Potassium

By Cami Jo Satterthwaite

Dizzy, lightheaded, weak, muscle cramps and twitching.

 Have you ever felt any of these after a GPP workout? Ever? Maybe once or twice? Uh, YEAH! Those workouts can be tough. Moving hard, playing hard, and sweating hard are going to deplete your body’s nutrient stores. Those symptoms I listed at the top are potential consequences of not getting enough POTASSIUM. It’s an important mineral that can really alter your performance during workouts. The following article outlines the need-to-know of what potassium is, how much you need, and where to find it.

Potassium: what does it do?

  • Potassium assists in the contraction of smooth, skeletal, and cardiac muscle. Racing hearts and contracting muscle is just part of another day at GPP.
  • Potassium works with sodium and chloride to maintain fluid and electrolyte balance in the body. Only drinking water may not be enough to recover from a hard workout. Try eating something with potassium (there’s a list of sources below). It may help you rebound faster.
  • It facilitates many reactions in the body. This means it acts like a key to unlock important reactions in our bodies.
  • It assists in nerve impulse transmission and has a profound effect on the excitability of nerve tissue. So it helps your brain and body communicate quickly and efficiently.

Simply put: it is very important for brain, nerve, and heart function. Those are all pretty important things to have working properly!

Potassium and Blood Pressure

Low potassium intake=high blood pressure

High potassium intake + low sodium intake=prevented or corrected high blood pressure

Lowering blood pressure isn’t just about reducing sodium intake. Increasing potassium intake is an equally if not more important change to consider.

Potassium also reduces the risk of stroke-more so than can be explained by the reduction in blood pressure alone.

What if I don’t get enough?

Potassium is extremely abundant in common foods (especially fresh fruits and vegetables) so a dietary deficiency is not likely. However, potassium serves a lot of roles in the body and it’s important to get enough so all functions are covered.

Severe vomiting, diarrhea, or use of diuretics can cause profound fluid loss which can result in a drop in potassium levels. A deficiency is called hypokalemia.

If a deficiency does occur symptoms might include:

  •          Increased blood pressure
  •          Increased calcium excretion
  •          Kidney stones
  •          Bone turnover (bones are being broken down and not built back up).

As the deficiency gets worse symptoms might progress to:

  •          Irregular heartbeats
  •          Muscle weakness
  •          Mental disorientation
  •          Glucose intolerance

Is it possible to get too much?

Not likely. If too much is ingested, the kidneys usually excrete the excess. High serum potassium concentration is called hyperkalemia. It causes serious heart problems and even death. It is nearly impossible to get through diet if you have normally functioning kidneys and circulation.

So how much is recommended?

The AI (adequate intake) is 4,700 mg/day. Most Americans get around 3,300 mg/day.

*It is not recommended to supplement with potassium without a doctor’s supervision. It can cause serious heart and kidney problems.

Rockin’ sources of potassium!

What do you think of when you hear potassium? BANANAS! One of the greatest things I learned while exploring potassium is that it is in ALL LIVING CELLS. Plant or animal. It is wildly abundant in fresh fruits and vegetables. In contrast, most processed foods such as canned fruits and vegetables, lunch meats, and ready-to-eat cereals have lower amounts of potassium and higher amounts of sodium.


1,000 mg

Avocado (1 cup)

Baked potato (8 ounces with skin)

Beet greens (3/4 cup, cooked)

Edamame (1 cup shelled, cooked)

Lima beans (1 cup, cooked)

Papaya (1 large)

Sweet potato (1 cup, cooked)

 

750 mg

Plantains (1 cup, cooked)

Salmon (6 ounces, raw)

Tomato sauce (1 cup)

Winter squash (1 cup, cooked)

 

500 mg

Banana (1 large)

Beets (1 cup, cooked)

Cantaloupe (1 cup)

Dried apricots (12 halves)

Dried figs (4)

Orange juice (1 cup)

Yogurt (1 cup plain low-fat)

 

250 mg

Broccoli (1/2 cup, cooked)

Chicken breast (5 ounces, roasted)

Dates (5 whole)

Kiwifruit (1)

Mango (1)

Milk (1 cup)

Nectarine (1)

Orange (1 medium)

Peanut butter (2 tablespoons)

Peanuts (1 ounce, about 1/4 cup)

Pear (1 large)

Raisins (1/4 cup)

Strawberries (1 cup)

Zucchini (1/2 cup, cooked)