Make sure you have sufficient amounts of these major minerals for health and performance.

Lately I've fielded a lot of questions about issues related to muscle cramping. The humidity and heat of this summer is a major contributor, and staying hydrated is of the utmost importance.

However, even if you are drinking a ton of water, your body can't always absorb and hold the water if your minerals are out of whack.

Our body is comprised first and foremost of water. The next three most prevalent substances in our body are potassium, calcium and magnesium. Sodium is important as well, but the average person already takes in too much sodium. Unless you are a high level athlete sweating extreme amounts, it probably isn't a concern.

All kinds of problems crop up when one is deficient in these minerals. Some will not show up until later in life, such as osteoporosis or arthritis. Some happen right away to let us know something is wrong, such as fatigue, weakness, difficulty in temperature regulation, and cramping.

It can be difficult to consume and absorb sufficient amounts of these minerals through diet alone, especially if you are following a restrictive diet or a weight loss plan.

However, it's not as simple as crusing down to your local pharmacy and choosing the cheapest supplement. Here is what you need to know:

Potassium is best taken thru food or a potassium salt supplement such as NuSalt which you can sprinkle on your food. Supplements contain so little potassium it's not worth the bother. There are prescription potassium pills available from the doctor that are stronger.

Best sources in order: coconut water, baked potato of any type, low sodium v8 juice, banana, orange juice. All natural foods have more potassium than sodium which is what you want. Potassium works in a ratio with sodium, so the less processed foods you take in, the better.

Unless you consume lots of dairy and plenty of green vegetables, you will probably need a calcium supplement. However, calcium carbonate, the most common and least expensive type, isn't absorbed as well as these forms: calcium citrate, aspartate, or lactate.

The body can only absorb 500 mg. of calcium at one time, so be sure to space out your supplements. Check with your doctor or nutritionist regarding how many mg you should supplement with. An average daily need for adults is 1500 mg/day. Most multivitamins contain some calcium.

Best forms of Magnesium are: magnesium chelate, malate, or citrate. There is a powdered magnesium called 'Calm' found in health food stores that is very popular if you are not a 'pill person.'

Magnesium is best taken at bedtime. An added bonus is that magnesium helps with sleep. If you tolerate 400 mg at bedtime that is a good starting point. If you can add 400 mg more in the morning go ahead. If your stools start to become loose it means you are taking too much. If they don't, your body is using the magnesium. In rare cases a third dose is needed. Again use the stools as a guide.

Disclaimer: This advice is general in nature and is not meant to replace a consultation with a registered dietician or a physician.

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