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Potassium

BananaPotassium works with sodium to control heart rhythm, muscle coordination, muscle contraction and the body’s acid/alkaline balance.  Potassium is essential for converting glucose or blood sugar to glycogen, which is the type of sugar stored in the liver. This stored sugar is especially needed by athletes to help sustain physical activity.

A deficiency of any of the electrolytes or any electrolyte imbalance, low or high  pH, poor blood circulation or some cellular imbalance can lead to a wide range of diseases.  A potassium deficiency can lead to low blood pressure, muscles twitches and spasms, rapid or irregular heartbeat and apathy.  The most common symptoms of potassium deficiency are fatigue and muscle weakness, disturbing to the average person but devastating to the athlete.

The electrolytes sodium and potassium are essential.  In pre-technological diets, sodium was rare in foodstuffs, whereas, potassium was abundant.  Potassium, an alkaline ash mineral, is abundant in fruits and vegetables, a staple of the pre-tech diet.  Genetically, we have evolved with a far more efficient method of retaining sodium, which has historically been scarce, than from retaining relatively, abundant potassium.

Modern diets have reversed the availability of sodium and potassium.  Processed foods such as refined sugars and cereal grains contain little potassium, while salt (sodium chloride) has been added to preserve the food.  The consequences are the body’s natural pre-disposition to soak up all the sodium consumed but carefully check potassium absorption.  This could lead to electrolyte deficiencies.

The answer to the problem of electrolyte imbalance lies in the adequate intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains to the diet.  Cantaloupe, orange juice, bananas and buckwheat are excellent sources of potassium.  For those who enjoy the taste of salt, a salt substitute consisting of half sodium chloride and half potassium chloride can be purchased at most health food stores and supermarkets.  Herbs and spices can also be an exciting salt substitute, adding interesting and exotic flavors to the diet.

Many joggers get cramps in their calf muscles while running.  Such cramps are a warning sign of potassium deficiency and possible deficiencies of magnesium, calcium or zinc.  A banana, a piece of cantaloupe or glass of freshly squeezed orange juice can replenish the necessary potassium.

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