ROCK STARS

Get­ting enough of five key min­er­als will su­per­charge your work­out and strengthen your mus­cles, bones and heart. Here’s how to safely up your in­take.

Shape (Singapore) - - Live Healthy -

Vi­ta­mins may be the nu­tri­tional su­per­heroes ev­ery­one talks about, but min­er­als de­serve an equal share of the spot­light. They play a key role in mus­cle strength and flex­i­bil­ity, bone den­sity, and heart and lung health, re­search shows. That makes them es­pe­cially im­por­tant for fit women who ex­er­cise reg­u­larly, says Liz Ap­ple­gate, the direc­tor of sports nu­tri­tion at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Davis.

What’s more, stud­ies re­port that ac­tiv­i­ties like car­dio and strength train­ing can ac­tu­ally drain your stores of min­er­als.

“Zinc and mag­ne­sium are lost through sweat dur­ing ex­er­cise,” says di­eti­tian Kim Lar­son, a spokes­woman for the Academy of Nu­tri­tion and Di­etet­ics in the US. And en­durance train­ing may de­plete cal­cium, ac­cord­ing to a study in the Journal of the In­ter­na­tional So­ci­ety of Sports Nu­tri­tion.

That’s a big prob­lem, since most of us aren’t get­ting enough of these min­er­als to be­gin with. “Healthy, ac­tive women tend to fo­cus on eat­ing more fruits and veg­eta­bles and less meat,” Liz says.

While a pro­duce-packed diet is in­dis­putably healthy, meat is a top source of min­er­als like iron and zinc, she ex­plains. As a re­sult, women who avoid an­i­mal pro­tein tend to fall short.

For­tu­nately, you can up your in­take and get ex­actly what your body needs with­out go­ing pa­leo. Use the smart strate­gies here to make these five min­er­als your pri­or­ity.

Iron

It’s es­sen­tial to help you power through your work­outs. “When you ex­er­cise, your mus­cles take in oxy­gen from your blood­stream, and iron helps that process,” Kim ex­plains. “If your iron stores are low, you’ll feel tired and lethar­gic.”

The longer and more in­tense your work­out is, the more of the min­eral your body re­quires. For in­stance, dis­tance run­ning may in­crease your iron needs by as much as 30 per cent, Kim says.

But find­ing the right bal­ance is tricky: Too much iron can cause symp­toms like joint pain and fa­tigue. Liz sug­gests that you aim for the rec­om­mended daily al­lowance of 18mg.

The typ­i­cal diet sup­plies just 6mg of iron for ev­ery 1,000 calo­ries con­sumed, so she ad­vises eat­ing iron-rich foods such as for­ti­fied ce­real (look for one that con­tains no more than 9mg per serv­ing), beef (85g has 2.9mg) and shell­fish (one medium oys­ter has 4mg).

Vege­tar­i­ans are es­pe­cially vul­ner­a­ble to iron de­fi­ciency be­cause plants con­tain a type of iron, known as non­heme iron, that the body has trou­ble util­is­ing. If you’re not a meat eater, pair iron-packed legumes and dark leafy greens with vi­ta­min C–rich foods such as broc­coli and bell pep­pers, which help your sys­tem bet­ter ab­sorb the min­eral.

Cal­cium

This bone-build­ing champ also reg­u­lates mus­cle con­trac­tions, which in­flu­ences how hard and long you’re able to ex­er­cise, Kim says. Women who work out four to five times a week should get the rec­om­mended 1,000mg to 1,300mg a day, says Stella Volpe, a nu­tri­tion­ist and ex­er­cise phys­i­ol­o­gist at Drexel Uni­ver­sity.

Yet around 62 per cent of us are fall­ing short, ac­cord­ing to a study in The Amer­i­can Journal of Clin­i­cal Nu­tri­tion. “If you don’t take in enough cal­cium, your body will leech it from your bones, leav­ing you sus­cep­ti­ble to frac­tures,” Stella says.

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