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Calcium and the Cyclist

The Problem: Some of the tour caliber riders have bones of an 80 year old woman with osteoporosis. One female world mountain bike champion had to stop competing at age 32 because of bone thinning. At least 5 La Grange members have known bone thinning. Some of you have been coming in for Cardiac Screening because of palpitations.

The Solution: Take 600mg of calcium and 300 mg of magnesium once or twice a day as a supplement. Caution is needed or you should consult your doctor first if you have a history of calcium containing kidney stones. Stand on your pedals. Alternate occasional mountain biking. Do back exercises and 1 day a week run, hike or go to the gym and do machines and/or weight training.

The Test: A Bone Density Study. You can ask your doctor to order this. If you have no doctor or if your health plan will not cover it and you want to pay for it, I can order it for you.

The Story: Post menopausal women break down bone faster than they remodel it by laying down new bone. Treatment has been calcium and vitamin D supplementaion. When that fails, a medication that blocks bone re-absorption is given. In extreme cases, parathyroid hormone has been given to build new bone. We are on the verge of seeing a whole series of new medicines released that can build bone density back to normal or at least stop the progression of bone loss.

Men as you would guess are a different story. It was noted several years ago that some of the world class cyclists were developing bone loss particularly in their spine. It was originally ascribed to riding properly from the waist down and not putting tension on the bones of the spine. This is necessary to lay down new bone and prevent total bone loss.

A sharp journalist doing a story about this problem suggested that their had to be more to this and asked whether there was a large loss of calcium in sweat. No one had ever investigated this. Studies were done and there is a very large loss of calcium in sweat. To correct both aspects of the problem, cyclists need once a week to do an alternative form of exercise that puts stress on the spine and take supplementary calcium.

Magnesium stabilizes cell membranes and is particularly anti arrythmogenic. A number of people have come in for their cardiac screening primarily because they were experiencing palpitations. Both actually had extra heart beats. This was during periods of intense heat and neither were taking calcium and magnesium supplementation. One went away without treatment probably because diet alone restored their electrolyte balance. The other was already going away but did seem to respond to taking supplementary calcium and magnesium.

The message is clear. We all need to include supplemental calcium and I would recommend magnesium in our daily regimen. Riding as your only form of exercise is not healthy for your bones.


Information provided by Velo Club La Grange member

Richard Hyman, M.D.
email Richard Hyman


11645 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 825
Los Angeles, CA 90025

Velo Club La Grange

Velo Club La Grange is one of California's largest and oldest cycling clubs with over 400 members nationwide. The club was founded by Raymond Fouquet in 1969 and fields one of the top amateur racing teams in the U.S. Past members include a Tour de France stage winner, an Olympic gold medalist, and several U.S. National and California state champions.

Along with the Club's dedication to bicycle racing, the club welcomes new and inexperienced riders with a passion for cycling. La Grange is very active in the cycling and fitness communities. Our continuing public policy work with state and local government has led to major improvements in safety for all users of California roads. In addition, the Club has partnered with the Association of Blind Athletes and Meals on Wheels and sponsors an annual scholarship with the help of the Union Bank of California. La Grange enjoys the financial support of several corporations committed to promoting healthy and active living including Kahala Corporation and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

501(c)(3) California Non-Profit Public Benefit Corporation 95-4000746
United States Cycling Federation Number 1232


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