Albion Research Notes Vol. 17, No. 2

Sports, Exercise, and Minerals

Research concerning the relationship between sports, exercise, and mineral nutrition has been ongoing for a few decades. An idea that is widely held is that strenuous exercise can increase the need for several minerals, which has lead to a perception that mineral supplements may be advantageous for people who engage in strenuous exercise or physically demanding sports. The rationale for the idea that exercise can increase the demand for certain minerals is due to the findings that heavy exercise can lead to an increased rate of mineral loss via urine and sweat, while others have found that exercise increases the metabolic demand for certain minerals. The physical danger for mineral deficiency is further compounded by a couple of other findings.

First, in general, it has been shown that the U.S. populous does not consume the proper dietary intake of essential minerals. Additionally, certain athletes, and female athletes, in particular, have diets that are very low in some key minerals. Researchers have surmised that the inadequate intake of some minerals by people engaged in strenuous exercise could lead to the lowering of endurance capacity, depressed immune function, and the development of a variety of disease states. The interest in this area has resulted in literally thousands of reported clinical trials, surveys, and epidemiological studies devoted to sports, exercise, and mineral nutrition. The complexity of the roles that minerals play in the human body makes it a dynamic that does not allow for any simple conclusions. Additionally, the impact on the functioning of the human body has been seen to differ depending on the type of exercise or sport one engages in, as well as the environment that it takes place in. Anaerobic or aerobic exercise? Hot weather or cold? High elevation or at sea level? Effort level, along with exercise duration plays a role here, as well. Despite all of these variables, certain trends can be seen for the interrelationship between mineral nutrition and exercise.

In reviewing the more recent research on minerals, sports, and exercise, the minerals magnesium, zinc, copper, and iron appear to be the prominent minerals impacted by exercise with magnesium and zinc being the most prominent. However, there are some mention of others, in different considerations, like calcium and chromium. Note that this review is on minerals and trace minerals, not electrolytes, which also play critical roles in the sports/exercise arena. The electrolytes potassium and sodium are long known needs in sport and exercise performance.