What is potassium?
Potassium is a chemical element. It's a mineral salt, also referred to as an electrolyte. Electrolytes are capable of conducting electricity.
Why do we need potassium for running and other sports?
Some of the electrolytes needed for bodily functions include potassium K+, sodium Na+, magnesium Mg2+, chloride Cl- and sodium bicarbonate NaHCO3. Together, these electrolytes support nerves, muscles, pH and fluid balance, and the production of energy, among other things.
Electrolytes help us to train and perform well in sports, so we need to keep them in balance. If we are deficient in any of the electrolytes it can lead to muscle cramping – particulary in the legs – side stitches, or stomach cramps. While running we lose some electrolytes through our sweat – in particular potassium and sodium.
Potassium allows nutrients and fluids to pass through the membranes of cells, which enables our cells to contract the muscles. Potassium plays a special part in helping the nerve cells to function properly and helps the body hold on to calcium. Research shows us that potassium loss as a result of extreme training conditions may adversely effect blood flow, muscle function and energy storage.
Which drinks would keep potassium / electrolytes in balance?
My suggestion is that you experiment with different electrolyte supplements as well as keeping your diet as healthy as possible. In an ideal world I personally would of course like to avoid taking supplements and get everything I need from my fruits and vegetables and other foods. Unfortunately, I have not mastered this art yet and I don't always buy organic products, so I use supplements too. This is also practical when I find myself too busy to prepare anything at home.
You might prefer supplements that do not have many artificial ingredients or colours especially if your system is as sensitive as mine. I found Nuun tablets work very well for me. Apart from potassium they also contain sodium, magnesium, calcium and some vitamins. One tablet gives me a balanced electrolyte drink. I use them for my training, races, at work or when travelling – especially on a hot day. It was great to discover a product that is easily absorbed, tastes good and, most importantly, eliminates my headaches and cramps.
Another way of adding electrolytes into your drink is to use lemon juice and natural sea salt. Citrus fruits contain calcium and potassium, which, combined with salt (a source of sodium) balance the pH and fluid levels in the body. Lemon, lime, tangerine, grapefruit and orange juice all have the necessary minerals for electrolyte replenishment.
I must admit this is my preferred option as I love citrus fruit, don't mind the taste of salt and prefer completely natural ingredients. So during a more organised week I prepare one of these two drinks.
Potassium Drink Recipe 1
I simply add a dash of salt to 500ml of spring water and mix it with 500ml of fresh citrus juice.
Potassium Drink Recipe 2
3 ½ cups of spring water
¼ teaspoon of natural salt
¼ cup of lemon juice
¼ cup of orange juice
2 tablespoons of honey
Another excellent source of potassium is coconut water. One cup serving of coconut water contains 600mg of potassium. You can find more info about benefits of coconut water here.
Getting potassium from food
I always try to check how Mother Nature can help when it comes to keeping on top of vitamins and minerals. A healthy diet helps me to feel and perform better. According to experts getting a good amount of potassium from food doesn't have to be hard, as long as we are eating a balanced and varied diet. Here is a list of foods that are high in potassium (amounts are per 100g).
Lima Beans 508 mg potassium. All beans are high in potassium.
Kale 491 mg potassium.
Avocado 485 mg potassium
Spinach 466 mg potassium
Salmon 460 mg potassium
Banana 358 mg potassium
Mushrooms 356 mg potassium
Broccoli 316 mg potassium
Beets 305 mg potassium
Cantaloupe 267 mg potassium
Tomatoes 237 mg potassium
Sweet Potatoes 230 mg potassium
Asparagus 224 mg potassium
Cabbage 196 mg potassium
Yoghurt 194 mg potassium
This is nutritional information that we found very useful and want to share with our customers. But we're not nutrition specialists. The nutritional information on this site is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or sports nutrition.