BMD decreases over the course of a year in competitive male cyclists

J Bone Miner Res. 2008 Apr;23(4):484-91. doi: 10.1359/jbmr.071203.


Male cyclists have been found to have low BMD in cross-sectional studies. Changes in BMD values over 1 yr of training and competition were studied in 14 male cyclists. BMD decreased significantly at the total hip, neck, trochanter, and shaft regions but not the lumbar spine. This first prospective study of cyclists showed a decrease in BMD over the course of 1 yr.

Introduction: Cross-sectional studies have shown that some endurance athletes, and cyclists in particular, have low BMD. Whether vigorous cycle training is causally related with low BMD remains unknown.

Materials and methods: Changes in BMD values over 1 yr of training and competition were studied in 14 male road cyclists, 27-44 yr of age. Subjects were randomized to receive 1500 (500 mg with meals) or 250 mg of supplemental calcium citrate daily. BMD measurements were obtained at pre-, mid-, post-, and off-season time points over 1 yr. Dermal calcium loss during exercise was estimated using a patch collection technique to examine calcium loss as a potential mediator of changes in BMD.

Results: Using paired t-tests, BMD was found to decrease significantly from pre- to off-season at the total hip, neck, shaft, and trochanter regions (relative changes of -1.5 +/- 2.1%, -0.7 +/- 2.1%, -0.9 +/- 2.1%, and -1.0 +/- 1.2%, respectively, all p < 0.05). The 1.0 +/- 1.2% decrease in BMD at the lumbar spine failed to reach statistical significance (p = 0.079). There were no differences in changes in BMD between the calcium supplementation groups. The 2-h dermal calcium loss was estimated at 136.5 +/- 60.5 mg. Higher dermal calcium losses were associated with lower baseline BMD values at the total hip, neck, and shaft (all p < 0.05), but were not significantly associated with changes in BMD.

Conclusions: This study suggests that high intensity cycle training may adversely affect BMD. Excessive dermal calcium loss during exercise may be a contributing factor, but mechanisms remain to be elucidated.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Adult
  • Bicycling*
  • Bone Density*
  • Calcium Citrate / administration & dosage
  • Calcium Citrate / analysis
  • Calcium Citrate / blood
  • Calcium, Dietary / administration & dosage
  • Calcium, Dietary / analysis
  • Calcium, Dietary / blood
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sweat / chemistry


  • Calcium, Dietary
  • Calcium Citrate