Do Athletes Need More Potassium?

Tiredness in athletes can have many causes, but low potassium is not one of them. Many years ago, Dave Costill of Ball State University tried to create potassium deficiency in runners. He couldn't do it because potassium is found in all foods except refined sugar, and his athletes would not stay on a diet that consisted only of hard candy.

The kidneys and sweat glands conserve potassium so well that you don't lose much. If an athlete develops potassium deficiency, it's caused by drugs, such as diuretics or corticosteroids, or it's caused by diarrhea or repeated vomiting. Some athletes try to control their weight by making themselves vomit by sticking their fingers down their throats after eating. This is called bulimia and the athlete usually denies vomiting. Their physicians can prove that they are vomiting by ordering blood and urine tests. If blood levels of potassium are low and urine levels are high, vomiting is a likely cause.

Women and Exercise. Ed. by Shangold and Mirkin. pub. by F.A.Davis, Phila. 1987. A referenced medical textbook for physicians. Chapter on Eating for Competing by Mirkin, G.B.

Checked 3/9/14

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