Injuries and nutrition: the benefit of abundance

Barbara Fedrigo

Our bone equilibrium is strongly influenced by what we eat during our three daily meals.

In fact, our bones become depleted when the activity of the constructive cells, called osteoblasts, becomes lower than that of the osteoclast cells that take care of bone destruction and remodeling. These two types of specialized cells do not, of course, live completely isolated but cooperate with each other to maintain strong and healthy bones and share the general signals the body itself produces with the other cells of the body, forming as such an intimate whole that cannot be separated.

It is therefore important to understand that it does not make any sense to insist on fixing this through one single factor (the amount of calcium taken in), if you do not at the same time pay attention to the other parameters that allow repairs to be made: a correct daily intake of calories (an anorexic has osteoporosis even if she is 18 years!); together with an equilibrium of phosphor and other minerals linked to bone density (sodium, zinc, silicon, magnesium); an adequate amount of vitamins (vit. C and D); keeping inflammation, allergies and food intolerances under control; a check of excess body fat; an adequate functioning of the parathyroid. These factors all strengthen and maintain the balance of the activity of the osteoblasts and the osteoclasts.

The first thing to pay attention to is without doubt a check of the appropriateness of the daily calorie intake. Apart from any kind of subdivision in percentages of the nutrients, carbohydrates, proteins, fats and vitamins, if you don’t meet the daily number of calories required by the body, the body receives a signal to stop building bones and muscles. In other words: if you do not eat enough, there is no way forward: the hypothalamus signals to the pituitary that it should not encourage in any way bone or muscle growth.

This self-defense function stems from our paleolithic ancestors who had to learn how to survive in an environment where scarcity was the norm and where the only defense against the scarcity of food was to slow down the metabolic rhythms, lowering the body’s calorie requirements. One of the simplest means was to reduce the growth of muscle mass. This is however controlled by the same mediator as the one for bone mass (GH or growth hormone). Today it has been discovered because of which biochemical mediator this happens, namely thanks to the modulation of leptin, a hormone secreted by our fat cells which we have already discussed.

If we try to give to an anorexic (or an athlete who has followed a low-calorie diet for months) protein concentrates (in the hope of building muscle) and enormous amounts of calcium (to make bone), we will not be resolving anything. Until a correct leptin signal is not started to undo the hypothalamic stop on growth, the result will be zero. The blood of such a girl may be rich in calcium, but in these situations it will not be possible to deposit enough of it in the bones until the hypothalamus does not give the green light. It seems simple and still there are many who think that only the amount of calcium can repair the lost bone density. We can provide all the bricks we want to build a house, but if the workers fold their arms, nothing will be put in its place. 

The correct leptin balance is the most important way to restore bone mineral density and prevention is still the best plan of attack with well-defined training sessions - that are undoubtedly the most important aspect in avoiding having to have to stop abruptly-  and, as underlined in this article, the fundamental role of nutrition in increasing both consistency and bone resistance.


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