Did you know that potassium is classified as a metal? Strange as it sounds, your body needs this metal – it’s an essential mineral that occurs in abundance in your body. Roughly 95% of your body’s potassium is stored within your cells. It’s called an electrolyte, like sodium, calcium, magnesium and chloride, because it conducts electricity when dissolved in water.
Potassium and Electrolyte Balance
It’s very important for our bodies to maintain the correct amount of potassium. A deficiency can manifest itself as muscle weakness, fatigue, irritability, confusion or heart problems. Potassium is often loss through sweat, which is why athletes drink electrolyte balancing drinks – to replace loss potassium and other electrolytes. The same is true of alcohol consumption, so down a sports drink after a night of drinking too.
This mineral can have a big impact on your weight through indirect means. It won’t cause fat to magically melt away, but it will support some bodily processes that your body must go through for weight loss.
One thing potassium does is contribute to healthy muscles. Healthy muscles are able to contract correctly, heal after injuries, and grow with the correct exercise techniques. This is important because muscles are 24 hour calorie burning machines. The more you engage your muscles, the stronger and bigger they’ll become – making them burn more and more calories whether you’re actively trying to or not. Muscles take up a lot of energy (calories) just to survive. Fill your body with more muscle mass, and fat will naturally start being reduced.
Another thing potassium will do is assist your body in converting food into energy. Potassium is important to the health of your cells. Inside your cells, an organelle called mitochondria is busy combining your food’s nutrients with oxygen, thus converting it into energy. Potassium helps keep this process running smoothly. With the increased energy, you’ll find you have better workouts and more energy to keep up with your weight loss goals.
Potassium and Water Weight
Potassium also helps to balance sodium levels. This helps a great deal if you have problems with water weight.
There are many differences in expert opinions about just how much potassium you need on a daily basis. There’s no number set in stone, but aim for around 3500 mg a day. In most American’s existing diets, only 2000 mg of potassium is provided. Although it doesn’t seem like too big of a deal, it means most American’s are slightly deficient in potassium and may be suffering from minor ill effects of that deficiency.
Luckily, it’s easy to increase the amount of potassium you’re consuming by adding more healthy foods to your diet. Potassium is found in large quantities in many fruits and vegatables. Look to swiss chard, mushrooms, spinach, celery, romaine lettuce, squash, basil, tomatoes, cauliflower, asparagus, cucumbers, bananas, oatmeal, peanuts and yogurt to name a bunch.
Whenever possible, avoid cooking or adding water to foods when you’re eating them for the purpose of increasing potassium levels. Doing so will reduce potassium intake. If you think you’re not getting enough potassium because you like to cook your potassium rich foods, consider drinking parsley tea, which extracts large amounts of potassium from the parsley, leaving it in the hot water.
And although potassium does so many great things for you and will help with weight loss, it’s important that you don’t go overboard. You can go too far, and taking too much potassium could put you in danger. Excess amounts can cause hyperkalemia. Hyperkalemia may cause stomach irritation and possibly trigger a heart attack because it causes irregular heartbeat. It’s hard to overdose on food and supplement sources, though. It usually only becomes a danger if you take potassium salts or if you’re naturally prone to develop hyperkalemia.
Potassium is a great tool to help you reach your weight loss goals. It’s simple to obtain too, as you simply have to eat a variety of healthy foods, which should have been the first commitment you made when deciding to lose weight anyway.