Potassium is another mineral required in large amounts (macro mineral), but is quite easy to obtain in the diet. Many Americans have inadequate potassium intake due to dietary choices. This usually happens because high sodium intake increases potassium needs, and most dietary potassium is obtained through fruits and vegetables, of which westerners typically consume little. While potassium supplements do exist, they are limited at 99 mg per serving because high elemental potassium intake out of the context of normal foods can quickly lead to heart problems and other issues. Kidney problems are also a main cause of the upset of potassium regulation. Many people tend to supplement potassium in hopes of reducing muscle cramping, but due to the abysmally low amount of the mineral in supplement form, foods high in potassium should be used. The RDA (recommended daily allowance) is set at around 3500 mg per day, but this amount varies based on body status of other electrolytes like sodium, calcium, and magnesium.
- Maintenance of cellular fluid levels and hydration
- Required for proper nerve functioning
- Needed for normal muscle contraction and relaxation
- pH balance of the blood and body
Primary deficiency symptoms and diseases
- Hypokalemia (abnormally low potassium levels)
- Muscle cramping
- Heart palpitations
Most fruits and vegetables will contain plenty of potassium. Lowering dietary sodium intake also reduces the need for high amounts in the diet. Dairy products can also contain decent amounts of potassium and many meats contain very little. Contrary to popular belief, bananas aren't a super high source of potassium and get beaten out dramatically by foods like potatoes.
- Beans and legumes
Potassium supplements aren't usually recommended because of the risk of heart and kidney issues associated with these elemental forms from overdose. Dietary intake is the best way to get safe potassium, but here are the most common. Electrolyte supplements which contain a mixture of essential minerals would actually be one of the safest choices since they balance each other out. Contrary to what some believe, potassium is not lost in large amounts from sweat and therefore athletes should not have to worry about getting more potassium.
- Potassium chloride - usually in salt substitutes or capsules, it tastes salty and metallic
- Potassium chelate - may be safer, but still limited in pill form
- Potassium citrate
Who needs it most?
Most people will not need supplements, but an overall shift in diet in order to achieve good potassium/sodium balance.
- Those who eat high sodium diets.
- People with a low intake of fruits and vegetables
When shopping electrolyte supplements, don't worry too much about the potassium content, as whatever miniscule amount is added to them will not make much difference. Instead, aim to consume more fruits, vegetables, and roots in order to boost intake significantly.