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Electrolyte Balance – Part Two

Achieving electrolyte balance is a key step in getting to a place of optimal health. It isn’t an easy thing to do, what with the stress of everyday life (robs your body of potassium), working out hard (lose sodium) and trying to deal with out toxic environment. But, with a little bit of time and effort, you can get it right.

The key issue is getting the right balance of potassium and sodium everyday in your diet to attain electrolyte balance in the long term. As I mentioned in my previous blog on electrolyte balance, you need to get about a 2:1 ratio of potassium over sodium. As you recall, this is not what the average person living in the Western world is getting. According to research, we are nowhere near that ratio, as is evidenced by this important paper. In it they state that it is estimated that only 3% of Americans get the daily need of 4,700 mgs of potassium. That is insane!!! As they put it “Adequate dietary potassium is important for heart and bone health and reduces the risk of stroke and coronary heart disease.”

We already have been made aware that many people get more than enough sodium, typically 3,300-3,400 mgs a day but that is only 1 gram more than is recommended. Potassium deficit’s are a much greater problem in my opinion. The best way is by increasing your dietary intake like I mentioned in the previous blog.

Now it sounds to some that I’m being a bit too repetitive on increasing potassium but the data out there shows that it is a crises in the making. Athletes are a group that needs to be aware of this, especially those who cramp a lot. Recently, I did a podcast interview with the guts at Clean Health in Sydney, Australia on the subject of electrolyte balance and athletes (you can find it on iTunes or other podcatchers). In it, I recount a conversation I had with a trainer where they mentioned another “biochemist” claiming that athletes do not need additional potassium as when tested after working out, their levels were high.

What the skeptic failed to realize is that most potassium is intracellular (inside the cell) and when looking at a blood test, you are measuring the extracellular (outside the cell) amounts. Athletes, especially high performing ones, are breaking up cells when they work out which would naturally increase their extracellular levels for a short time but that does not mean they don’t need it. Quite often they cramp precisely because they don’t have enough potassium. Electrolyte balance is key in preventing cramping and improving performance.

So next time you’re out looking for a electrolyte that is truly balanced, make sure it has a 2-1 ratio of potassium over sodium like the ones at KTS Products.

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Zinc not necessary in sports nutrition?

I got an email this weekend from a trainer in Australia telling me that there is a sports doc out there who is against zinc supplementation. That got me thinking and wondering whether there is anything to it. What I came up with is that the doctor in question needs to start reading the literature instead of saying things that are just not right.

In the book, “Sports Nutrition: Minerals and Electrolytes” from CRC Press, edited by Kies and Driskell has a chapter on “Physical Exercise and Zinc Metabolism.” They looked at both acute and chronic exercise and levels before and after in erthyrocytes (red blood cells) as well as in plasma/serum. They report on the fact that “The presence of hypozincemia (low zinc) in trained athletes has since been reported…”

Another interesting comment is on vegetarian athletes, “Therefore, with prolonged suboptimal zinc status, it would be predicted that muscle zinc levels in vegetarians would decrease, with resulting reduced muscle strength and endurance.” Note the last part of the statement which suggests that low zinc would result in lower muscle strength and endurance.” So for a sports doctor to conclude that zinc supplementation is “BS”, would come from a lack of understanding of the physiology of minerals and athletics.

Some of their conclusions include:
“Acute, as well as chronic, exercise induces an alteration in zinc distribution in human blood.”
“An increase in erthyrocyte CA-I-derived zinc concentration and/or a decrease in plasma albumin-bound zinc concentration may portend hypozincemia during physical training.”
In the 4 page chapter, they cite 71 references.
Makes one wonder why the sports doctor is against supplementation when it is clear that exercise will diminish zinc levels. While there are increases in intracellular levels post-exercise, total plasma and whole blood show decreases.
So, for those of you who wonder whether zinc supplementation is warranted as part of a good sports nutrition program, the answer is yes.
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