Nutrition is an important component of a healthy fitness regime. Having the appropriate nutrition to fuel workouts is crucial for building strong muscles, and staying strong and energized throughout one’s workout. This is even more important for teenagers who are still growing. In addition to getting enough protein for repairing working muscles, enough carbohydrates for fuel, and specifically enough fruits and vegetables to maintain a healthy immune system, it is critical that young athletes get enough calcium and vitamin D.
Calcium and Vitamin D are the main nutrients needed for building strong bones that are typically lacking in teenagers’ diets. Calcium is stored in the bones, and during periods of growth it’s crucial to have enough calcium to help build bone. If there’s not enough calcium in the blood, the body will break down bone to release calcium into the blood which is used for muscle contractions (like heartbeat and moving muscles), nerve message transmission, and releasing hormones. After around the age of 30 year old, your bones stop storing calcium, so during childhood and young adulthood it’s important to meet one’s calcium requirements to ensure strong bones throughout one’s life. After 30 it’s still important to have an adequate supply of calcium so the body does not breakdown bone to release calcium into the blood.
Vitamin D is important in helping the body absorb calcium from the gastrointestinal tract. With inadequate supplies of vitamin D your body is unable to absorb calcium adequately. While our bodies can produce vitamin D from sunlight, this isn’t the recommended way of obtaining vitamin D. It’s safer to get vitamin D from fortified milk and dairy products, fatty fish, and egg yolks.
If you’re concerned you aren’t getting enough calcium and/or vitamin D from your food, there are supplements available. While your body absorbs nutrients best from food sources, a supplement may help you meet your nutrient needs. However, speak with a doctor or registered dietitian/nutritionist before starting a supplement.
For more information on fueling dancers, check out this article from the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science.
Thanks to Lauren, my assistant, for this nutrition information. Lauren is going back to school to become a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist.