Do Mineral Supplements Boost Performance?

Do Mineral Supplements Boost Performance?
Chromium, magnesium, zinc and selenium are involved in more than 300 metabolic reactions. They help block the destructive effects of free radicals, promote protein synthesis, help regulate energy production and storage, preserve genetic material (i.e., DNA and RNA) and protect the mitochondria— the cells’ energy centers. Most people take in enough of these vital minerals if they eat enough calories. Some athletes may develop mineral deficiencies because of excessive losses in sweat and urine. Stella Volpe from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing in Philadelphia reviewed the literature on minerals as performance-enhancing supplements. Chromium is ineffective for weight loss, but might promote blood sugar regulation. Magnesium may stimulate red blood cell production and enhance the function of the endothelium— the cells lining the blood vessels that control blood flow. However, magnesium supplements do not improve exercise performance. Intense exercise can cause zinc depletion, which could theoretically interfere with the production of testosterone and thyroid hormone. While one small study showed that zinc supplements improved performance and prevented hormone depletion in intensely training athletes, these results have not been reproduced in larger, better controlled studies. Selenium is a powerful antioxidant that could protect cellular energy systems during intense exercise. However, selenium supplements do not appear to improve endurance performance or speed recovery. (Current Sports Medicine Reports, 7: 224-229)

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