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Calcium is important for healthy bones, teeth, muscles, nerves, and proper hormone function. Those at greater risk for deficiency include athletes who have a low caloric intake or those who avoid dairy products.
Although dairy products are the greatest source of calcium, we can also find it in fortified soy beverages, canned salmon or sardines with the bones, fortified orange juices, almonds, white beans, tahini, tofu set with calcium, and dark leafy greens. Supplementation is only recommended if dietary assessment reveals a low intake.
We often hear about the role of antioxidants in reducing our risk of cancer and other chronic diseases. But these powerful compounds may also reduce the negative impacts of stress caused by intense activity on our bodies. Because exercise can increase our oxygen consumption, it is hypothesized that chronic training increases oxidative stress, which may damage our cells. So far, there is little evidence however that antioxidant supplements improve athletic performance. Therefore, the safest and most effective way to increase antioxidant intake is by having diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Foods highest in antioxidants include berries, dark green vegetables, and legumes.
Although adequate energy, protein, and carbohydrate intake is our best strategy to optimize athletic performance, we can’t ignore micronutrients which will give us that extra edge. It is crucial for athletes to get a dietary and medical assessment to ensure there are no micronutrient deficiencies. It is also important to note that supplementation is not recommended for those who already meet their requirements. As always, a balanced diet containing foods from all food groups in appropriate amounts will often all the necessary nutrients!