By Julie Cornelius, MS

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During the second year of my Master’s program in Nutrition, I took a Body Composition course as part of my focus on Sports Nutrition. The instructor gave us a semester long project to write a 20 page paper on anything we wanted to related to the course. At this point, I had been riding road bikes 6 days a week for about 6 years. I read every scientific journal study I could find on the topic. And the results scared me… It seemed that all studies suggested that cycling does not help to improve bone density, and may even lead to lower bone density than not cycling. Mountain biking does not seem to have the same effect as road cycling does, but there are very limited research studies on this topic, so it is definitely an area that needs more research.

Completing this project for school scared me into starting to do strength training on a regular basis. Strength training can help to improve bone density, whereas cycling does not. Stay tuned for Coach Tricia’s Part 2 on this topic with strength training tips for cyclists. For now, I want to talk about my four top nutrition tips for bone health.

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  1. Eating fruits and vegetables can help to maintain bone density.

While everyone considers calcium containing dairy foods to be the most important for bone health, fruits and vegetables        can play a role as well. Too much meat and other high protein foods, as well as salty foods can actually cause the bones to lose calcium. A diet high in fruits and vegetables can help to counteract this effect. What happens is that meat and high protein foods get metabolized to acids. Calcium helps to neutralize this acid by being released from the bones into the bloodstream. Fruits and vegetables have an opposite effect by being alkaline (opposite of acidic) and may help to reduce the calcium that is lost from the bones.

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2. There are helper nutrients like vitamin D that are necessary for bone healthy too.

Vitamin D is important for calcium absorption… and a lot of people are deficient in it. Vitamin D is a nutrient we can make in our bodies through exposing our skin to sunlight. About 15 minutes a day in peak sunlight hours is enough. With concern about sun exposure and use of sunscreen, many people have become deficient in this nutrient. Other than sunlight, we can get vitamin D from fatty fish like salmon and tuna. The reason why we need vitamin D for our bones is that it is required for calcium to be absorbed from the foods that we eat.

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3. You can get calcium from sources other than dairy.

Broccoli, collard greens, spinach, kale… these are all good sources of calcium. Yes, dairy foods are excellent sources of calcium too, but we can get calcium from vegetables too. The quantities might be lower than a serving of dairy, but these vegetables are also chock full of other nutrients including protective phytonutrients that can help recovery from tough workouts. One cup of cooked spinach contains about 25% of your daily value of calcium, plus the added bonus of fiber, iron and vitamin A.

4. Drinking soda may lead to bone loss.

Soda, particularly colas, contain phosphorus. Phosphorus is also found in bones, and its been found that consuming too much phosphorus in the diet can lead to calcium being lost from the bones. So not only should you ditch the soda because of the added sugar (or artificial sweeteners found in diet drink), consider skipping the sodas for bone health too.

If you have questions about bone health or other nutrition information, send me an email to julie@potentialenergytraining.com.




Julie Cornelius, MS is Co-founder of Potential Energy Training & Nutrition. She has an extensive background in nutrition and graduated from the University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ with both her Bachelors of Science and Masters of Science in Nutrition.  She has worked in fitness studios helping clients achieve their nutrition goals, spent two years teaching college nutrition courses, and was the founder of Julie Bar, an energy bar company. Julie is a long time cyclist and mountain biker who loves being outdoors. Julie helps individuals to meet their nutrition goals, whether it is eating to win an endurance mountain bike race, losing weight, or just eating to be healthier. Connect with Julie: julie@potentialenergytraining.com.

Cycling and Bone Health Part 1- Top 4 Nutrition Tips for Bone Health