As the logical continuation of the previous article I'm about to give you some more information on other micronutrients that are necessary for proper functioning of the body, and as a result to achieve your maximum genetic potential in bodybuilding. For most of us the main focus of nutrition is, was and will always be the macronutrients carbohydrate, protein and fat. So we easily lose track of the fact that our dietary needs include a large amount of other ingredients, more than we think, and each one with its own special functions to provide health and better use of macronutrients. You are familiar with water-solubles and their status as the poor man's supplements, now comes the rest.
The Fat-solubles differ from the watersolubles in their transport. They are usually found in the fatty substances of food and as such are taken in through the ingestion of these things. Without proper fat use and absorption you will not get enough of these vitamins. They have one key benefit, and that is there storage in the body. Because they are lipophillic certain amounts can be stored in adipose tissue and organs and do not deplete easily. You could probably go a substantial amount of time without them before you reach the deficiency line. On the other hand, because of this storage they have a lower toxicity line than the water-solubles. Before you consider using fat-solubles as a supplement, I would like to remind you that water-solubles are needed for the proper absorption of dietary fat and thus for the intake and use of fat-solubles.
The chemical sources of Vitamin A are many, both animal as well as vegetable. Animal sources are usually retinol or dehydroretinol and plant substances are carotenes, of which beta-carotene is the most popular for supplementation because of its high toxicity line. But there are also alpha-, gamma- and crypto-carotenes. When there is enough carotene in the body, Vitamin A can be manufactured as needed so no real toxicity danger is experienced, whereas retinol already contains amounts of Vitamin A so toxicity is reached sooner.
Vitamin A, I was always told, is the eye-vitamin. I'm sure you've heard all these fables about having to eat carrots for better vision. It's quite the other way around: deficiency will impair vision in many ways but taking in more can cause problems as well. And of course by now you know that carrots are not the only source of Vitamin A. It is needed for night vision mainly, but also fulfills several immune functions and provides healthy skin (one of the main places of storage of beta-carotene). It will protect against environmental pollution in the body, cancer formation and many other diseases because of its anti-oxidizing properties.
It will improve the sense of taste (always handy for those bodybuilders that wear those ridiculous baggy pants) as well as the digestive tract function and urinary excretion and is believed to be an anti-aging weapon (ascribed to most anti-oxidants). Vitamin A can help the manufacture of epithelial cells in the mucous membranes and in the skin. Next to the calcium improving factors of B-vitamins, the A-vitamin will help to maintain healthy teeth and bones. And not to break tradition, it plays a role in storage of fat, the synthesis of protein and the production of glycogen. Vitamin A should be stored in a cool, dry place and never kept in dissolution for to long. Vitamin A is very complex in its action concerning fertility and vision, if you wish to know more about how these functions come to be, I highly recommend reading the book I get most of the scientific info from. I will list sources at the end of the article. I don't think it wise to list all the effects on things like green and red cones in the eye and the way A-aldehydes influence brain-function.
Deficiency: Can be detrimental to your eyes and will manifest in dryness of the cornea and loss of night vision. In severe cases and ulcerous cornea will develop and will lead to blindness. Other deficiency symptoms are abcesses, sinus trouble, frequent colds and succeptibility to allergies and the respiratory problems that come with that. Skin disorders like acne, boils, dryness of scalp and unidentifiable bumps could occur as can weight loss, fatigue, insomnia, dry hair and reproductive disorders.
Toxical effects: Will occur when exceeding 15000 IU of animal sources of vitamin A. Nausea, dizziness, menstrual problems, skin changes, irritability, vomiting, headaches, hair loss, bone and muscle pains not to mention high lipid concentration that can cause liver and spleen damage and high cholesterol and in pregnant women birth-defects can occur. The pro-vitamin beta-carotene is not considered toxic, but can cause discoloration of the skin since it is stored there.
Dosage: 5000 IU (1 gram) is the standard minimum dose, often supplemented in doses of 10000 IU and in medical uses the carotene versions can be given as high as 25000 IU. Though the risk of carotene is low, do not exceed the 15000 IU limit without medical supervision.
Stacks well with: Vitamins B,C,D,E, healthy fats, calcium, phosphor and zinc.
Sources: Liver, milk, eggs, carrots, vegetable and some fruits (bananas, lemons). Polar bear meat also contains large amounts of Vitamin A, but unless you are seriously deficient I don't suggest you go hunting for one. 500 grams of the meat will supply 9 million International Units, which is almost always lethal. That's one of the interesting things you can learn on the Internet.
Calciferol as it's called is known as the sunshine vitamin. I never believed you could get vitamins through sunlight, not even as a gullable kid. How funny it is then that as an educated adult I had to change my mind. One of the best alternate sources of Vitamin D is by letting your body's cells manufacture it themselves from cholesterol under the influence of unfiltered sunlight. Depending on the darkness of your skin and your normal daily exposure to sunlight, this will take 30 to 200 minutes.
It can regulate the phosphorus balance in the body and helps to maintain the heart muscle and protects nerves from deterioration. Vitamin D is also a classified steroid hormone. Something you already learned if you read my article on milk. After all it is manufactured from cholesterol, just like the sex-hormone precursor dehydro-epiandrosterone. As such it increases the absorption and use of calcium and thereby assists in bone growth and density. It also stimulates the thyroid and helps in blood clotting.
Deficiency: Severe for a bodybuilders since it results in bone softening, muscle twitching, perhaps cramps, convulsions, loss of minerals like calcium, you could develop osteoporosis dues to protein deficiency in the bone. Common symptoms are burning sensation in the throat, diarrhea, insomnia and visual problems. The Vitamin D deficiency disease is called rickets, which is basically brittle bones in young children, this is also the reason why the FDA encourages the enrichment of milk with calciferol. In earlier years the new continent had a real problem with rickets.
Toxical effects: 5000 IU is the established toxicity line, but usually it is recommended to not exceed 600 IU. This will lead to excess calcium in the blood (though I don't know of a bodybuilder that has too much calcium ions in his blood), lower appetite (that would worry me), increased thirst, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pains and calcium depositing in soft tissues like blood vessels, which is especially harmful to older people because calcifying of veins can cause severe health issues.
Dosage: 400 IU is the needed dose, 600 is usually the maximum, but I advocate the use of an 800 IU's. I'll get into it in a bit. Megadosing is only used in medical treatment and only under medical supervision.
Stacks well with: Vitamin A, Calcium, creatine, Phosphorus.
Sources: Tuna, mackerel, butter, sardines, salmon, kipper, egg-yolks and liver.
Useful tips: I'm a prime advocate of the use of Vitamin D, provided you keep toxicity in mind and cycle the use of it. I usually take Vitamin D in 800 IU's for 4 weeks, then 400 for 8 weeks and then all over again year round. Especially for users of creatine (dependent on calcium transport ions) this is beneficial, also because it increases your desire for water which is needed when taking creatine to maximize its potential and avoid side-effects and I also find it useful in the final weeks of a diet phase to curb appetite and need extra water as a diuretic.
Vitamin E has made quite a name for itself and has a wide reputation being mythically linked to combatting degeneration of skin and avoiding wrinkles, fighting off old age and even spicing up your sex-life. But above all Vitamin E is the preferred anti-oxidant of most bodybuilders and strength athletes. In fact it may be the strongest anti-oxidant in the world. It protects cells from oxidation (destruction at the hands of stress, producing free radicals) and neutralizes the resulting free radicals by giving off one of the electrons in the molecule to the unstable, electron-deficient free radical, thereby stabilizing it and rendering it harmless. This is an effect many anti-oxidants have, but the magic of the E-vitamin is that it also helps to protect other anti-oxidants in the body, making it a good thing to stack with other vitamins and MSM.
Vitamin E is a group of ingredients, 8 of them naturally occurring within the body. They are divided in 2 classes, namely the all-common tocepherols and the tocotrienols. Vitamin is an effective chain-breaching, essential, lipid-soluble vitamin to many of the body's cell membranes, and preserves their stability. All these properties make Vitamin E grandma's prevention for every disease that ails you, especially degenerative diseases. E should be consumed when preventing or soothing heart diseases, strokes, arthritis, senility, diabetes and cancer. Because it plays a very important role in the maintaining of red blood cells, it is a key element in cell respiration and protection from pollution through the lungs. It will also prevent excessive blood clotting, promote fertility, reduce hot flushes for females undergoing menopause and it may increase stamina and endurance.
Vitamin E is pharmaceutically processed in topical creams as well for use as skin treatment. It supposedly makes you look younger, increase healing of open wounds, cut the risk for formation of scar tissue, help with eczema, skin ulcers and shingles. Though I'm not a big fan of topical creams, I've seen cases of eczema completely healed in days when applying vitamin E based oils.
For athletes tocepherol might help alleviate joint pains, people who use alcohol or tobacco will find E has and anti-pollutive effect on liver and lungs, and women can get the most benefit from it to lessen pre-menstrual pains and to avoid side-effects from birth control pills. If you eat a lot of fats it may be wise to take extra Vitamin E as well. Processing will destroy the nutritional value of the nutrient: cooking, freezing or overexposure to air and prolonged storage can be hazardous to freshness. The prevention of following effects are ascribed to tocepherol: the preventing of oxidation in unsaturated fats, the prevention of oxidation of A and C vitamins and the prevention of oxidation of thiols, especially in enzymes and under influence of Selenium. It has also been implicated in manufacture of extra B12 and the starting of ATP formation.
Deficiency: Since Vitamin E stores very well in the body, deficiency is very rare. Possible effects linked to a deficiency may be fatigue, throbbing veins, premature aging manifesting as wrinkles, sub-fertility, acne, cancer, gallstones and so forth, though not all of this is really clear yet. In pregnant women deficiency may lead to a miscarriage due to uterine degradation and ravaging effects in the womb.
Toxical effects: Over 1200 IU doses could cause diarrhea, and even doses at 800 IU could lead to abdominal wind, though I assume on a bodybuilding diet this increase will hardly be noticeable.
Dosage: Minimum of 300 IU is needed, most supplements provide at least 400 and the current trend among nutritionists is to prescribe it in doses of 800 to 1000 IU. 30 IU's equals 1 gram.
Stacks well with: Vitamins C and A, B-vitamins, MSM, inositol, calcium, carbs, fats and protein.
Sources: Nuts, oils, seeds, grains, spinach, avocados, beef, seafood, apples and celery.
Lesser known vitamin may be essential for the making of new liver protein in order to control blood clotting and creating prothrombin which develops into thrombin, the key substance in the clotting of blood. Just like most fat-solubles the K-vitamin assists in the repair and formation of bone. The most important action of K to the athlete happens in the intestines where it converts glucose to glycogen, which is stored in the liver.
It's also made in the intestines and production may be enhanced in the presence of dairy products like milk, yogurt and cheese. There are three forms of the vitamin: The K1 vitamin which is the vegetarian source phylloquinone, the K2 vitamin which is the animal source menaquinone manufactured by intestinal bacteria in animals and finally the K3 vitamin menadione which is a synthetic derivation of menaquinone.
Deficiency: Internal hemorrhaging and nosebleeds as a result of faulty blood clotting, and can result in serious postoperative bleeding and cranial hemorrhages in newborns and small children.
Toxical effects: Only the K3 vitamin is toxic and can lead to flushing, sweating and anemia
Dosage: Daily need is 80 mcg, K is rarely supplemented separately.
Stacks well with: Fats mainly, for the absorption rate.
Do not stack with: Vitamin E, calcium or antibiotics.
Sources: Leafy vegetables, cheese, liver, asparagus, bacon, coffee and tea.
Healthy fat is important in a diet, I don't need to explain that to a bodybuilder, but try explaining it to a layman. Everybody is convinced that fats are bad. What if I said that fat was a vitamin. That's right, vitamin F stands for Essential Fatty Acids or EFA's and refers to linoleic acid and all its derivatives. EFA's are more commonly known as the omega's, omega 3 and omega 6, that are making such a name for themselves since the appearance of the omega diet. Another one of those trends that catches on 50 years after it was first advocated (again with Vince Gironda as one of the prime movers). Some of the more common versions are linoleic acid, gamma-linoleic acid, alpha-linoleic acid, linolic acid and conjugated linolic acid. The body cannot manufacture EFA's so levels in the body are dependent on intake. Arachidonic can be derived of linoleic acid, and if circumstances are right so can others. But fact remains linoleic acid must be ingested.
The function of this F-vitamin are the control of growth through maintaining a balanced hormone level, improving the immune system and synthesizing tissue lipids for survival. It's also the most important factor in balancing cholesterol if all necessary vitamins are present and a potent precursor to prostaglandins, hormonal metabolites that produce metabolic effects. For that supple, healthy, shiny skin and hair that all those TV-commercials promise, all you really need is EFA's and most importantly fellow iron junkies, you'll need it to manufacture sex and adrenal hormones including testosterone, epinephrine, dopamine and cortisol. It also prevents edema, arthritis and learning disabilities.
Beware of how you treat your EFA's because air will denature the element, processing of most kinds will convert them to trans-fatty acids (not wishful, will raise LDL) and heat can even produce free radicals from Vitamin F, counteracting the effect of the nutrient. Vitamin F is not a vitamin. It has effects like a vitamin and should be considered one, but as a fat, its actually a macronutrient.
Deficiency: Hair loss, eczema, rise of blood pressure and cholesterol, damage to heart, behavioral troubles, feeble immunity and slow healing, as well as defective tear-ducts and excessive blood clotting.
Toxical effects: Not determined, not toxic.
Dosage: Healthy fats such as EFA should form 10-20 percent of your diet for optimal performance, but 1-2 percent is needed to avoid deficiency.
Sources: All natural fatty substances when fresh. Nuts, seeds, fatty fish like salmon, trout and mackerel and above all natural oils like canola, olive and flax are good sources of omega-3 and omega-6, and in the case of flax even omega-9.
Minerals and Oligo-elements
For a long time perhaps the most ignored of all nutrients, these two are finally making a well-deserved rise to fame. The modern bodybuilder fully realizes the potential of proper use of things like Zinc, Iron, calcium, Sodium and Potassium. Only ten years ago, using these micronutrients as an individual element was unheard of. Though sources rich in zinc and iron and the calcium-containing milk were common in the diet, noone accredited any of the effects of that diet to the smallest of ingredients that made up these foods. Obviously I can't name all of them and like with the amino acids, I'll have to make a choice. I limited to the ones I deemed the most useful to a hardworking athlete and I limited magnesium and calcium because I already discussed them fully in previous articles. These are the ones that made the cut:
Of all the elements presented here, this one should strike you as the most familiar one. I'm sure I'm not the only one that was tricked into eating spinach because it contained a lot of iron. Do not underestimate the benefit of Iron, but as you will soon see, there are more appetizing sources. As an essential oxygen carrying trace element it forms part of the protein-oxygen shuttle being integrally involved in hemoglobin (in the red blood cells) and myoglobin (mainly in muscle tissue), both proteins that ensure the oxygen supply of the system. Iron also supports a healthy system and can assist in producing energy. It also interacts with various enzymes. Iron is stored mainly in liver, marrow and spleen. Do not mix iron with tea or coffee and never take it together with calcium and Zinc, because these three nutrients compete for absorption. Calcium is the strongest of the three. Vitamin E will also inhibit absorption.
Deficiency: Anemia, low hemoglobin concentrations, depression, fatigue, low stamina, intestinal hemorrhaging, excessive menstrual bleeding, digestive trouble.
Toxical effects: The fatal dose can be as low as 600 mg for children, so caution is needed when stacking Iron. Finding the right medium is best for benefits. It is extremely poisonous when taken in high doses and stacks in high concentrations in the body. Liver and heart damage are not uncommon. Lower Zinc levels, heart trouble and hardened arteries are some of the lighter symptoms.
Dosage: 15 mg is the minimum daily amount, but much larger doses are used for supplementation - 50 and 100 are the most common.
Stacks well with: Vitamins A,B,C, copper. Remember that you will need higher zinc intake when taking iron, but do not take the two together.
Sources: Meat, fish, fruit, grains, beans and vegetables. Pretty common in food in trace amounts
The miracle product of the 90's. It seems every micronutrient gets its 15 minutes of fame as well, passing the revue, being considered important before the next hype overtakes it. Zinc is (was) considered as a treatment for colds and laryngitis and as a strong antioxidant. Naturally this kind of home-medicine is gravely exaggerated. Zinc does promote a healthier immune system and has been known to sooth sore throats, though temporarely. Zinc is a strong antioxidant and can prevent a lot of diseases and infections, as well as inhibit allergies.
As most trace elements it is beneficial to hair and skin because that's one of the main storage places for micronutrients.
Specifically, Zinc is linked to the production of protein and collagen, optimal growth and full sexual development (Hence its use as a potentiator of sex hormones). For athletes the most important functions of Zinc are cell division and the maintenance of muscle-tissue.
Deficiency: Because Zinc is denatured and destroyed so easily in all kinds of processes and has so many inhibiting factors, athletes that expend a lot of Zinc will find themselves deficient quite easily. Even most supplements contain the Zinc-inhibiting calcium. That's why ZMA is such an innovative supplement. Increased infections, lower immunity, more succeptibility to allergies, night blindness, loss of smell, loss of taste, loss of hair, skin problems, sleep disorders, stunted growth and a drop in fertility rate may be symptoms of deficiency.
Toxical effects: Zinc is rarely toxical short term, but high doses (1 or 2 grams) for extended periods of time can be very harmful. It negates all the beneficial effects of Zinc. Toxical levels will decrease immunity and harm recovery. Advisable is taking less than 100 mg daily if you plan to supplement for a long time. Short term you can do this, but long term it can lead to dizziness, drowsiness, hallucination, nausea or diarrhea.
Dosage: 15 mg is the daily recommended dose. Supplying 50 grams is the standard, but you will find that the best zinc supplement, ZMA, contains only 30 mg of very absorbable Zinc. Try to take in as much zinc as you do iron every day, but avoid taking them together because they will compete for absorption. Same for copper and calcium.
Stacks well with: Vitamins A, B6, E, P, magnesium and getting good amounts of calcium and copper.
Sources: The best sources for Zinc are meat, poultry and fish, trace amounts can be found in eggs, seeds and yeast and in grain, but grain contains phytic acid which binds zinc prior to ingestion making it absolutely unabsorbable. That's why animal sources are the better choice. If you are a vegetarian, a good ZMA supplement might be a wise decision.
For information, read my article on testosterone boosters. Just a little warning to the dieting bodybuilder that water loss of any kind and the use of diuretics definitely can hinder optimal absorption and use of magnesium. Also avoid stacking it with Vitamin D and C.
Deficiency: Irritability, depression, poor memory, hypertension, confusion, incontinence in children and seniors are signs of magnesium deficiency due to a shortage in intake. Deficiency can also be a result of bad absorption, nerve dysfunction, medication or excessive alcohol abuse and in this case the risk for neuromuscular failure and seizure are plausible results.
Toxical effects: No real danger for toxicity, but you may want to refrain from excessive supplementation if you have kidney problems or cardiovascular trouble.
Dosage: 400 mg is the RDA for magnesium on a 2000 calorie diet, but is usually supplemented in 750 to 1000 mg.
Stacks well with: Calcium, zinc, Iron, Vitamins B and E.
Sources: Fish, meat, seafood, apples and avocados, nuts, cocoa, water and some vegetables.
I treated the subject in detail in my article about milk. I would just like to add that calcium is the transport means of large number of amino acids and creatine. It has been an issue that combining large amounts of protein with creatine can hinder the effect of last-named nutrient. Though it is best to wait half an hour or so in general, there are exceptions. After a workout and with plenty of carbs the issue is non-existent. Because of the importance of calcium to the bodybuilder it is of utmost importance to respect the calcium need of the body and supply adequate vitamins for its proper functioning. Calcium does not react well to Phosphorus, Sodium, coffee and white flour. All of them will eliminate Calcium. Too much of a certain nutrient (be it protein, fats or carbs) can inhibit absorption. Tetracyline will bind to calcium ions and block the absorption of both substances.
Deficiency: Chronic dietary deficiency can cause osteoporosis. In younger people the consequences will be smaller accrual of bone mass and in older people it may mean a significant decrease in total bone mass. Brittle bones are the result. Hypertension and cancer are two modern diseases that can find calcium deficiency as a cause. Symptoms of deficiency can be, but are not limited to, aching joints, high LDL cholesterol, insomnia, irregular heartbeat, eczema, muscle cramps, convulsions, depressions, delusion, arthritis, rheuma and nervousness.
Toxical effects: Calcium in excess of 2.5 grams daily can cause mineral imbalances (lack of zinc or Iron absorption). Combined with a severe magnesium deficiency, common in bodybuilders, it may lead to kidney stone formation.
Dosage: 1000-1200 mg daily depending on age and sex. You should dose calcium according to phosphorus and magnesium intake. Ca, P and Mg should be stacked in a 2-2-1 relation to each other. Women need less calcium than men because high estrogen levels will deposit more calcium in the bones.
Stacks well with: Vitamins A and D, obviously. Chelation may improve the use of calcium as a supplement.
Sources: Milk, butter, beans, nuts, fruits, seafood and some vegetables.
Chromium is a trace element that is required for normal sugar and fat metabolism and works through the potentiation of insulin. I already gave my review of chromium in this matter in my article on creatine and insulin potentiators. Chromium is present in very small amounts in the entire body with the largest concentrations found in the liver, spleen, kidneys and bone. A lot of people are deficient in chromium since numerous percentages of the population are diabetic or borderline hypoglycemic. The functions of chromium are to provide energy in the body by stabilizing blood sugar levels, increasing the amount of glycogen stored under influence of insulin and controlling the almighty hormone insulin as well as several enzymes. Together with GTF (the glucose tolerance factor, a combination of nutrients capable of improving insulin use to store glycogen) because GTF spikes insuline release into the bloodstream when it enters the body. The factor enhances insulin resulting in larger amounts of glucose being absorbed faster to replenish the glycogen storage. Together with the facilitating effect that chromium has by upgrading insulin receptors they stabilize the blood sugar levels and adjust the cholesterol balance in the blood.
Natural levels of both chromium and GTF decline with age. The form of chromium most often used is chromium picolinate, a chelated version that is bonded to the amino acid derivative picolinate. It is absorbed extremely well, but the body only takes up chromium when there is a shortage. So no matter how much you supply, odds are you will never increase the level. Supplementation is a sane choice since many are deficient, but stacking extreme amounts is ridiculous since it goes to waste. This form of chromium has been used successfully to burn carbs, synthesize fats and protein and prevent several coronary diseases. Try to not take Chromium with milk or any food source high in phosphorous because this may block absorption. Picolinate is the best source, some others are good, but try to avoid chromium chloride since it is almost completely unabsorbable.
Deficiency: Anxiety, fatigue, glucose intolerance (hypoglycemia), inadequate metabolization of amino acids and increased risk of arteriosclerosis.
Toxical effects: Not a problem under most circumstances since elements can make chromium hard to absorb and it is easily excreted. Dermatitis, gastro-intestinal disorder, liver and kidney damage can be a result of prolonged over-supplementation (over 3 grams for periods longer than 2 months). Diabetics should consult a physician about the proper use of chromium.
Dosage: 120 grams daily minimum, since it is easily excreted. When chromium helps for you, its probably because you have a deficiency in which case you will not get by with 300 or 400 mcg as some suggest. For a few weeks it may be better to take at least 2 doses of 500 mcg to potentiate insulin and increase metabolism of protein and fats. Chromium is advised for people with overweight or excessive sugar cravings when on a diet.
Stacks well with: Glucose tolerance factors like Niacin, glycine, cysteine, glutamic acid and such. Combine with low fat diets to lower cholesterol.
Sources: Eggs, turkey, grain, yeast.
Potassium and Sodium
I thought I'd do these two together because of the close relationship between them. On a nerve cell we find four major receptors. Those sensitive to Calcium, Chloride, sodium and potassium. The last two are the most important because these are the transport molecules that are found in the highest levels in the body. I'll get into the physiology of the potassium-sodium link and the action potential. You should be aware that most people are potassium deficient and have too much sodium. This is not the result of low levels of potassium, but because on the one hand because the modern diet is too high in sodium (salt, main component of table salt, sodium-chloride) and on the other hand because its the balance of potassium to sodium that determines these factors. You need a lot more potassium than sodium, something like 70-30, but in nutrition terms its 2 to 1.
These two substances work for the nervous system mainly, though they play a role in the functioning of other cells as well. They translate messages between nerve cells and regulate muscle contractions. Furthermore they are also needed for optimal growth, building muscle and heart activity. Sodium also manufactures hydrochloric acid in the stomach which aids digestion and protects against dietary infections. It is unlikely anyone needs to supplement with sodium. You should probably cut down on sodium intake to be correct. On the other hand salt is very handy when you have to chug down 4000 calories. Taste plays a big role in the success of a diet. But as bodybuilders we need extra potassium. Don't be a fool and ruin your diet as some well-known pro's have by super-loading potassium in the last week of cutting down. But during a bulking diet using a banana or an orange as a snack may be wise to keep potassium high. This is no suggestion though: you NEED extra potassium. Supplementation is not always necessary but gearing your intake of food accordingly is wise.
To explain a little of how they work in the cell, I'll give a simplistic explanation. I'll refer to the minerals by their chemical symbols (Sodium is Na for Natrium, Potassium is K for Kalium). The largest concentration, most all of it, of K is inside the cell, whereas most all of the sodium is outside the cell. The electrical charge inside the cell and out are equal, but the electrical charge around the cell membrane is -90 mV. At this charge the K channels are open and the Na channels will slowly start opening as well. K flows out and Na seeps in by a process called diffusion that occurs because the body likes to equalize things, this is called homeostasis. K that flows out gathers around the outside of the membrane and Na on the inside of the membrane. This lowers the charge to -70 mV and creates a reaction in the nerve cells. Of course if this kept going pretty soon all K would be gone from the cell and the electrical potential would be lost. This is where ATP comes in, remember, the energy source we discussed when we talked about creatine and Ribose. ATP creates another potential that expels Na and sucks in K returning the original potential. This is called the action potential that transmits neural messages and releases needed nutrients. Calcium for example can be released from a nerve to a muscle-fiber to allow contraction. But that is muscle-physiology and I won't get into that.
That is a short explanation of the extreme need of potassium and Sodium. If you do take a potassium supplement do not keep it stored too long and do not get it in canned form. This will denature it. Sodium is not easily destroyed.
Deficiency: In both cases this is extremely rare because of the abundant sources, on the other hand many people have too little potassium as opposed to sodium. Sodium deficiency leads to diarrhea, vomiting, excessive sweating, nausea, dizziness, loss of concentration and muscle weakness. Potassium shortage causes fatigue, muscle weakness, slow reflexes, acne, mood changes and an irregular heartbeat.
Toxical effects: Also rare in both cases, potassium overdosing is very unlikely but will lead to heart problems if you suffer kidney failure. Sodium overdosing is common in the Western World and causes hypertension with severe consequences in the long-term, and prolonged high levels of Sodium diminishes the calcium supply of the body.
Dosage: The minimum dose for sodium is 2.4 grams and for potassium 3.5 grams. I'll say it one more time, bodybuilders do need more potassium and also when you lose excessive water (diuretics, laxatives, alcohol, sweating, diarrhea, caffeine) more is better. If you know that it may help against kidney stones it may be wise to stack with other minerals that cause kidney damage in large amounts.
Stacks well with: Each other mostly, B6 vitamin, Magnesium, Calcium, Vitamin D
Sources: Potassium is found in bananas, citrus fruits, vegetables, grains, fish and unprocessed meats and sodium is found in all salty foods, pretty much anything that is.
With that I conclude the extremely long chapter on micronutrients. I hope all that was complete enough to stimulate your mind and enlighten you about the use of vitamins. I wish I could take credit for this article, but the truth is that I learned as much as you did researching this stuff. Only about 5 percent of the entire two articles is my original input. So for those of you wishing to learn more I suggest you check some of my sources. Combining them was probably the most complete idea one can get of micronutrients.
First of all I made sure I had a critical eye watching over me so I didn't get taken in by wrong information, I found that my dad's medical background (he's a doctor) and a lot of other people I work with and others that continued in medical directions were the best assurance that the articles I presented you with were correct and above all complete as far as common knowledge is concerned. 75 percent of the explanations are actually a fusion of a couple of Internet sources. I'll list them later on but you'll find very little extra information as most of it is included here. They are very simply worded and directed to consumers of products so I found that a better source than having to translate and simplify medical books that aren't always complete because of their age. And last but not least I used two comprehensive titles from my dad's medical library that were very useful for me as far as understanding all this information is concerned. They contain chemical information about conversions and effects and they were my main source where toxicity and deficiency were concerned. These titles will also be listed in the bibliography.
I can honestly say that after reading these articles you now possess all the knowledge you'll ever need as far as vitamins and vitaminoids are concerned. Of course I could only offer a grasp of the offer on minerals and trace minerals. There are many others that you can research as well, and if this kind of simplified information is what you seek, the web can provide that for you. Using the search engine Alltheweb I found dozens of complete sources. There is also a lot of literature for those of you who are interested in the more complex chemical nature of these substances.
I hope you enjoyed these articles because I put a lot of time and work into them, collecting, copying, analyzing and recording data. Nearing the end of this article series, I only have two more left in store for you. One on supplements you should avoid and one with stacking advice and comments.