Truth is, we all need minerals to survive. These little guys give us our vitality and are important for building strong bones and teeth as well nerve function and muscle contraction. Read on to discover the 3 minerals – you as an athlete – require more than others, the benefits these have on your performance and which tell-tale signs signal you’re not getting enough.
What are minerals?
Minerals (also known as electrolytes) are inorganic, essential nutrients, meaning that although they are not produced by the body, we need them to survive and carry out daily processes. Rather than being produced by the body, minerals come from the earth and are consumed in the foods we eat. Eating a healthy diet is therefore the best way to get a sufficient amount of the minerals your body requires and also from drinking water.
Easily consumed, easily lost
Yes, that’s right, you can top-up your mineral tank simply by drinking water. But beware: that tank is just as easily drained. Minerals are usually lost in our urine, during defecation and especially through sweating. Throughout the day – even without doing sports – your body loses around 0.5 to 1.0 liters of water just from breathing and sweating. So you can imagine how much more you lose on days where you do a tough training session? That’s why it’s so important that you drink enough water everyday to replace what is lost, even if you haven’t done any sports.
The big 3: Magnesium, sodium, potassium
Minerals, in general, support many important functions within the body, for example the formation of bones and teeth, heart rhythm, muscle contraction, nerve transmission and cellular metabolism regulation – just to name a few. Different minerals carry out different jobs, but when it comes to athletic performance, the following 3 all play a significant role: Magnesium, sodium and potassium.
Magnesium is a multi-tasking mineral essential for recovery. It’s most high-profile process is metabolizing nutrients and turning them into energy, done by activating enzymes which help produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP). When ATP is broken down by your body, the energy that is released is then used by your muscles. Magnesium is also required for muscle contraction and nerve transmission as well as supporting the functioning of the immune system to make protein. You’ll know if your magnesium levels are low when you lack energy or experience muscle cramps. Keep your magnesium levels high and your muscles happy by eating foods like nuts and seeds, seafood, leafy green vegetables and legumes.
Despite the many health risks associated with too much salt, we cannot live without sodium. Similar to magnesium, a healthy amount of sodium is required for muscle contraction and nerve transmission. It prevents muscle cramps, plays an important role in the absorption of muscle fluids and maintains fluid balance within the body, helping us absorb water so that we can stay better hydrated. High sweat rates, especially in athletes, results in a loss of sodium and can be detrimental to athletic performance.
Potassium has many important functions within the body. Aside from regulating the activity of certain enzymes, it supports the conversion of carbohydrates into energy and helps to maintain normal blood pressure. Where can you find potassium? It’s present in almost all fruit vegetables, meat and fish. Sweet potatoes, bananas and tomatoes are all good sources of the mineral.
Do you need mineral supplements?
As always, we recommend relying on a balanced and nutritious diet as well a sufficient amount of water to provide your body with the minerals it needs. Should you experience any mineral deficiency symptoms mentioned above, we advise you consult your doctor before taking supplements. Deficiencies are dangerous, but excess levels can also have nasty effects on your health.