Bad to the Bone - How to Maintain Bone Density and Strength

Bone Density

There are many Health Issues we Face During our Lifetimes

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When you first laid out your bodybuilding goals, what was the first aspect you considered? Was it the time involved? The right workout routine? The proper nutrients? A personal trainer? Which products or supplements you would need? What percentage of cardio work would you need? The questions are infinite. The right choices, however, are not. Presently, after all the hard work and the work ahead, what products do you take? How many and how often? Are your goals the same or have they drastically changed? How much muscle have you gained over the last several years? What is your current bodyfat content? Your maximum deadlift capability? When is your next competition? What is your carb-to-protein ratio intake compared to last year? How many calories do you now consume daily compared to a year ago? And what are your goals this year and the next?

If you are like the majority of astute bodybuilders today, the above questions require very little thought because attention to the details of one's individual goals is probably paramount. I, however, would like to ask a few last questions. Often overloaded, skeletal health should be given first consideration in any sound bodybuilding program.

1. What is your current bone density measurement?

2. Did you know there is now evidence that weight training may accelerate calcium loss? In fact, current data has revealed that during an intense workout routine, you could lose up to 400 mg of calcium.

3. Additionally, are you aware of the role collagen plays in joint and bone health?

Bone - A Living Entity

While recovery from muscle fatigue and cannibalization of muscle tissue are key considerations in building muscle mass, it is important to understand that bone isn't merely a hard inert substance. It is in fact a diverse conglomeration of living bone tissue. When bone is directly exposed to the bloodstream, the osteoclasts break down and deactivate the bone and the osteoblast is activated. Osteoblast actually rebuilds bone structures by building columns of collagen fibers and bone minerals fill in this collagen matrix. To ensure the continuation of this physiological process, osteoblasts become active, living participants in the body's constant attempts at the restructuring and rebuilding of skeletal structures. The osteoclasts that remain are transformed into part of the lining of cells.

The Role of Bone

Bones provide the structural support for your muscles and protect vital organs. Additionally, your skeletal structure serves as a major storage site for calcium which is responsible for maintaining bone density, strength and the modulation of other physiological functions. It is also important to remember that bone is not stagnant and is constantly restructuring and rebuilding itself. Conversely, skeletal health can be adversely affected by withdrawals of calcium from your own skeletal structures. Withdrawals of precious calcium and other bone sparing nutrients can be affected by diet, exercise and as part of natural biological aging. For example, excessive salt intake increases urinary loss of calcium from the body, an aspect of nutrition that is often overlooked. When this withdrawal process becomes part of your body's attempt to maintain proper calcium levels in the blood, bone begins to break down faster than new bone can be formed. Current data has revealed that this process begins to accelerate as early as age 30.

Deposits versus Withdrawals

In cases of inadequate intake of dietary nutrients to foster growth and formation of bone, the body via the parathyroid gland will extract calcium from your skeletal structure to maintain proper blood levels. This physiological backup system exists to protect the heart as calcium is essential to maintaining the rhythmic heartbeat that keeps you alive. This process can weaken and cause irreparable damage to your bone structure over time, not to mention increase your susceptibility to stress fractures and down time.

Note: While it is common knowledge that bone loss is a major concern for women it is a misconception that bone loss doesn't occur in men.

The Anabolic Side of Calcium

While the proper development and maintenance of bones is dependent on calcium, the remaining one percent found in the body (ten grams or about two-thirds of a tablespoon) assists in many of the body's anabolic functions such as:

» absorption of vitamin B12

» aiding the body's utilization of iron

» cell membrane function

» muscle contraction and growth

» acid/alkaline ph concentrations

» release of energy from macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats and proteins)

» transmission of nerve impulses and proper neurotransmitter function

» reducing the risk of developing atherosclerosis

» control blood pressure

» reduce premenstrual symptoms

» provide protection against colon or rectal cancer.

Note: While researchers aren't definitively sure of the mode of action high calcium intake has in reducing the incidence of colon or rectal tumors, it is hypothesized that calcium, along with vitamin D, interferes with potentially carcinogenic fatty acids and bile, thus rendering them harmless.

Additionally, without calcium, proper muscle contraction can be severely compromised. When muscle is to contract, the brain transmits nerve impulses to the muscle fibers. This causes the muscle cell to release calcium ions from the sarcoplasmic reticulum, a storage site on the outer part of the cell. As a point of reference, ions are dissolved minerals in their most biologically active form.

Calcium Loss and Bodybuilding

Health officials have advised us for years to exercise regularly. This is the best method known to science that assists the body in its efforts to maintain and/or restore bone density. Regular, moderate weight-bearing exercises are excellent including walking, running and/or resistance training. However, there is new evidence that suggests weight training can possibly increase urinary calcium loss. It is believed this mechanism of action is caused by the large amounts of lactic acid the kidneys have to dispose of via weight training and other intense sporting activities. While most calcium is reabsorbed before it is excreted by the kidneys, lactic acid buildup and its neutralization and disposal appears to alter calcium's normal reabsorption.

Protein and Calcium Loss

This issue can be compared to a double-edge sword as I am sure you have read and been instructed to consume plenty of protein often throughout the day. Researchers have known, however, that increases in dietary protein will cause the body to get rid of calcium stores. This is because increased protein intake causes the body to become acidic in nature thus disrupting the delicate acid/alkaline axiom known as the body's pH (potential of hydrogen). The body functions best in an alkaline environment.

Note: When food is metabolized, it leaves either an acidic or alkaline residue. When over-burned by acid, the body must work overtime to expel acid waste. These acid waste byproducts can accumulate and cause serious health problems, as well as interfere with the body's efforts to properly utilize nutrients.

To offset this negative aspect of increased protein intake you can increase your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables. They act as acid buffers and assist in maintaining a strong and healthy internal environment. Also consider using coral calcium sources from Okinawa, Japan. Studies have confirmed that coral calcium has a positive affect on modulating proper pH concentrations. Additionally, when increasing your protein intake, you may want to supplement that intake with whey protein. Experimentally, whey protein has demonstrated the ability to stimulate the production of the anabolic-like hormone, insulin-like growth factor-1 (1GF-1), which is known to slow down or halt bone loss. Furthermore, studies have shown that soy protein may prevent and in some cases can be utilized to treat bone loss. It is important to note that researchers attribute much of soy's bone sparing effects to one of its active compounds, namely isoflavones, which are found only in soybeans and not soy protein per se. Isoflavones can be purchased in supplemental form and used as part of a daily supplement routine.

Calcium Isn't a Lone Ranger

To ensure that you have a solid program in place to help you build an indestructible skeletal system that coincides with your in-creased muscular development, I suggest you do the following:

1. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables every day.

2. Take a multivitamin and mineral supplement daily. Like most things in nature, calcium needs a few partners to maximize its absorption breakdown and proper utilization such as vitamin D, magnesium, phosphorus and boron.

3. Take 1500 to 2000 mg of supplemental calcium daily. Current data has revealed that in one intense weight-training session, you could lose up to 400 mg of calcium through perspiration. Additionally, Dr. Bess Dawnson-Hughes, M.D., senior scientist and chief of the Calcium and Bone Metabolism Laboratory at Tufts University, states that according to her research, in individuals who have a high calcium intake and consequent storage, a high protein diet actually assists in bone repair.

4. Take up to 1000 to 3000 mg of vitamin C daily. Vitamin C is crucial to the development of collagen, the glue that holds you and your skeletal structure in place.

5. Have bone density measurements done at some predetermined time frame to assess your individual bone health.

Creating an Anabolic Anatomy

While there are always new products, new routines and new challenges ahead, creating a healthy foundation, namely your skeletal structure, is the key to reaching and maintaining your long-term bodybuilding goals. Creating a rock-solid anabolic anatomy will ensure that you can withstand the rigors of training and minimize your chances of injury and down time. It's your bodybuilding future, be there to fulfill your individual goals!

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