Shouldn't you get calcium through food? Of course. And you probably know where to get it. You've surely seen enough milk-moustaches ads to know that there's a lot of calcium in dairy foods like milk, cheese, and yogurt. Other foods rich in calcium include green, leafy vegetables. But the problem is that most American adults don't eat enough of these foods to get the minimum daily requirement (as much as we seemingly like to put cheese on everything).
That's why I recommend taking calcium supplements to make up the difference.
To keep your bones young, men need 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day. Women under 60 need to consume about 1,200 milligrams-best broken up twice a day in the form of 500 or 600 milligrams (that's because most of us cannot absorb more than 600 mg of calcium at a time). Over the age of 60, women need 1,600 milligrams of calcium a day to keep their bones the youngest and strongest possible.
To make sure calcium is properly absorbed, add an additional 20 mg of calcium for every 12-ounce caffeinated soft drink or 4-ounce cup of coffee (caffeine may actually make you excrete the calcium before your body's been given a chance to use it), and for every 4 ounces of protein you eat (high-protein diets can interfere with calcium absorption, too). And for every 30 minutes of sweating exercise, add an additional 100 mg (calcium comes out in sweat).
Finally, feel free to experiment. If it takes four pills to get the right dosage and that works for you, great. If candy works best for you, that's also great -- as long as the candy has real chocolate and no trans or milk fats). If you enjoy your doses in four glasses of low-fat milk, perfect.