium on a daily basis, and this is even more true for training people, where the load on the muscles is much more frequent and strong.
What are the main functions of Calcium?
Calcium is one of the main and most important minerals in the human body. In addition to being extremely important for building and maintaining the bone system and teeth, it is also involved in muscle contractions, nervous system function, blood pressure stabilization, blood clotting and hormone secretion. Calcium also supports the normal functioning of the brain and the regulation of heart rhythm.
- It plays a major role in muscle contractions
Muscles contract through a process called “slip theory.” In it, the myofilaments actin and myosin in muscle fibers (so-called contractile proteins) attach to each other and slide to produce muscle contraction. There are binding centers on the actin protein to which myosin attaches. However, these centers are only available in the presence of calcium.
- Lack of calcium leads to fatigue
When we exercise, the level of calcium in the muscles drops and we may experience fatigue. This in turn can lead to shortening of the workout or its ineffective performance. Low levels of calcium affect the action of the proteins actin and myosin and the strength of muscle contractions is significantly reduced.
- Supports the work of the heart muscle
Calcium helps regulate heart rhythm. The heart contracts by stimulating a special group of heart cells called a sinus node. He is also known as the “rhythm leader” of the heart. In order to initiate these “sinus impulses”, the presence of calcium is necessary.
- Maintains bone strength and density
99% of the total amount of calcium in the body is contained in the bones and joints (the skeleton of an adult contains about 1.2 kg). Bones are constantly remodeling – our body constantly removes small amounts of calcium from our bones and replaces them with new ones. If the body removes more calcium from the bones than it adds, the bones slowly begin to become weaker and more prone to brittleness. In order to avoid a shortage of the mineral, it is necessary to get it daily, and this is best done through food.
A positively charged calcium molecule is important for the transmission of nerve impulses to muscle fibers. Calcium controls the transfer of various ions (such as potassium and sodium) to cells. If there is a deficiency of the mineral, the potassium channels cannot close and open properly, which leads to disturbances in the nerve signaling.
- Blood Coagulation
Without calcium, the blood cannot clot. It must be present in the blood to form fibrin, an insoluble protein that forms a network of platelets needed for blood to clot.
- Other important features
Calcium also plays an important role in regulating blood pressure and heart rate, supporting the function of the immune system, regulating weight, controlling pH levels, helping to transport nutrients in the body, as well as the formation of caries, kidney stones and others.
How and how much Calcium to get Daily?
Everyone loses calcium daily through urine, sweat, skin, hair and nails. However, the mineral is not produced by the body and in order to maintain its optimal amount in the body, it must be obtained through food or supplements.
The recommended daily intake for adults is between 1000-1500 mg, but calcium is contained in many foods and reaching this norm is not difficult at all. About 1000 mg. calcium, for example, is obtained through 600-700 ml. milk. Other calcium-rich foods include yogurt, cheese, cheese, and for people with lactose intolerance, broccoli, figs, sardines, almonds, leafy greens, broccoli, or calcium-fortified foods such as oatmeal, juices, soy / rice drinks, and tofu.
Here are some values contained in readily available foods:
- Broccoli – in 1 tsp raw broccoli has about 43 mg. calcium
- Almonds – 30 g of almonds contain 75 mg. calcium
- Green leafy vegetables – in 1 tsp cooked green leafy vegetables there are about 260 mg. calcium
- Figs – 1 teaspoon of dried figs has 242 mg. calcium
- Oranges – 1 large orange contains 74 mg. calcium
- Sardines – in 1 can of sardines (about 100 g) there are 351 mg. calcium.
- Tofu – in 1 tsp tofu has 868 mg. calcium, which makes this food one of the richest in minerals
How can we increase Calcium intake?
Maximize calcium absorption by including foods that contain calcium. You can also improve your intake through snacks. Examples of such snacks are:
- Yogurt and almonds
- Hard boiled egg and pieces of yellow cheese
- Fruit smoothie (fresh or yogurt with fruit of choice)
The absorption of calcium in the body depends on the presence of other substances – vitamin D, phosphorus and magnesium. If the body is deficient in these substances, calcium cannot be absorbed, so try to maintain their normal levels.
Calcium and exercise
Although they are aware of the importance of the presence of calcium in the diet, exercisers often find themselves with low levels of the mineral in the body. This is most often seen when they:
- Follow a low-calorie diet;
- Are prone to profuse sweating (leading to calcium loss);
- Follow a vegetarian diet that contains few foods rich in calcium;
- They play sports intensively, without sufficient periods for recovery and rest
It is important for exercisers to follow a diet high in calories, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals and fluids to maintain physical health and recovery after a workout.
Calcium-rich foods are especially important for exercisers who fall into any of these categories. According to studies, people who exercise more than 7 hours a week have a higher risk of developing osteoporosis. In addition, excessive training without sufficient calorie intake can lead to a decrease in hormones, which negatively affects the skeletal system and the ability to perform training in general.
Insufficient calcium intake, poor absorption or loss of urine and faeces can lead to calcium deficiency. Its deficiency in the body can lead to osteoporosis – a disease characteristic of most older people, as bone density decreases with age. The loss is greater in women during menopause, when hormone levels, mainly estrogen, become lower.
The main symptoms of calcium deficiency are joint pain, high levels of bad (LDL) cholesterol, insomnia, arrhythmia, eczema, muscle cramps, convulsions, depression, arthritis, rheumatism and nervousness.