Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body and about 99 percent of total body calcium is found in the bones and teeth. Calcium has various functions in blood clotting, nerve conduction, muscle contraction, enzyme regulation, and promoting membrane permeability. Only the ionized form of calcium is active and helps perform these functions. Calcium has also been shown to lower blood pressure. Calcium is necessary for the interaction between actin and myosin (muscle proteins), resulting in muscle contraction, so it is vital for exercisers to maintain adequate levels. You have probably heard since you were a kid that getting enough calcium was essential to grow and have strong bones. This is something well known among the general population. However, new research has suggested that calcium has benefits beyond just maintaining strong bones. Numerous studies have shown that calcium consumption may lead to significant loss of body fat. One study showed that using calcium supplements (500–2,000 mg daily) actually increased lean body mass and bone mineral density in male athletes. A 2003 study at the University of Tennessee showed that high-calcium diets can increase lipolysis (fat burning) and pre preserve thermogenesis during calorie restriction. They also mention that low calcium diets can actually lead to an increase in fat. Dosage: 1,000–1,500 mg in divided doses daily
Phosphorus is second only to calcium in terms of abundant inorganic elements in the body; approximately 85 percent of phosphorus is found in the skeleton. Most phosphorus is absorbed in the body in its inorganic phosphate form. Phosphorus is extremely important in the metabolism of energy nutrients, contributing to metabolic rate in the form of high-energy phosphate bonds such as ATP (the body’s main energy source). Phosphate is also a component of the nucleic acids DNA and RNA. It functions in cell membranes as phospholipids, and is involved in acid-base balance. It may act as a buffer as well, reducing lactic acid buildup. If you can delay or decrease lactic acid buildup, you may be able to train longer and not fatigue as quickly. Studies have shown that supplementing with phosphate increases endurance. Phosphate may also play a role in the formation of phosphocreatine, which can help support the production of ATP. Dosage: 800–1,200 mg daily.
Magnesium ranks fourth in overall mineral abundance in the human body, but intracellularly it is second only to potassium. This mineral is involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body, including glycolysis (the breakdown of carbohydrates into energy), the Krebs cycle, creatine phosphate formation, nucleic acid synthesis, amino acid activation, cardiac and smooth muscle contractability, and, most importantly for bodybuilders, protein synthesis. One study showed that subjects taking magnesium showed increases in absolute strength and lean body mass after seven weeks. Dosage: 500–750 mg daily. Dietary fiber impairs magnesium absorption to a small extent, so I would recommend that you not take magnesium with any fiber source.
Sodium is intimately involved with water balance in the body. Sodium constitutes about 93 percent of the cations (positively charged compounds that help regulate pH balance) in the blood. It helps facilitate active transport across all cellular membranes via the sodium-potassium pump. The human body generally requires around 500 mg of sodium daily. However, excess sodium intake can cause water retention in the intercellular space, giving you a bloated appearance. That is why it is important to monitor sodium intake and not consume too much. The major source of sodium in the diet is generally in the form of sodium chloride (table salt). Dieters need to limit high-sodium foods such as canned meats, processed foods, breads, and certain cereals. It is not advisable to completely restrict sodium intake because the hormone aldosterone may then be released and cause reabsorption of sodium in the kidneys. This will decrease sodium excretion and thus cause you to hold more water. This reabsorption generally takes about twenty-four hours, so I would recommend consuming 1,000 mg of sodium per day the last two weeks before trying to get really lean, and then severely restrict sodium only about eighteen hours before peaking for a competition. Dosage: Try not to exceed 2,500 mg of sodium daily, if you are exercising.
Potassium is a macromineral that plays an important role in the contractile functions of smooth, cardiac, and skeletal muscle. It also affects the excitably of nerve tissue and is important in maintaining electrolyte and pH balance. It is part of the sodium-potassium pump that helps transport nutrients across cellular membranes. A potassium-to-sodium ratio of 4:1 should be maintained to optimize bodily functions involving these two nutrients. Potassium can aid in decreasing or lowering muscle cramps, especially with the use of diuretics. Dosage: 2,500–4,000 mg daily (the potassium citrate form if it’s from a supplement).
Chloride is the most abundant anion (negatively charged particle) in the extracellular fluid (important for pH balance). It is needed for electrolyte balance, because its negative charge neutralizes the positive charge of sodium ions with which it is usually associated. It is also required in the formation of hydrochloric acid, needed for proper digestive function. Dosage: 1,200–1,400 mg daily.
Iron is a micromineral that is of vital importance to the human body. Iron is an essential component of hemoglobin and myoglobin, parts of the blood that transport oxygen to all the cells of the body and carbon dioxide back to the lungs, where it can be expelled. A deficiency of iron may lead to anemia or a decrease in red blood cells and this can cause lower oxygenation, which may decrease exercise performance as well as lower blood flow into muscle tissue. There are two forms of iron in food, heme and non-heme iron. Heme iron is mainly found in beef, fish, and poultry; non-heme iron is found in plant foods such as nuts, fruits, vegetables, milk, and eggs. The difference is that non-heme iron is usually bound to components of food and must be hydrolyzed prior to absorption. Heme iron is more easily absorbed than non-heme iron. Dosage: 20–30 mg daily for exercising men and 30–35 mg daily for exercising women. Ascorbic acid has been shown to enhance iron absorption and maintain iron in the appropriate state for enzyme function. Taking 1 g of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) with iron may increase its absorption (especially non-heme iron).
Zinc is found in all organs and tissues in the human body. As a component of metalloenzymes, it provides structural integrity to proteins. Zinc is a part of more enzyme systems than the rest of the microminerals combined. It affects many fundamental processes of life—gene expression, cell replication, membrane stabilization—and plays a structural role in hormones such as insulin, testosterone, growth hormone, and estrogen. Zinc deficiency may cause an increased susceptibility to infection and certain skin disorders. You may have heard the old folktale that eating oysters will put you in a “loving mood” (i.e., high libido), and actually there is science behind this claim. Oysters are an excellent source of highly absorbable zinc, which plays a strong role in maintaining healthy testosterone levels. Several studies have found that zinc consumption is essential for boosting testosterone. One study showed that six months of zinc supplementation actually doubled testosterone levels. Many studies have shown that zinc supplementation may be a potent immune booster that may reduce the severity and symptoms of colds. Since intense exercise can increase your chances of catching a cold, this immune enhancing effect is highly important to those who exercise on a regular basis. Dosage: 25–30 mg daily.
Copper is an enzyme activator in crucial reactions such as the anti-inflammatory process and the synthesis of connective tissue. Copper status strongly affects the levels of neuropeptides, enkephalins, and endorphins. This can help support immune function and enhance recovery from workouts. Dosage: 2–4 mg daily. There is an antagonistic relationship between copper and zinc, so do not take copper along with zinc but rather at different times of the day (with food).
Selenium is an essential cofactor of glutathione peroxidase, a powerful antioxidant enzyme. It is also involved in pancreatic and immune system function, DNA repair and enzyme activation, and detoxification of heavy metals. Selenium is also necessary for iodine metabolism, which acts in the conversion of T4 to triiodothyronine (T3), the active form of thyroid hormone. Selenium may also act as an insulin mimicker, which can help with blood sugar regulation and possibly less fat storage. Dosage: 150–200 mcg daily.
Chromium acts to form glucose tolerance factor, which helps insulin bind to its receptor. This action will affect cellular glucose uptake and intracellular carbohydrate and lipid (fat) metabolism, which can help improve nutrient uptake into muscle tissue and lower fat storage. Chromium may play a role in fat and cholesterol metabolism by affecting lipoprotein lipase activity. Some studies show it improves blood lipid profiles and causes fat loss. Dosage: 400–800 mcg in divided doses daily.
Iodide’s main function is in the synthesis of the thyroid hormones by the thyroid gland. Thyroid hormones stimulate metabolism, oxygen consumption, and heat production. Iodide thus possibly supports fat loss by increasing metabolism. Dosage: 150 mcg daily.
Manganese functions both as an enzyme activator and as a constituent of metalloenzymes. A deficiency can cause impaired growth. It increases superoxide dismutase activity (SOD), a powerful antioxidant that may help with the healing and recovery process. Dosage: 15–20 mg daily.
Molybdenum is a cofactor for four metalloenzymes (xanthine dehydrogenase, aldehyde oxidase, xanthine oxidase, and sulfide oxidase) that function in many different reactions in the human body. This is important for exercisers because these enzymes are involved in muscle recovery and optimal body function. Dosage: 150–200 mcg daily.
The major effects of fluorine or fluoride (which is fluorine bound to either a metal, non-metal, or organic compound) are related to the mineralization of bones and teeth. It may decrease bone resorption, so it is often used to treat osteoporosis. Weak bones can be a problem for exercising individuals and may cause extra pain. Dosage: 2–4 mg daily.
Silicon plays a vital role in the formation of bones, connective tissue, and cartilage. It hastens mineralization of bones as well as promotes growth. Silicon has a positive influence on collagen synthesis and is also needed to form glycosaminoglycans, components of the fluid around joints. Dosage: 15–20 mg daily.
Vanadium is both water- and fat-soluble and is present in all healthy tissue. Vanadium may have some insulin-mimicking properties: it can stimulate glucose uptake into cells and enhances glucose metabolism for glycogen synthesis, which can support energy levels and help transport key nutrients into muscle tissue. Foods contain very little vanadium, so supplementation may be necessary. Dosage: 10 mg daily. The vanadate form is up to five times more efficiently absorbed than vanadyl.
Boron influences the composition, structure, and strength of bones and also plays a role on how certain minerals (such as calcium) are metabolized. This can be a very important factor for athletes. Dosage: 2–3 mg daily.