Electrolytes: sodium, potassium, chlorine, calcium and magnesium.
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Why electrolytes? Your muscles require electrolytes to contract and release. Slow contract creates diminished reaction speed and strength. Slow release and you get a cramp.
Calcium, as you probably heard when you were growing up, helps maintain bone mass, but it also helps boost fat burning and weight loss. A 2006 study by researchers at the University of Washington examined data from more than 5,000 women aged 53 to 57 over a ten-year period. They found that while most of the women gained some weight, those who consumed at least 1,100 mg of calcium per day (the recommended daily amount is 1,200 mg per day) gained two pounds less than their counterparts. The study also indicated calcium supplementation could aid in weight loss.
Chloride: chlorine (in the form of chloride as an ion) aids in the contraction of muscle tissue. If you are feeling especially nerdy, check out this article from Pubmed. If not, just remember to eat your greens, because dark leafy greens are excellent sources of chloride (so is table salt.)
Magnesium helps manage even more bio processes: Magnesium is crucial for the production of ATP, which is how your body packages energy. A 2003 study found that magnesium supplementation resulted in increased exercise stamina, relative to a placebo. Same goes for a later 2006 study, which found magnesium supplementation helped decrease the fatigue-inducing effects of lactate buildup. This mineral is also essential for muscle contraction and bone formation.
Sodium and Potassium: When it comes to high-performance sports, such as weightlifting and HIIT-style workouts, sodium and potassium are even more important. This is because of their role in maintaining blood volume through what is called the “sodium-potassium pump.” Every cell in the body utilizes the sodium-potassium pump to regulate fluid levels inside cells. Scientists refer to sodium as an “extracellular compound,” because the body naturally stores sodium in higher concentration outside the cell walls. Potassium exists in higher concentration inside cells; scientists refer to potassium as an “intracellular” mineral.
Salts without Supplementing:
The best sources for obtaining these minerals are leafy greens, pumpkin seeds, squashes, potatoes, berries and canned fish. As we said above, a normal, sedentary person can get enough of these minerals through a healthy diet, as fruits, vegetables and nuts are the greatest sources of these electrolytes.
But in cases of high-performance, athletes may need to turn to additional sources to supplement their increased needs.
How much salt?
“Salts” is an umbrella term that includes the four electrolytes listed above: sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the department responsible for producing the Recommended Daily Amount (RDA) measurements, adults should consume the following amounts of salts:
- Sodium: 2,300 mg
- Potassium: 4,700 mg
- Magnesium: 420 mg (men); 320 mg (women)
- Calcium: 1,000 mg (men); 1,300 mg (women)