Not All Calcium Sources Are Created Equal

If you’re refueling with milk after your workouts, you probably already know that you are benefiting from milk’s excellent nutrition package. Milk is a rich source of high-quality protein, electrolytes and carbohydrates, all of which play a role is post-exercise recovery.

Outside of the sports world, milk is most notable (nutritionally) not for its protein, electrolytes or carbohydrates, but rather for its calcium content. In fact, milk is the number one food source of calcium in the American diet, meaning dairy foods play an important role in ensuring everyone enjoys enough of this key bone-building mineral.

Did you know that adults aged 19-50 years need 1,000 mg of calcium each day? To put that into perspective, a glass of milk provides approximately 300 mg of calcium, or 1/3 of the daily recommendation.

Calcium is a mineral essential in the maintenance and growth of bones and teeth. Additionally, calcium plays a role in the function of nerves and muscles, including the heart, and regulates other critical body functions.

Milk, cheese and yogurt are inherently good sources of calcium not only because they contain it, but because that calcium is easily absorbed by the body. Many other foods are naturally rich in calcium (particularly dark green leafy vegetables), but these foods have compounds in them which bind calcium and prevent its absorption by the body. In fact, the body absorbs about 5 percent of the calcium in spinach, compared to 32 percent of the calcium from milk. This means that in order to absorb the same amount of calcium as you get from one glass of milk, you’d have to eat 16 half-cup servings of cooked spinach.

For maximum absorption, distribute your calcium intake over the course of the day, including calcium-rich foods (both dairy and non-dairy) at meals and snack time too. Also, keep in mind that vitamin D is essential to proper calcium absorption. Sources of vitamin D include eggs, salmon, mushrooms and fortified milk, in addition to responsible amounts of sun exposure.

Tips for getting more calcium:

  • Use low-fat or fat-free milk in place of water when preparing oatmeal.
  • Have a smoothie for breakfast with milk or yogurt and your favorite fruit.
  • Enjoy a latte with low-fat milk.
  • Choose low-fat or fat-free yogurt topped with fruit for an afternoon snack.
  • Add a glass of milk to your meals.
  • Sprinkle shredded cheese on your baked potato, vegetables or salad.

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Athletes can train harder and perform better with proper nutrition. Visit to read more about milk as an exercise recovery beverage and learn how to eat for peak athletic performance.

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*All information associated with the Western Dairy Association “Nutriton Corner” is sponsored by Western Dairy Association as a partnership with University of Denver Athletics & Recreation, and not provided by trainers or staff of the Coors Fitness Center.