Legionnaire:

Vitamins and Minerals: Which ones are the most important? (part 2)

Part II – Minerals

This post is a follow-up to a previous post I wrote covering the same question, but focusing on minerals. Minerals, like vitamins, are classified as micronutrients. I had to split them up into two because it would have been too long and more boring than normal. Plus, as a whole, I’ve never been super excited about vitamins and minerals. Nonetheless, it’s fascinating, however, to consider that when put into groups or classes, many of them work together. For example, thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), vitamin B6, pantothenic acid and biotin are play some role in energy production inside our cells during exercise. Folate and vitamin B12 are needed for optimal production of red blood cells, building of proteins and repairing and maintaining various bodily tissues (Rodriguez, Di Marco et al. 2009). Vitamins A, C and E all have a primary role as an antioxidant while vitamins D and K are critically important for bone formation. Minerals are chemical compounds that are required for various reasons by our bodies to maintain health. Again using the same designation of macro and micro, many minerals are considered to be macrominerals because they are needed by the body in amounts greater than 100 mg/day. Thus microminerals are also called trace elements (because they are needed by the body in trace amounts) and have a daily requirement of less than 100 mg/day. The macrominerals are calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sulfur, potassium, sodium and chloride. Many microminerals exist, but a limited few have research findings related to their use with exercising individuals. What will follow is a brief synopsis of each macro- and micromineral.

Calcium

  • Primary Function: Primary mineral found in teeth and bone; important for muscle and nerve function
  • Food Sources: Dairy products, beans (black/pinto), fortified cereals, orange juice, spinach, supplementation
  • Other Key Points: Most abundant mineral in body, approximately 99% bound in bones and teeth.
  • Vitamin D is needed to help absorption. Most popular supplemented forms are calcium carbonate and calcium citrate. Citrate is absorbed more effectively. Smaller (<500 mg), more frequent doses are recommended because absorption decreases as dose increases

Phosphorus

  • Primary Function: Key mineral found in teeth and bones; major player in energy metabolism
  • Food Sources: Milk, eggs, whole wheat bread, almonds, lentils, carbonated beverages
  • Other Key Points: Major constituent of bones. Deficiency is rare. Phosphate supplementation by athletes has been shown to increase performance and production of key metabolites linked to performance (Galloway, Tremblay et al. 1996; Bremner, Bubb et al. 2002).

Magnesium

  • Primary Function: Neuromuscular function, energy metabolism, bone health
  • Food Sources: Wheat flour, artichokes, almonds, tuna
  • Other Key Points: Key factor in over 300 reactions that take place in the body. Key role in bone health. Supplementation in deficient individuals has shown some potential beneficial effects (Brilla and Haley 1992), although other studies have reported no benefits (Wilborn, Kerksick et al. 2004).

Sulfate

  • Primary Function: Building proteins; forming sulfur-sulfur bonds in cells throughout body
  • Food Sources: Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, broccoli

Potassium

  • Primary Function: Cell function (water balance, acid-base balance, electrical balance)
  • Food Sources: Tomatoes, orange juice, beans, raisins, potatoes

Sodium

  • Primary Function: Maintain balance of water inside and outside cells
  • Food Sources: Processed foods, cured meats, frozen meals, canned vegetables, table salt
  • Other Key Points: Critical component of sweat and replacement is important when exercising or working in hot/humid environments.

Chloride

  • Primary Function: Maintain balance of water inside and outside cells (works right alongside sodium)
  • Food Sources: Similar to sodium foods above
  • Other Key Points: Critical component of sweat and replacement is important when exercising or working in hot/humid environments.

The micro minerals or trace elements include iron, zinc, copper, selenium, iodine, fluorine, chromium, manganese, molybdenum, boron and vanadium. As mentioned, the common thread between them is that they are required in amounts less than 100 mg/day. While essential for life, their relationship to exercise and physical performance is still very largely undetermined. In fact, for all but a few, no data exists. We do have data related to iron, zinc, chromium and boron in the context of exercise, but data is otherwise limited.

Iron

  • Primary Function: Oxygen transport throughout the body
  • Food Sources: Lean red meats, leafy green vegetables, beans
  • Other Key Points: Critical mineral that is most commonly deficient in athletes. Key part of transporting oxygen and anemic or deficient individuals can be negatively affected.

Zinc

  • Primary Function: Wound healing, steroid function, key parts of many enzymes
  • Food Sources: Oysters, round beef, liver
  • Other Key Points: Might be deficient in some exercising populations. Deficiency might reduce strength and other adaptations while resistance training (Micheletti, Rossi et al. 2001), although this has been mixed (Wilborn, Kerksick et al. 2004).

Chromium

  • Primary Function: Improves action of insulin, role in carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism
  • Food Sources: Eggs, spinach, broccoli, apples, bananas

Boron

  • Primary Function: Somewhat unknown, thought to be involved in vitamin D metabolism and immune function.
  • Food Sources: Grapes, leafy vegetables, nuts, grains, apples, bananas

Copper

  • Primary Function: Improves enzyme function, aids in iron absorption, small antioxidant role
  • Food Sources: Shellfish, beef, table salt, coffee

Fluoride

  • Primary Function: Mineralization of bones and teeth
  • Food Sources: Fluorinated water, fish, fortified foods, potatoes

Iodine

  • Primary Function: Key part of thyroid function
  • Food Sources: Seafood, dairy, iodized table salt

Manganese

  • Primary Function: Bone formation, amino acid, lipid and carbohydrate metabolism
  • Food Sources: Nuts, leafy vegetables, whole grains, teas

Selenium

  • Primary Function: Works strongly as an antioxidant
  • Food Sources: Brazil nuts, fish, shellfish, meats, garlic, eggs

In summary, minerals, like vitamins, are an absolute prerequisite for optimal health. Nobody will dispute that. At the end of the day you may not care two licks about what they do just so long as they do it. Eating a wide variety of foods of sufficient amounts relative to your activity habits is a critical first step to making sure you are getting enough in your diet. However, if you are trying to lose weight by restricting calories, trying to cut weight, or don’t eat many different types of foods (or eat a really crappy diet overall), the possibility of a shortage becomes much more likely. For this reason alone, many nutritionists and some dietitians often suggest daily use of a supplemental supply of micronutrients!


BIBLIOGRAPHY

  1. ANTONIO, J., D. KALMAN, ET AL., EDS. (2008). ESSENTIALS OF SPORTS NUTRITION AND SUPPLEMENTS. NEW YORK, NY, HUMANA PRESS.
  2. BREMNER, K., W. A. BUBB, ET AL. (2002). “THE EFFECT OF PHOSPHATE LOADING ON ERYTHROCYTE 2,3-BISPHOSPHOGLYCERATE LEVELS.” CLIN CHIM ACTA 323(1-2): 111-114.
  3. BRILLA, L. R. AND T. F. HALEY (1992). “EFFECT OF MAGNESIUM SUPPLEMENTATION ON STRENGTH TRAINING IN HUMANS.” J AM COLL NUTR 11(3): 326-329.
  4. GALLOWAY, S. D., M. S. TREMBLAY, ET AL. (1996). “THE EFFECTS OF ACUTE PHOSPHATE SUPPLEMENTATION IN SUBJECTS OF DIFFERENT AEROBIC FITNESS LEVELS.” EUR J APPL PHYSIOL OCCUP PHYSIOL 72(3): 224-230.
  5. GREENWOOD, M., D. KALMAN, ET AL., EDS. (2008). NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS IN SPORTS AND EXERCISE. TOTAWA, NJ USA, HUMANA PRESS.
  6. MICHELETTI, A., R. ROSSI, ET AL. (2001). “ZINC STATUS IN ATHLETES: RELATION TO DIET AND EXERCISE.” SPORTS MED 31(8): 577-582.
  7. RODRIGUEZ, N. R., N. M. DI MARCO, ET AL. (2009). “AMERICAN COLLEGE OF SPORTS MEDICINE POSITION STAND. NUTRITION AND ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE.” MED SCI SPORTS EXERC 41(3): 709-731.
  8. WILBORN, C. D., C. M. KERKSICK, ET AL. (2004). “EFFECTS OF ZINC MAGNESIUM ASPARTATE (ZMA) SUPPLEMENTATION ON TRAINING ADAPTATIONS AND MARKERS OF ANABOLISM AND CATABOLISM.” J INT SOC SPORTS NUTR 1(2): 12-20.

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