Ever see an iron man competition where the competitor suddenly cramps up totally seizes up? It's almost as if the competitor's body has been possessed by some unforgiving spirit.
I remember one such competition where one man was almost at the finish line and he totally seized up.
He couldn't even crawl to the finish line because his body was being controlled by spasms.
I used to wonder why these competitors couldn't cross the finish line. After some digging around and finding some information on potassium, I have found out that one of the major reasons for theses very severe muscle cramps, with potentially deadly consequences, is the lack of electrolytes. In particular, potassium. Low potassium levels can mean a drastic decrease in physical performance and in some extreme cases, deadly side effects.
What I would like to do is provide you with some information on potassium that may benefit your physical performance.
Potassium is that wonderful electrolyte that helps control fluid balance in the bodies cells.
Potassium comes in several different varieties - it's most common form is potassium chloride. Potassium is an essential mineral whose primary job is to help maintain fluid balance on either side of cells. Potassium is the predominant positive electrolyte in the bodies cells. An enzyme called adenosine triphosphate controls the flow of potassium and sodium into and out of cells to maintain normal function of the heart, brain, muscles and kidneys.
By maintaining fluid balance within cells, this electrolyte works together with sodium in order to transmit messages on behalf of the nervous system. These messages are called nerve impulses which among other things, help to regulate the contraction of muscles.
As an active weight trainer, you can see the importance of having enough potassium in your system. Let's face it, we need optimal muscle contraction in order to keep lifting heavier and heavier weights. In order for that to happen, we need plenty of water and enough electrolytes (sodium and potassium) to help carry out optimal muscle contraction.
I remember when I was younger, I was always getting bad muscle cramps in my calves and lower back. It wasn't until I talked with one of the gym owners that he suggested that I was really low in potassium. He simply suggested I eat one banana a day.
Wouldn't you know it, as soon as I had started eating bananas, the cramps went away immediately. As you know, bananas have very high concentrations of potassium. I remember vividly the way he explained it to me..."Take a look a gorillas, bananas is all they eat and their 500 friggin' pounds! - Fat Free!...Take in one banana a day and you'll stop with the cramps and start to gain
By eating one banana a day, my cramps went away almost immediately and my muscles felt better. So, potassium is a very important mineral that you should be getting enough of. If your muscles are always cramping up or they feel tired all the time, try taking in a little more potassium. Some important information on potassium.
One banana contains anywhere between 450 to 470 mg of potassium. The recommended daily allowance for potassium is about 3,500 mg. So, one banana takes care of about 13 percent of your recommended daily intake of potassium.
Now, you don't have to go to your nearest drug store and buy a bunch of potassium tablets. I suggest you try and get your daily potassium requirements from your diet. Try eating a variety of foods that contain potassium, this way, you get the added benefit of food synergy. Food synergy is what you want and that's where the magic happens.
There are plenty of benefits to having the optimal amount of potassium in your diet. Of the main benefits, potassium helps maintain fluid balance at the cellular level. With the help of other electrolytes, potassium helps nerve impulses which transmits messages at the cellular level. This means muscle contraction.
Remember my dilemma with the lack of potassium in my diet? Well, I was lacking certain electrolytes which helps to maintain muscle contraction. Without these electrolytes, my muscles werent really working right. By simply adding a little more potassium do my diet, I was able to correct my muscle cramps.
Potassium also assists in the conversion of glucose to glycogen and the synthesis of muscle protein from amino acids. Potassium has a very important role in helping the body convert macro nutrients into muscle building material and muscle fuel.
I think everyone can benefit from taking in additional potassium. In particular, some people such as athletes may benefit from additional potassium intake.
Now, low potassium levels can be potentially dangerous - Even deadly. There are some negative effects to having too little potassium in your system, however, if you are following a healthy diet, you shouldnt be too concerned about not getting enough potassium.
Symptom of low potassium levels are usually mild symptoms that can range anywhere from cramped muscles to tiredness. Generally, the symptoms are mild but in some instances, they can be a little more serious depending on the level of potassium depletion.
In some extreme cases, low potassium levels can be deadly. More than a few body builders have died due to the lack of electrolytes, potassium in particular.
When body builders take in diuretics prior to competitions, they get rid of any excess water, including electrolytes out of their bodies. This brings their potassium levels to a dangerous levels. Combine that with a near starvation state and you can possibly get a whole whack of physical problems.
If you are following a healthy diet, you are more than likely meeting your minimum daily requirements for potassium. However, there are some instances where you may be lacking in potassium. I have experienced low potassium levels which was resolved with an slight increase in potassium (one banana a day).
A mild symptom of low potassium can be a preliminary warning for other ailments. If you are experiencing symptoms of low potassium, I strongly suggest you get checked out by your family physician.
Here is a small list for symptoms of low potassium:
Low blood pressure - Can lead to fainting;
Irregular heart beat;
Feeling thirsty all the time;
Bad muscle cramps;
Nausea and vomiting;
Potassium is a very important mineral in the body so it should not be neglected. Potassium is available from natural sources as well as a synthetic compound.
All the best,
As the owner of Building Muscle 101, I am committed to providing you the best practical weight training advice. I've been training for over 24 years (and still train to this day!) and the advice and guidance I provide comes directly from my experience and knowledge.
Home > Tools and Resources HQ > Articles > Supplement Articles