Getting Your Minerals From a Well-Balanced Diet

Approximately 21 minerals are essential for life, and some—potassium, sodium and iron—are of particular concern to athletes. Minerals are also more likely to have an immediate effect on the health and performance of an athlete than vitamins. A well-balanced diet is the key to getting enough minerals.


Potassium is an electrolyte needed for maintaining the body’s balance of fluids, for proper kidney functioning and for conducting electricity in the body. The estimated minimum daily requirement for potassium among athletes over the age of 18 is 2,000 milligrams (but it may vary between athletes). Those who weigh under 189 pounds may need less, and those who take in more than 2,000 calories a day may need more. You can replace potassium lost through sweat by drinking a glass of orange juice. Other sources of potassium are fruits (especially bananas) and vegetables. Potassium supplements aren’t needed for the average person. Too much potassium can cause irregular heart rhythms.

Sodium, Sodium Chloride

Sodium is an electrolyte that can be lost through perspiration. A sodium deficiency is more likely to affect endurance athletes than others. One gram of sodium can be lost with two pounds of body weight through sweat, but it can be replaced by just a half teaspoon of salt. A well-balanced diet should provide more than enough sodium chloride (salt).


Calcium has a direct effect on bone density and bone strength. It is important in the process of muscle contraction, and a calcium deficiency can lead to muscle cramps, as well as stress fractures. Athletes, particularly young ones, frequently consume less calcium then they should because they drink fewer dairy products than older athletes. Milk tends to be replaced by soft drinks. Aim between 1,000 and 1,800 milligrams of calcium per day to attain peak bone mass.

Getting enough calcium may be a particular problem for those who do not eat dairy products. Vegetarians may require less calcium than others because they absorb and retain more calcium from foods than non-vegetarians. Calcium obtained from animal sources is not readily absorbed. Good sources of calcium include:

fish with bones
collard greens
orange juice
fortified soy milk
fortified tofu and fortified cereals (Cheerios, Total, Special K).
For individuals who take calcium supplements, calcium carbonate and calcium citrate are absorbed by the body more efficiently than other forms. Do not take calcium and iron supplements simultaneously. Calcium can block iron absorption.

Read more: Core Performance

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