Tips to Bolster Your Bone Health

by Joe Giandonato, MBA, MS, CSCS

Adjunct Professor of Exercise Science

Eastern University

When athletes and gym-goers alike engage in a resistance training program, they envision muscles beaconing enhanced performance by virtue of achieving strength and size. Those with weight-loss and body composition oriented goals view resistance training as a means to morph themselves into metabolic powerhouses, noting that one pound of muscle is metabolically expensive at a rate of 20 kcal/day per pound per day.

But resistance training also confers benefits of improving bone mineral content and density by imposing forces, whether downward gravitational forces through weight bearing movements and postures, or mechanical periarticular forces characterized by traditional resistance training movements accompanied by external loads. This adaptive remodeling and accretion of bone tissue is known as Wolff’s Law. The adoption of a resistance training program is of critical importance for those embarking upon a career in the military or law enforcement, which is initiated upon the successful completion of a period of basic or academy training, otherwise known as “boot camp”.

Even though the crux of physical preparedness involves the cardiorespiratory fitness and muscular endurance, aspirant military or law enforcement professionals would be wise to invest their time to build their bodies, which are inevitably broken down in basic or academy training, with many falling prey to stress fractures. The foundation of their preparation should include squat, deadlift, loaded carry via shouldered barbell walk, overhead press, and loaded horizontal pressing variation (bench press, weighted push up or dip). Those performing them over time will reap cumulative effects of bone density, which is comparable to the longitudinal development of limit strength. It takes time to build strength, whether governed by our body’s neuromuscular system, or displayed as our body’s own personal protective equipment — the skeleton. As soon as one decides on enlisting in the military or to pursue a career in law enforcement, they should begin strength training immediately.

Nutrition is as equally as important in upholding bone health. Recent research involving Army, Air Force, and Marine recruits revealed that a diet rich in calcium, potassium, and protein is directly correlated with bone mineral density and strength. 

Sources of calcium include: dairy products, green cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, and okra, beans, nuts, seeds, legumes, and sardines.  Daily recommended intake of calcium is 1,000 mg/day for those ranging in age from 18-50. It is worth noting that the average age of a member of the Army is 29, Air Force and Navy is 30, and Marine is 25.

Sources of potassium include: bananas, oranges, apricots, cantaloupe, spinach, potatoes, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, peas, and cucumbers. Daily recommended intake of potassium is 3,500 -4,700 mg/day.

Sources of protein include: dairy and animal products, including meat, poultry, and fish, beans, seeds, nuts, and oats. Daily recommended intake of protein should represent 20-35% of one’s daily total caloric intake.

Nakayama, A.T., Lutz, L.J., Hruby, A., Karl, J.P., McClung, J.P., Gaffney-Stomberg, E. (2019). A dietary pattern rich in calcium, potassium, and protein is associated with tibia bone mineral content and strength in young adults entering initial military training. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 109 (1), 186-196.