Exercise and mineral status of athletes: calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and iron

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1995 Jun;27(6):831-43.


Calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and iron are important to a wide variety of body functions, such as mineralization of bones, serving as cofactors to many enzyme systems, sustaining muscle and nerve excitation, and, in the case of iron, maintaining the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood. Many female athletes consume less calcium than the recommended dietary allowance (RDA). This is of concern because of the need to achieve peak bone mass during adolescence and the possible relationship of poor calcium intake to stress fractures. Athletes appear to have adequate magnesium and phosphorus status. However, those athletes who are on calorie-restricted diets may not be ingesting sufficient quantities of magnesium and possibly phosphorus. Limited data have suggested that magnesium status is indirectly related to strength improvement as well as the incidence of muscle cramps. Acute ingestion of phosphorus (phosphate loading) has been shown to improve aerobic capacity. Iron depletion is common in female athletes but similar to the general population. Iron supplements are of health benefit, but of questionable performance benefit, to those who are iron depleted and nonanemic. To maintain optimal status of these minerals, it is recommended that nutrient rich foods be ingested including dairy products and foods high in heme iron.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Bone Density
  • Calcium / physiology*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Fractures, Stress / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Iron / physiology*
  • Magnesium / physiology*
  • Male
  • Nutrition Policy
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Phosphorus / physiology*
  • Physical Endurance / physiology
  • United States


  • Phosphorus
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Calcium