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09/25/2003 Archived Entry: "Potassium As A Supplement - September 25, 2003"

A question asked by APRR to Yong H. T.: Should potassium be taken into consideration when choosing supplemental fluids for exercise?

Yong's Answer: No, there is no need to supplement potassium during exercise. Studies have shown that there is no significant enhancement of performance through the supplement of potassium.

Potassium (K+) is basically an ion (or cation). It plays a critically important role in the excitability of muscles and nerves. It is also important in regulating the balance of the acidity & base of body fluids. An imbalance of potassium may have detrimental effects. Too much potassium in the blood may stop the heart from beating and could lead to death; where as, too little potassium may cause arrhythmia (irregular heart rhythm). The body does a good job to auto-regulate the balance of potassium, so, as a normal, healthy athlete, you need not worry about potassium supplement during exercise.

Ninety-nine percent of Potassium is found inside the body's cells. The extent of its concentration is 140 mEq/L inside the body's cells and only 4 mEqL outside the cells; where, two thirds of the body's fluids are located inside its cells and the remaining fluids are outside the cells. As electrolytes are typically lost through sweating, only a slight amount of potassium is lost, mainly from the tank of fluids outside the cells.

However, with the high concentration of potassium remaining within the cells, the body normally has an ample amount of the substance in reserve. This reserve is enough to restore potassium lost within the circulatory system, during extra-endurance physical activity. It is here that the body is able to auto-regulate the levels of potassium inside and outside its cells. Therefore, it is often not necessary to immediately supplement the body with potassium. Conversely, no harm is done if potassium is in fact supplemented during or after such activity.

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