As a triathlete, you need a lot of micronutrients to build muscles and keep you healthy. Aside from vitamins, you should also consume a considerable amount of the essential minerals.
Capsules, tablets, and gels are available, but the body absorbs better if they come naturally from your diet. So, eating whole food is a must and use alternative sources for dietary supplements if you have deficiencies.
Seven essential minerals for your training are calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, potassium, and selenium. Like the vitamins, they are absorbed in the small intestine and carried into the bloodstream and throughout the body.
Aside from helping your muscles grow and develop, they also transmit nerve impulses, produce hormones and maintain heart health.
Calcium is an alkaline earth mineral which supports skeletal structure and functions such as the formation and renewal of your bones. It maintains the heart, muscles (contractions), hormones and nerves. It also controls blood clotting and blood pressure. It inhibits iron absorption so take your calcium and iron supplements at two hours interval.
Best food sources of calcium are:
- Milk, cheese, yogurt and other dairy products
- Green leafy vegetables such as watercress, kale, bok choy, cabbage and turnip greens
- Seafood such as sardines, pilchards, salmon, and oysters
- Kelp, okra, broccoli, soybeans, tofu, and almonds.
Magnesium supports hundreds of enzyme-catalyzed reactions imperative for the normal functioning of your body. It helps maintain nerve, muscles, and immune functions. It regulates heartbeat, blood pressure and blood glucose levels. It helps in the production of proteins and also in the formation of bones and DNA.
Some of the excellent sources of magnesium are:
- Fruits such as banana, avocado, dried figs and dried apricots
- Nuts such as almonds, Brazil nuts, peanuts, and cashews
- Whole grains such as oats, barley, wheat, brown rice and millet
- Seeds such as sesame, chia, flax, quinoa and pumpkin
- Dark leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, and Swiss chard
- Legumes such as black beans, lentils, soybeans, and peas
- Fish such as salmon, mackerel, and halibut
- Dark chocolate.
Together with calcium, phosphorus builds and maintains healthy bones. Also with the B vitamins, it keeps up functions of the brain, nerves, heart, liver, and kidneys. It helps produce adenosine triphosphate or ATP to supply energy to the body. Phosphorus also improves digestion, balances the body’s pH and detoxifies it through urine.
Foods rich in phosphorus are:
- Cheese such as Parmesan cheese, cheddar cheese, Swiss cheese,
- Unprocessed milk, skimmed powder milk, and whole powder milk
- Meat such as lamb, beef, pork, liver, and turkey
- Poultry such as turkey and chicken
- Nuts and seeds such as pistachio, cashew, Brazil nuts, almonds and sesame seeds, sunflower seeds
- Seafood such as cod fish, tuna, sardines, prawns, scallops, crabs, and mussels
- Eggs, broccoli, potatoes, brown rice, mung beans, white beans
As the blood mineral, iron is needed in the production of the two types of red blood cells: hemoglobin and myoglobin. Hemoglobin carries oxygen in the blood while myoglobin stores oxygen in the muscles. While you exercise, iron ensures your muscles function and convert carbohydrates into glucose to supply energy to your body. Take iron with vitamin C to maximize its absorption.
Foods with high iron content are:
- Beef liver, pork liver, chicken liver, turkey liver
- Seafood such as oysters, sardines, salmon and tuna
- Red meat especially beef, lamb, and pork
- Legumes such as Lima beans, lentils, kidney beans, black beans, soybeans, tofu, and chickpeas
- Dark green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, kale, collards, asparagus, dandelion greens, horseradish and parsley
- Whole grains such as wheat, millet, oats, and brown rice
- Iron fortified cereals, potato, cashew nuts
Zinc supports healthy vision, thyroid and immune functions, blood clotting, and wound healing. As an antioxidant mineral, it fights free radical damage and slows down the process of aging. It is needed to make proteins and DNA. and for cell division and cell growth when you want to increase your muscle mass.
Foods rich in zinc are.
- Beef, pork, lamb, and chicken (dark meat)
- Seafood such as oysters, crab and lobster
- Legumes such as black-eyed peas, soybeans, chickpeas, and Lima beans
- Spinach, mushroom, cashew nuts, pumpkin seeds, yogurt, and fortified breakfast cereals
An electrolyte like sodium, potassium controls the acid-base and fluid balance in the blood and tissues. It acts as a nerve tonic which helps in the conduction of nerve impulses. It builds your muscles and makes them contract; regulates blood pressure and sensory functions; supports digestion and heart health; and breaks down carbohydrates to increase energy levels.
Foods rich in potassium are:
- Legumes such as white beans, Lima beans, and peas
- Fruits such as avocado, banana, cantaloupes, kiwi, prunes, apricots, raisins, and citrus fruits
- Vegetables such as sweet potatoes, tomatoes, broccoli, winter squash and celery
- Seafood such as salmon, sardines, and tuna
- Grass-fed beef, milk, yogurt, pistachios, chicken breast, pork tenderloin
Selenium is a trace mineral called antioxidant enzyme which partners with vitamin E to prevent oxidative cell damage. It is a powerful antioxidant which manufactures glutathione, your body’s master antioxidant that neutralizes and eliminates the effect of oxidative stress.
Foods rich in selenium are:
- Fish such as halibut, sardines, Skipjack tuna, Yellowfin tuna, and wild-caught salmon
- Legumes such as Pinto beans, navy beans, and peas
- Meat such as pork, beef, chicken, turkey and beef liver
- Vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, spinach, button mushroom, Shiitake mushroom
- Seeds such as chia, sunflower, sesame, and flax
- Whole grains such as brown rice, oats, and wheat germ
- Milk, yogurt, and cottage cheese
- Nuts such as cashew and Brazil nuts
- Eggs, garlic, and, banana