Potassium, just like sodium, is a crucial electrolyte required by the body to maintain proper fluid balance, regulate muscle contraction, keep nerves responding efficiently, and even maintaining blood pressure during activity. As an athlete, these types of functions are crucial to not only achieve higher performance but to stay injury and illness free. So what food is high in potassium and should you take a potassium supplement? Let’s find out the nitty gritty so you can stay in optimal shape for your athletic ambitions.
Potassium is an essential mineral and positively charged electrolyte found in the intracellular fluid of the body and consumed through food. Both plans and animals, including humans, use potassium in our living cells. So what’s potassium good for? Great question. Potassium is good for helping the body regulate the contraction of muscles, regulates the transmission of nerve impulses, and helps maintain healthy blood pressure levels. As an active individual or athlete, these biological functions are crucial for your performance. In fact, about 80% of potassium in the human body is found in skeletal muscle alone. [R]
Think about it this way, if you can’t contract your muscles and relax them, you can’t really lift the weight or build muscle like you want to. If your body doesn’t respond when you are performing a clean and jerk, because the nerve impulses from your brain to your body when catching the bar are too slow, you’re going to miss the lift. And if your blood pressure drops too fast when you hop off the ass bike? Guess what? You’re probably going to pass out. Yikes!
Daily intake requirements of potassium depend on a variety of factors including your health and activity levels. While there isn’t a strict recommended daily intake for potassium, it is recommended that the average person consumes no less than 3,500 mg of potassium per day through regular food and supplementation intake. [R]
That being said, athletes may lose a significant amount of potassium through sweat and urine excretion from hydrating sufficiently to support activity and may require upwards of 4,700 mg per day to support activity. [R]
Potassium is absorbed in the small intestine by a process called passive diffusion. [R] Potassium is lost from the body through sweat, your poop, and it is primarily excreted in the urine. Symptoms of potassium deficiency range from muscle weakness and muscle paralysis to fatigue, dizziness, and mental confusion. This is called Hypokalemia and most often happens when the body loses a lot of fluid at once, like if you throw up after sprints, train for long periods of time, or experience the flu, for example. [R]
Other symptoms of potassium deficiency:
- Muscle Cramps and Muscle Spasms [R]
- Digestive Problems and Constipation [R]
- Muscle Aches and Stiffness [R]
- Poor Nerve Function Like Tingling and Numbness [R]
- Breathing Difficulties or Shortness of Breath [R]
- Mood Changes [R]
Much like other minerals and vitamins, you can consume too much potassium and like most things, too much of anything can be bad for your health and performance. Consuming or supplementing with too much potassium can cause a buildup of this mineral in the blood stream and cause hyperkalemia. Mineral toxicity of potassium can cause things like muscle weakness, vomiting, nausea, and an irregular heart beat (cardiac arrhythmia) which can actually be fatal. [R]
Too much potassium can be a big problem for people with kidney disease who aren’t able to regulate their blood potassium levels regularly. People who’s kidneys do not function properly or who have kidney failure/disease must monitor their potassium intake very carefully, as well as avoid a diet high in potassium, as this can increase their risk of negative side effects.
It is also worth noting that there really isn’t any proven benefit of getting over 4,700 mg per day. It is recommended to say in the 3,500 mg to 4,700 mg range per day of potassium to avoid high potassium level symptoms. [R]
Potassium is found in a wide variety of foods so a deficiency isn’t as common as people think, except in athletes, who may experience losses of potassium that contribute to things like muscle cramps and prolonged or excessive muscle soreness. Foods that have potassium include a wide variety of leafy greens, legumes, dairy-based foods, starchy vegetables, and nuts, as well as other fruits and vegetables.
RECOMMENDED PRODUCT: Prevent Muscle Cramps With L-Glutamine (100 servings)
Below is a list of foods that have potassium and relatively high levels. The amounts listed are based on a 100g serving for reference. [R]
- Dried Apricots – 1162 mg
- Beet Greens – 909 mg
- Avocado – 485mg
- Spinach – 466 mg
- Guava – 417 mg
- Kiwi – 312 mg
- Banana – 358 mg
- Brussels Sprouts – 317 mg
- Broccoli – 293 mg
- Green Peas – 271 mg
- Cantaloupe – 267 mg
- Zucchini – 264 mg
- Pomegranate – 236 mg
- Asparagus – 224 mg
- Sweet Potatoes – 210 mg
- Strawberries – 152 mg
- Swolverine’s Greens + Reds Powder – 138 mg
Fruit is a great source of potassium and is often included in many pre-workout snacks as well as post-workout snacks for athletes. Some fruits are higher in potassium than others, like bananas versus blueberries, for example. These fruits with potassium are also a great go-to if you’re experiencing muscle cramps in order to get immediate relief.
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Potassium in Oranges
Oranges are pretty impressive when it comes to the amount of fruit with potassium that you can consume and receive benefits from. The potassium in oranger, per 100g serving is about 4% of your daily value or ~181mg. You can really boost that content by drinking straight orange juice, from concentrate, to over ~400mg per 1 cup of juice. [R]
Potassium in Apples
Another great fruit with potassium to include in your diet are apples, specifically dried apples. Dried apples boast nearly 8% of your daily value of potassium amounting to over ~385 mg per cup serving. [R]
For those that may experience kidney issues or are looking for fruit low in potassium, we recommend opting for fresh apples, applesauce, and a variety of berries and grapes. You can also incorporate vegetables, as they are a great food low in potassium, such as cauliflower, broccoli, and eggplant.
For athletes who are regularly sweating and depleting their natural stores of electrolytes, a supplement may be something that they want to consider. While just about nobody can get all the nutrients they need from food and diet alone, this where a low dose potassium and electrolyte replenishment supplement can come in handy.
We recommend supplementing with Swolverine’s BCAA + Electrolyte powder that has sodium, L-glutamine, and potassium, so that you can keep your muscles contracting, nerves functioning, and blood pressure pumping when you need it most during your training sessions.
RECOMMENDED: BCAA (Lemon Lime) available in 50 servings
Potassium is an essential nutrient that athletes and individuals need to consume through food or supplementation. If you’re an active individual or athlete, supplementing with a BCAA powder to prevent the unnecessary breakdown of muscle mass and replenish lost electrolytes during activity may benefit you more than you think so that you can train longer, harder, and get better results from your efforts. Potassium helps regulate acid-base balance, blood pressure, muscle contraction, and even nerve impulses. There’s potassium in a lot of fresh and natural foods, specifically fruits and vegetables consumed in a healthful diet.
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