ISSA SN Chapter 8: Minerals

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Chapter Goals:

  • Discuss and define the terms that relate to minerals.
  • Find the main mineral functions.
  • Know how minerals can benefit the health and performance of athletes.
  • Know the sources of minerals in the diet.


These have been seen as essential nutrients for our optimal health and vigor for a long time now. Many minerals are required in very tiny amounts in the body. We refer to them as trace minerals.

Minerals are going to be defined as inorganic elements that are needed. 

For athletes, minerals will be just as important as the vitamins from the last chapters and the metabolite factors. The current research says that athletes may need higher doses of minerals, but there is no real benefit to using mega doses in them. 

Significance of Minerals for Athletes:

  • Minerals are necessary for our bodies’ normal metabolism, growth, and health. 
  • The proper intake is needed to perform well and maintain health.
  • Surveys of the diet have found that most athletic diets are deficient in a minimum of one mineral.
  • The proper intake of minerals is best achieved when combining supplements and foods. 


The average amount of calcium in one person’s body is 1,200 grams. 99 percent of this is going to be present within the bones. That version of calcium is called calcium phosphate. This is why the intake of both calcium and phosphate is important for our bone tissue integrity.

The other forms of calcium that can be found in the body are the forms when calcium is in its free ionic state or calcium carbonate. 

The important roles of calcium are its conduction of nerve signals, the transmission of those impulses from the nerves, the heartbeat regularity, increases in the permeability of cell membranes, the clotting of blood, and the contraction of our muscles. It can also be an enzyme cofactor. 

Vitamin D, copper, zinc, manganese, and boron are the nutrients that assist calcium in its function in bone formation. 

Deficiencies in calcium are much more common than people in the past assumed. This happens in athletes and non-athletes. The results gave these people a worse formation of bones, the onset of many bone diseases, and more risk for cramps and lowered energy levels. Some major diseases we see are going to be rickets, osteoporosis, and stunted growth. 

Just as with the other minerals, the form of calcium taken in will relate to how it is absorbed into the body or if it is absorbed in all. Young adults have been seen only to absorb around 20 – 40 percent of the calcium that they take into their bodies. For this reason, supplements are a good idea. 

There is no real reported benefit to taking mega doses of calcium. 

Calcium in our Food and Supplements

Dairy products, veggies, some shellfish, tortillas, and other calcium fortified foods are where it is most prevalent. 

The supplements’ forms are quite varied. There are around five different forms we often see on our supplement labels.


Like calcium, this will be a major part of the skeleton system and a few other vital roles. Phosphorous is in the bones at a 1:2 ratio with calcium, which is still quite present and vital for bones. It can also be found in cell fluids, lipids, proteins, nucleic acids, ATP, and many more places. 

Besides bone integrity, its roles will include cell permeability, the metabolization of both carbs and fats, forming ATP, modulating the activity of enzymes, and transporting phospholipids and fatty acids. 

Phosphorous has a small role in making collagen.

Most diets we see will have to be sufficient in this mineral, somewhere around the tune of 1,500 mg every day.

There is little research on mega doses, but they are not recommended here. 

Deficiencies in this mineral are very rare since most foods contain it. These deficiencies are really only found in cases of malnutrition in general. These include the poor formation of bones, weakness in general, anorexia, poor growth rates, and malaise. 

The excess intake of phosphorus can poorly affect the metabolism of calcium and stimulate losses in bone. 

Phosphorous in our Food and Supplements

This will be found in most of the foods in our diet, and more so in foods rich in proteins and cereal grains.

Some multivitamins will contain it, but it is not very sought for supplementation due to their prevalence in food. 


Most of the body’s magnesium will be found in the muscle, bones, and soft tissues. Its roles vary from structural roles and metabolic roles. It makes up a good section of bone and teeth; it will play a part in the function f the muscle and the nervous system; it activates enzymes and assists glycolysis and the uptake of potassium and calcium. 

Studies show that 200 mg to 400 mg of daily intakes are sufficient for athletic health and performance. 

We see no research supporting the mega dosing of the mineral and no benefits resulting from it. 

Deficiencies in magnesium are very rare. When they occur, they will result in muscle weakness, irritable syndromes, depression, and nausea. For females specifically, we see some increases in premenstrual tension and overall discomfort. 

Excess intakes of magnesium to the point where it causes a problem are also very hard to achieve. They would have a laxative effect if taken way over the excess.

Magnesium in our Food and Supplements

The food sources will be green veggies, whole grains, nuts, legumes, oats, and fruits. 

Supplemental forms come in three varieties and they are all well absorbed. 


This is a known part of the hemoglobin in our bodies. Hemoglobin is the carrier of oxygen around the body and through the bloodstream. It also serves a role in making up myoglobin and many other enzymes. The iron stores will be in our bone marrow, spleen, and liver. We store it here so that when the iron intake is low, we may revert to taking it from these stores not to run out. 

We see more efficiencies in women athletes, long distance athletes, and athletes that take part in low calories diets. 

No reported benefit comes from mega dosing your intake of iron. High dosages are more likely to have a negative effect. 

Deficiencies have been seen to happen when iron stores are also depleted. We see the development of anemia first and foremost. This results in the ability to carry oxygen in the body being reduced. There is also a link to the deficiency causing the improper function of the immune system. 

Excess iron intake has been found to cause death when the amount is great enough. 

Iron in our Food and Supplements

Iron will be found in red meats, chicken, iron-fortified foods, nuts, clams, molasses, and bread. 

Supplements often have iron in their formulas. These are provided in two forms.


Zinc is the main “healing” nutrient for many athletes and a prime part of good male fertility. Zinc has many roles in our body that it plays. These consist of growth, production of testosterone, synthesis of DNA, replication of our cells, fertility, reproduction in general, and the function of the prostate gland. We find it in its free ion state in cells, biomolecules, and the enzymes we use. 

For athletes specifically, it is necessary for muscle tissue growth and repair. It helps us to meet the demands of recovery that we have.

It is somewhat common to see deficiencies in this mineral. It happens mostly in endurance, low-calorie, bodybuilders, and female athletes. 

There is no reported benefit to mega doses of zinc in the diet. 

Zinc deficiency is well known to cause retardation of growth, appetite loss, changes in our skin, improper immune system function, delays in maturation, blindness primarily at night, and slow healing. These make up some pretty detrimental effects on the general population and athletes. 

Zinc absorption may be hurt if a diet is higher in fiber and protein. 

Zinc in our Food and Supplements

Some common sources in the diet will be meat, whole grains, liver, eggs, seafood, and maple syrup. 

Supplemented zinc comes in many different forms.


Iodine is the simplest of all minerals. It is found in two gland hormones in the body. These are thyroxin and triiodothyronine. It is needed for the proper function of our thyroid gland. The thyroid gland works on our metabolism, energy production, growth, and overall physical performance. 

Mega doses are not supported for this mineral.

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Deficiencies result in poor function of our thyroid gland since that is the only thing it is associated with. We usually see this with a goiter, which is thyroid gland enlargement. Cretinism, a mental disorder, may also result from a deficiency. 

Iodine in our Food and Supplements

It is found mainly in iodized salt, seafood, cod, other fish, and dairy.

It should be a part of your daily multivitamin and mineral supplementation.


Selenium plays a role in the activity of antioxidants. It is a vital part of the enzyme glutathione peroxidase. This protects the body from damage from free radicals like hydroperoxides. We have seen some supplementation potentially causes less tissue damage in individuals.

There is no support for mega doses of this mineral.

Deficiencies in selenium will lower the body’s defenses, more specifically to the hydroperoxide free radicals. Some other symptoms are things such as the loss of hair, slowed growth, problems with the pancreas, and discomfort in the muscles. 

Excess selenium intake will have some effects, like pain in the abs, loss of hair, changes in fingernails, nausea, dental carry increases, and irritability. 

Selenium in our Food and Supplements

Some sources include brazil nuts, seafood, meat, kidney, other organs, and whole grains. Much of this will be based on the amount of selenium available in the soil. 

Supplementation is recommended daily for this mineral.


This trace mineral has some important functions in the realm of enzymes. It is a part of the SOD antioxidant and plays roles in energy production, melanin synthesis, metabolism of cholesterol, and forming collagen fibers. 

There are no real mega dose benefits that have been found with copper. 

Deficiencies in this trace mineral will result in things such as anemia, abnormalities of the bones, skin pigmentation problems, and defective connective tissues.

Excess copper will cause some things also. These things include nausea, vomiting, necrosis, and ab pain. 

Copper in our Food and Supplements

Rich sources of copper will be organ meats, nuts, seafood, chocolate, and mushrooms. 

In supplements, we see two main forms of copper.


This is a trace mineral that has some vital functions in the body. It is needed to produce energy, functions as a part of enzymes, helps the formation of connective tissue and bone, and it is a piece of the SOD antioxidant. It may also play roles in synthesizing collagen and facilitating carb metabolism. 

Mega doses of manganese are not shown to benefit performance, and you should strive for regular adequate daily intake instead. 

Deficiencies in this mineral are not seen often. It would result in slow growth, poor connective tissues, and bone, low SOD production, and disturbed energy metabolism. 

Overdosing is not toxic.

Manganese in our Food and Supplements

The food sources of manganese are many different veggies, whole grains, and cereals.

Supplementation uses three common forms of manganese.


This is another nutrient that has a lot of content on it. It is known as one that aids in muscle building and is an alternative to steroids. But, in reality, it is just another essential nutrient for our body to function properly and maintain our health. 

The major roles of chromium are functioning with insulin, metabolizing nucleic acids, and maintaining the structure and gene expression. 

Deficiencies in chromium will lead to intolerance to glucose, some form of diabetes, poor control of your appetite, and potentially heart disease. 

Toxic encounters with mega doses are almost impossible. 

There is no reported benefit of mega doses of chromium.

Chromium in our Food and Supplements

Meats, mushrooms, liver, yeast, black pepper, cheese, beer, and potatoes are the richest sources of chromium. 


This trace mineral is very low in prevalence within the body. It is still essential for our optimal health. It is found in enzymes that are used for energy production, the metabolism of nitrogen, and the formation of uric acid.

There are no reported benefits of mega doses in this mineral. 

There has never been a reported case of deficiency in this mineral.

Excess intake, however, will result in gout, slow growth, and losing copper. 

Molybdenum in our Food and Supplements

This is found in milk, beans, bread, cereals, and organ meats.


The role fluoride plays in the prevention of decay in your teeth. It is also found in some amounts within the bone and some soft tissues in the body. It can be seen to have effects on the integrity of bones. Supplementation is only available with a prescription.

A deficiency would increase tooth decay and possibly link to osteoporosis. 

The excess intake would poorly affect the teeth’ health, bones, kidneys, and muscle/nerve functioning.

Fluoride in our Food and Supplements

This is found in tiny amounts in foods. Teas will often have a moderate level. 

The Electrolytes (Sodium, Chloride, and Potassium)

These are together known as our electrolytes. The main function for them is going to be the balance of fluid throughout the body and between the cells and the bloodstream. 


  • Extracellular cation
  • Osmolality regulator
  • Bodily fluid balance regulator
  • Helps the active transport of molecules through the cell membranes
  • Uptakes nutrients to the intestines
  • Plays a role in the contraction of muscles and the transmission of nerve impulses


  • Extracellular anion
  • Fluid balance control


  • Intracellular cation
  • Fluid balance
  • Transmission of nerve impulses and contraction of muscles
  • Formation of glycogen

Deficiencies in these electrolytes have been seen during times of severe dehydration and prolonged exercise that causes it. The effects will be dizziness, fainting, and a lowered level of performance. 

Excess intakes of electrolytes have been reported to cause hypertension, problems with the balance of fluids, and edema.

Electrolytes in our Food and Supplements

Sodium chloride is found in many things, representing two of the electrolytes. Processed foods are the large contributors to that total. Potassium is found in all foods, focusing on fruits and veggies. 


This is an ultra-trace mineral that is only in the body in absolutely tiny amounts. It has several functions, such as the influence on calcium, phosphorous, and magnesium metabolization, the function of our membranes, and the formation of bones. 

Boron is needed daily; if taken in excess, we see vomiting, diarrhea, dermatitis, lethargy, and potentially shock. 

ISSA SN Chapter 8: Minerals 4
ISSA SN Chapter 8: Minerals 5
ISSA SN Chapter 8: Minerals 6

Tyler Read - Certified Personal Trainer with PTPioneer

Tyler Read

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