Get hard, stay hard; Part 1.

26 Dec 2012 by Chuck, 2 Comments »

No, we’re not talking about vulgar and sexual stuff; the topic at hand is bone density.

Bone density is of exceptional importance for everyone. It becomes far more of a critical issue as you age and, regardless of the number of years that you’ve been prancing about on this planet, bone density is more often an issue for women. If it becomes a severe issue, what we are looking at is osteoporosis. En-route to getting to that level of severity, there is osteopenia. While osteopenia is a definite precursor to osteoporosis,  not everyone who has or is diagnosed with osteopenia develops osteoporosis. This is especially true if proper diet, training, and supplementation are implemented into one’s life.

Osteoporosis-Web-MDIf you’re having trouble comprehending why bone density could be such a critical issue, stop and remember that your skeleton (made of bones) is the support structure for your entire body. On a technical level if you have excessively lowbone mineral density, it would be like framing your home with balsa wood. With severe bone density the likelihood of stress fractures increases exponentially as well as “fragility fractures”  which amounts to literal bone failure. You know when you hear about someone’s grandmother falling and breaking her hip or wrist? That’s a fragility fracture. If she was someone younger, with stronger bones she probably wouldn’t have broken a hip simply from falling in the bathroom.

So where do these different levels of bone density fall? (We’re looking the amount of mineral matter per square centimeter of bones; Measured areal density in g cm−2)

  • Normal is a T-score of -1.0 or higher
  • Osteopenia is defined as between -1.0 and -2.5
  • Osteoporosis is defined as -2.5 or lower, meaning a bone density that is two and a half standard deviations below the mean of a thirty year old man/woman.

*The T-score, is the number of standard deviations above or below the mean for a healthy 30 year old adult of the same sex and ethnicity as the patient.

So with a little bit of a basic understanding of bone density, osteopenia, and osteoporosis, let’s look at why women tend to be at a greater risk of developing these issues (especially earlier in life then men.)

  1. Low energy availability/disordered eating
  2. Amenorrhoea
  3. Estrogen level issues

These issues are specifically extremely problematic for younger female athletes as they tend to have lower body weight, lower fat percentage, and higher incidence of asthma than their less active peers. The excessively low body fat is a problem for women as is can cause amenorrhoea and issues of low estrogen (estrogen is made by fat cells.) The asthma is relevant as the use of corticosteroids to treat asthma can significantly weaken bone over long periods of time.

Bone density issues can also be exacerbated by lifestyle factors such as lack of exercise, poor diet, excess consumption of alcohol, and smoking. That part shouldn’t be a shocker to anyone as the above lifestyle factors seem to be tied to pretty much every crappy health issue that seems to exist in our modern society.

So how do we avoid bone density issues if we’re ahead of the game or how do we work to reverse them if we’re getting a late start?

Well, let’s start with diet. The reason that I want to start here is that a garbage diet can fast track you to bone density issues as well as obesity, blood pressure issues, heart disease, cancer, and the general inability to look good naked.

Everyone is told from a super young age that you’ve got to load up on your milk and cheese so that you can get lots of calcium and have strong bones. Well, while calcium is important for bone density, riddle me this: Why, despite having one of the highest average calcium intakes in the world, does the U.S. also have one of the highest rates of bone demineralization in the world? Give up? It’s because on average the rest of the diet absolutely sucks. In regard to bone density and diet, it’s not just about the calcium that you take in, it’s about the calcium balance that you end up with. Say what?! Yep, even if your calcium intake is through the roof, chances are that there is a ton of junk in your diet that is causing massive calcium excretion issues.

This ebb and flow of calcium is heavily tied to there being a balance in the acids and bases in your diet, and no, we’re not talking about LSD. Everything that you digest ends up interacting with your kidneys as either an acid or a base. When the final dietary acid/base tally results in net acid load on your kidneys, you start running into calcium excretion. If there is a net acid load because sufficient bases aren’t present in your diet, it must be buffered by the bodies stores of alkaline base. This balancing of acids and bases isn’t something that’s optional, it absolutely has to happen. It turns out that the largest stores of alkaline base that we have in our body are the the calcium salts in our bones. To balance the overly acidic diet, your body cannibalizes the mineral stores of calcium in your bones and literally pisses them away.


So how do we end up with overly acidic diets? Eat like a typical American. Go to the mall, walk around the food court, and marvel at an acid food orgy. Cereals, grains, hard cheeses, excess caffeine, white flour, sugar, ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS, meat (especially really fatty meats,) legumes, and pretty much everything processed are where your acids are coming from. Yep, pretty much everything in the average American diet. OMGWTF where are the bases?!?! This is a much shorter list as the only alkaline, base-producing foods are fruits and vegetables.

Does this mean cut all acidic foods from your diet? Hell no! You need fat and protein, lots of it. It just needs to come from the healthiest sources possible and MUST, MUST, MUST be balanced with adequate quantities of fruits and vegetables.

Here is an incredible list of acid/base values for 114 common foods that I found on Loren Cordain’s site

Potential Renal Acid Load per 100 Grams

Beer, draft -0.2
Beer, pale 0.9
Beer, stout bottled -0.1
Coca-cola 0.4
Cocoa, made with semi-skimmed milk -0.4
Coffee, infusion 5 minutes -1.4
Mineral water (Apollinaris) -1.8
Mineral water (Volvic) -0.1
Red wine -2.4
Tea, Indian infusion -0.3
White wine, dry -1.2
Fats and Oils
Butter 0.6
Margarine -0.5
Olive oil 0.0
Sunflower seed oil 0.0
Cod fillets 7.1
Haddock 6.8
Herring 7.0
Trout, brown steamed 10.8
Fruits and Fruit Juices
Apple Juice, unfiltered -2.2
Apples, 15 varieties flesh & skin, average -2.2
Apricots -4.8
Bananas -5.5
Black currants -6.5
Cherries -3.6
Grape juice, unsweetened -1.0
Kiwi fruit -4.1
Lemon juice -2.5
Orange juice, unsweetened -2.9
Oranges -2.7
Peaches -2.4
Pears, 3 varieties flesh and skin, average -2.9
Pineapple -2.7
Raisins -21.0
Strawberries -2.2
Watermelon -1.9
Hazelnuts -2.8
Walnuts 6.8
Grain Products
Bread, rye flour mixed 4.0
Bread, rye flour 4.1
Bread, wheat flour mixed 3.8
Bread, wheat flour whole meal 1.8
Bread, white bread 3.7
Cornflakes 6.0
Crispbread, rye 3.3
Noodles, egg 6.4
Oat flakes, rolled oats 10.7
Rice, brown 12.5
Rice, white, easy cook 4.6
Rice, white, easy cook, boiled 1.7
Rye flour, whole 5.9
Spaghetti, white 6.5
Spaghetti, whole meal 7.3
Wheat flour, white plain 6.9
Wheat flour, whole meal 8.2
Beans, green/French beans -3.1
Lentils, green and brown, whole, dried 3.5
Peas 1.2
Peanuts, plain 8.3
Meat and Meat Products
Beef, lean only 7.8
Chicken, meat only 8.7
Corned beef, canned 13.2
Frankfurters 6.7
Liver sausage 10.6
Luncheon meat, canned 10.2
Pork, lean only 7.9
Rump steak, lean and fat 8.8
Salami 11.8
Turkey, meat only 9.9
Veal, fillet 9.0
Milk, Dairy Products
Buttermilk 0.5
Camembert cheese 14.6
Cheddar cheese, reduced fat 26.4
Cheese, Gouda 18.6
Cottage Cheese, Plain 8.7
Creams, fresh, sour 1.2
Fresh Cheese (Quark) 11.1
Full fat, soft cheese 4.3
Hard cheese, average 4 types 19.2
Ice Cream, dairy, vanilla 0.6
Whole milk, evaporated 1.1
Whole milk, pasteurized 0.7
Parmesan cheese 34.2
Processed cheese, plain 28.7
Yogurt, whole milk, fruit 1.2
Yogurt, whole milk, plain 1.5
Eggs, chicken, whole 8.2
Egg white 1.1
Egg yolk 23.4
Sugar, Preserves, and Sweets
Chocolates, milk 2.4
Honey -0.3
Madeira cake 3.7
Marmalade -1.5
Sugar, white -0.1
Asparagus -0.4
Broccoli, green -1.2
Carrots, young -4.9
Cauliflower -4.0
Celery -5.2
Chicory -2.0
Cucumber -0.8
Eggplant -3.4
Leeks -1.8
Lettuce, average 4 varieties -2.5
Lettuce, iceberg -1.6
Mushrooms, common -1.4
Onions -1.5
Peppers, green -1.4
Potatoes, gold -4.0
Radish, red -3.7
Spinach -14.0
Tomato juice -2.8
Tomatoes -3.1
Zucchini -4.6



Sooooo…. “Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar.” -Greg Glassman

Our little page Diet 1.0 really is the beginning and end of eating for optimal health and wellness. Go read it if you haven’t already.

Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 where we tackle how training and supplementation can be used to prevent or improve upon bone density issues

References (a.k.a. People who are much smarter than I am)

WHO Scientific Group on the Prevention and Management of Osteoporosis (2000 : Geneva, Switzerland) (2003). “Prevention and management of osteoporosis : report of a WHO scientific group” (PDF).

“National Osteoporosis Foundation — NOF’s Clinician’s Guide to Prevention and Treatment of Osteoporosis”

Remer T, Manz F. Potential renal acid load of foods and its influence on urine pH. J Am Diet Assoc 1995;95:791-797.

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  1. Stefanie says:

    So my box of raisins that I eat everyday with a -21 is really helping my balance 🙂 good to know.

  2. Linda Weber says:

    News to use – sweet!

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