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96% of the body consists of the following five macro-elements:
1. Oxygen
2. Hydrogen
3. Nitrogen
4. Carbon
5. Sulfur

The above is well supplied in the water we drink, the food we eat, and the air we breathe.

The next level of macro-minerals needs more attention as far as supplementation goes:
6. Calcium
7. Magnesium
8. Phosphorus
9. Sodium
10. Potassium
11. Chloride

And for the sixteen trace elements, supplementation is crucial. These elements work in synergy, which means that even though some are needed only in a few millionths of a gram per day, they are just as important as those you need a lot of.


6. Calcium:
About 1.9% of the body weight in a lean athlete, consists of calcium, of which 99% is in bones. The remaining 1% moves about controlling impulse conduction in nerves, muscle contraction, and so on. This traveling 1% has to be kept between narrow margins (8.7 to 10.7 mg/dl of blood), which means if you don't eat it, you eat away your own skeleton to make up for it! Stress fractures are a common sign of calcium deficiency.

Calcium is found in dairy products and green leafy vegetables. Calcium in grains and cereals are bound by phytates, so it cannot be absorbed, so does oxalates in spinach, rhubarb, cocoa, chocolate, and coffee.

The best time to supplement calcium is at night. Calcium will only be transported to the bone, if you do regular exercise, and have adequate supplies of magnesium, silicon, fluoride, zinc, copper, boron, manganese, phosphorus, and Vitamin D. The RDA for calcium is 1 200mg per day, and most diets do not supply that. The maximum bone mass and bone strength is achieved between ages 18 and 35, so you should use this time to accumulate as much as possible. Both strenuous exercise as well as high protein intake can lead to calcium loss, which also needs to be replaced. Active people therefore should supplement calcium on a continuous basis.

The answer is not simply to indulge in mega doses of calcium, it puts stress on the kidneys causing kidney stones, inhibit iron and zinc absorption, and disrupt the synergy of mineral use in the body. Supplementation can be anything between 400 and 1600mg per day.

7. Magnesium:
Of the 20 to 30 grams of magnesium in the body, 60% resides in the skeleton, and 40% in soft tissue. Magnesium forms part of over 300 enzymes in the body, and it is essential for the burning of glucose as fuel, muscle contraction, genetics, etc.

The best food sources are legumes (beans) and whole grains. Unfortunately the germ and outer layers of grains which usually gets lost, contains 80% of it. The RDA for magnesium is 350mg for males and 280mg for females. Athletes lose a lot of magnesium in energy production and sweat, so anything between 400 and 1200mg per day is used.

8. Phosphorus:
700 of the 800 grams of phosphorus in the body is contained in the bones. It is also important for energy production in the making of ATP and creatine phosphate. Is also contributes to the metabolism of red blood cells. Fish, meats, milk, and whole grains supply it. Some phosphorus is also added through food processing. Phosphorus levels are hard to measure and as far as is known, need not be supplemented in general.

9. Sodium:
Sodium, potassium and chloride are the three main electrolytes in the human body. Sodium is the main positively changed electrolyte outside the cells. It is added so much during food processing that shortages are scarce. The RDA is 0.5 grams per day, but we end up eating up to ten times that. Except for ultra endurance events, no one really needs additional supplementation of sodium.

10. Potassium:
Potassium is the main cation (positively charged electrolyte) inside the cells that interacts with sodium and chloride in the conduction of nerve impulses and other functions.

Most of the fresh foods we eat, have a much higher potassium content than sodium, even seafood that grows in a high sodium medium, contains 24 times more potassium than sodium. Processing and preservation reverses this process, resulting in a detrimental overload of sodium in canned and preserved foods. Fresh tuna contains 100 parts potassium and 20 parts sodium, where canned tuna is still 100 parts potassium, with a whopping 330 parts sodium! Freshly grounded wheat flour is 120 parts potassium and 1 part sodium, but whole wheat bread gives only 100 parts of potassium for every 570 parts of sodium! The overall ratio of potassium to sodium in fresh food is 7:1, but in the normal refined diet it is reversed to about 1:2.

The easiest way to overcome this problem if you need salt on your food, is to use a potassium salt in stead of the normal sodium chloride (table salt). The RDA for potassium is 3500mg per day, and the normal diet supplies only 2500mg. Lots of potassium is lost through hemolysis and sweat in athletes, and need to be replaced. Active people need to supplement 100mg to 500mg per day to replace losses. Even up to 5 grams per day may not be toxic, but may cause nausea.

11. Chloride:
On the opposite end of the scale from sodium and potassium (cations), lies chloride, which is the main anion (negatively charged electrolyte) outside the cells. It mainly comes from the chloride bit of sodium chloride, or table salt. With the two actions, these three electrolytes control fluids and electrolyte balance inside and outside the cells. Overload, and not deficiency, is the main problem with chloride. The minimum requirements are only 750mg per day.

Trace Elements

1. Iron:
Iron is widely available in whole grains, vegetables, meats, and eggs. Heme iron that is found in meat, has the best bio-availability to the human body at about 10%. Non-heme iron from vegetables is poorly available at only 1%. Vitamin C aids the absorption of Iron, and calcium, fibre and antacid inhibits it.

The main function of Iron lies in the hemoglobin of red blood cells where it transports oxygen as oxy-hemoglobin. It is also involved with enzymes and additional iron gets stored in the bone marrow and liver.

Active individuals need about 20 to 30mg of iron per day, and you can supplement about 10 to 25mg per day.

2. Zinc:
Zinc is essential for enzymes, sperm production, and other bodily functions, but to us athletes, a very important function of zinc lies in the production of testosterone, and cell growth stimulation.

The best sources are meats, eggs, and seafood. The RDA of 15mg may fall short for athletes because exercise causes loss of zinc, which you may want to supplement daily with 15 to 50mg.

3. Copper:
Again, copper is also needed for many enzymes, including those that produce nor-adrenalin, one of your get-up-and-go hormones. Organ meats and seafood are your best sources. The Copper requirements for humans are still unknown, but the RDA handbook recommends 1.5mg to 3mg per day. People who train need more nor-adrenalin, so you may want to take more copper by supplementing with 0.5mg to 3.0mg per day.

4. Manganese:
Manganese in the body is needed for proper bone and cartilage formation, and for normal glucose metabolism. It is naturally supplied to us through whole grains and black tea, which may not be adequate for athletes with their greater turnover in bone and soft tissue. The RDA is 2.0mg to 5.0mg per day, which an athlete can use on a supplementation basis.

5. Chromium:
A lot of hype was made about this element in recent years, with enough proof to back it up. Chromium is essential for normal glucose metabolism, insulin metabolism, fatty acid metabolism, and muscle growth. It thus gives you better glucose tolerance and makes you more insulin sensitive.

The best food sources are whole grain and shellfish, but gets destroyed easily by processing and storage. Our average intake is somewhere around 25mcg and 33mcg, but according to the RDA handbook we need at least 50mcg to 200mcg per day. That makes it one of the most deficient minerals in the modern food supply. The body needs sugar to deal with exercise and to digest sugar, so you may want to take 200mcg to 800mcg of chromium picolinate per day if you are active.

6. Selenium:
Selenium works with Vitamin E as part of an enzyme to destroy free radicals, thus acting as an antioxidant. Selenium and Vitamin E deficiency can result in many diseases, including heart disease.

Sources of selenium are seafood and meats, and an RDA of 55mcg to 70mcg is required. If animals were bread on selenium-poor soil, they would not produce any, making supplementation the easy way out. Athletes may use the form L-selenomethionine to acquire between 200mcg and 400mcg per day. But remember that mega-doses of selenium is toxic and anti-ergogenic.

7. Iodine:
Your thyroid hormones control all energy in the body, and they are dependent on Iodine for production. That makes it very important to have this one right. We used to see pictures of people living in remote places with huge sacks hanging from their throats, as the thyroid try to grow bigger to try to increase the thyroid hormone production. In the end this also led to mental retardation. The problem occurred in areas where the iodine content in the ground, on which crops were grown and animals were bread, was poor in this element.

This problem is mostly solved today by iodized salt, which supplements iodine into our diets. Natural sources include seafood of any kind. Most people get more than the RDA of 150mcg of iodine per day. Athletes may take 50mcg to 200mcg of the element daily, but too much iodine leads to acne.

8. Boron:
The application of Boron in sport comes from its involvement in the production of some natural steroid hormones in the body that are involved in calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium metabolism in bone, and muscle growth. Clinical research suggests that adequate boron status is necessary for normal testosterone production. Before you get all excited, the key word here is adequate, so more than sufficient will only interfere with the metabolism of other nutrients like phosphorus and riboflavin.

Athletes seeking the anabolic advantage may want to take an additional 3.0mg to 6.0mg of Boron citrate and Boron aspartate per day.

9. Molybdenum:
Dietary molybdenum forms part of three essential enzymes. No one knows how much is needed or how to measure it in the body, but the RDA recommends 50mcg to 250mcg per day. Toxicity starts only at 10mg per day, and athletes can supplement with 40mcg to 150mcg per day. Other Trace Elements: Silicon is essential for bone growth, cobalt is an essential part of Vitamin B12, Fluoride is needed for teeth and bones, and Nickel is essential for growth.

Other Trace Elements:
Silicon is essential for bone growth, cobalt is an essential part of Vitamin B12, Fluoride is needed for teeth and bones, and Nickel is essential for growth.

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