Calcium, Iron and Potassium
in Your Sports Nutrition Plan

There are many reasons to target calcium, iron and potassium in a sports nutrition plan.

  • Calcium
  • Function: This mineral helps the muscles and nerves work properly, and is necessary for bone health.
    Food Sources: Milk and yogurt, fortified grains and soy, leafy greens (but poorly absorbed).
    AI (Adequate Intake): 1000 mg (ages 19-50) and 1200 mg (51+); UL = 2500 mg

    Bone health is complemented by adequate intake of Vitamin D (fortified milk and and a healthy does of sunshine) and Vitamin K (green leafy vegetables). Talk to your doctor about your total Vitamin K intake if you take a blood-thinning drug. For Vitamin D, do not exceed the Upper Limit of 50 mcg (micrograms) daily. If you take calcium supplements, you may get better absorption if you take smaller doses three times a day instead of all at once.

  • Iron
  • Function: The main role of iron is to get oxygen into the blood and muscles cells for energy production. A deficiency of iron could add to fatigue, poor temperature regulation and decreased resistance to infection. Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in women in the United States. Women who do not eat enough calories are at higher risk of iron deficiency. In addition, intense training may also cause the body to break down more iron, so your needs may be higher. You can get your iron status checked with a blood test and then decide if you need an iron supplement. An iron supplement may be better absorbed on an empty stomach, but take it with food if it bothers your stomach.
    Food sources: Meat proteins (especially red meat) and fortified grains. Leafy greens, dried fruit and beans contain iron, but this iron is poorly absorbed. Eating these foods with a Vitamin C source will help your body better absorb iron from these foods.
    RDA: 18 mg (ages 19-50) and 8 mg (ages 50+); UL = 45 mg

  • Potassium
  • Function: Potassium works along with sodium in balancing body fluids, muscle/nerve function and energy production. Potassium is included in many sports nutrition drinks for these reasons. A healthy diet including food sources of potassium could help manage blood pressure.
    Food Sources: Bananas, citrus fruits and juices, potatoes, many other fruits and vegetables, milk and meat.
    AI (Adequate Intake): 4700 mg; No UL Do not take potassium supplements unless you are under a doctor’s supervision, as it could alter the heart’s function.

    Learn more about setting sports nutrition goals and whole foods.
    Learn more about calcium and dairy products.