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Potassium & Working Out

By Heather Topham Wood

When you sweat while working out, your perspiration releases potassium and sodium out of the body. The decreased levels of potassium in the body can be replaced by eating foods containing potassium after exercise. The intake of potassium following exercise is significant because potassium controls water levels in your body. Consult your doctor about preventing electrolyte imbalances while working out.

Features

According to the Colorado State University Extension website, the recommended daily intake for potassium is 4.7 g daily. If you workout intensely for long periods of time, you may need to increase your intake. Athletes need more potassium because significant levels can be lost through muscle wasting and perspiration.

Effects

If you don’t replace potassium stores during and after your workout session, you may experience adverse effects. Potential adverse effects related to low potassium in the blood include muscle cramping, weakness, fatigue, heart palpitations and constipation. Replacement potassium can be consumed orally in mild cases. Severe cases of low potassium levels may require the IV administration of fluids and heart rate monitoring in a hospital setting.

Types

Pack a potassium-rich snack or meal to eat after exercise to recover. Sources of potassium include milk, low-fat yogurt, raisins, prunes, bananas, melon, poultry, fish, carrots, tomato juice and celery. Sports supplements like electrolyte beverages are fortified with potassium. Check the amount of sugar and calories in these supplements before using them as a recovery snack.

Expert Insight

To recover after exercise, instead of using an expensive sports supplement fortified with potassium, consider drinking a glass of chocolate milk. According to a June 2009 study from James Madison University and presented at the American College of Sports Medicine annual meeting, chocolate milk provides carbohydrates and protein to refuel muscles while also providing minerals such as potassium and magnesium for rehydration. Low-fat milk is preferable to whole milk varieties.

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