Calcium, unlike many other supplements, is on the periodic table of elements. What does that mean? Well….let’s just say it’s pretty important for your body to function. In fact, of all the minerals in your body, calcium is the most abundant. And while most people don’t think of calcium as helpful for building muscle, calcium is necessary for muscle contraction. Muscle contraction is what happens when your muscle is put under a lot of stress which is what one does when they work out and how we make gains toward our fitness goals. On a molecular level, calcium helps to move tropomyosin by binding with another molecule called troponin. Tropomysosin needs to be moved out of the way in order for the muscle to contract.
Calcium is not only stored in the muscle as a necessary agent for moving tropomyosin but is also stored in the bones, which is more commonly known. When strenuous exercise or lifting occurs the levels of calcium stored in muscle is depleted and then necessary calcium is taken from storage in the bones. This can lead to osteoporosis. This is why taking calcium or having the necessary amount of calcium each day is important. It not only helps to prevent some common disorders, it helps to improve performance during exercise. Most individuals need around 1,000 mg a day for ordinary functions so athletes or people who engage in vigorous activity could benefit from a little more because of increased muscle contractions, especially during long sets and lots of reps. Most multi-vitamins only provide between 20-40% of the calcium a person needs throughout the day and unless you are drinking a lot a milk or eating a lot of dairy, taking an extra dose of calcium can be helpful.
Fortunately the body is an amazing machine and can regulate the amount of calcium in one’s body with hormones that simply help the body to either absorb more of the calcium from the food you eat or rejecting it and letting it leave the body as waste. Too much calcium causes excess contraction which can burn up oxygen and glucose(sugar) creating a build up of carbon dioxide, lactic acid, and other things that damage the muscle. Morale of the story? If you exercise often, make sure you are getting enough calcium but don’t take too much by doubling up on vitamins. Make sure you account for the fact that you are also getting it in the food you eat throughout the day. I take one calcium pill each day which has about 60% of the calcium I need throughout the day. My multivitamin covers about 20% and I estimate getting about 20% or more with the food I eat(and the milk in the coffee I drink!). It is also recommended, like with other vitamins or supplements, that you space out your calcium intake. This will not only keep you from having side effects like constipation, but also increase the likelihood of your body absorbing most of it.