Most of us spend lots of time thinking about the macronutrients (i.e., the protein, carbs and fats) we need to put in our body. While the macronutrients provide us with some micronutrients (i.e., vitamins and minerals), we often still don’t get enough thanks to being on a restricted diet or following an intense exercise routine that depletes those nutrients through sweat or the recovery process. Although you may not think getting in your micronutrients is important to your goals, they play a key role in the muscle building process.
While both vitamins and minerals are important, this post will focus on the mineral micronutrients that help to facilitate the muscle growth and maintenance.
Chromium is responsible for many processes in the body, but when it comes to muscle building, its role in glucose metabolism is paramount. Chromium is an insulin mimicker—it helps clear the blood of glucose and facilitates its delivery to the muscles. Chromium helps reduce insulin response to ensure more glucose is stored in muscle instead of being stored as fat. The recommend daily value for chromium is 200 micrograms per day. Common food sources of chromium are broccoli, beef, apples and turkey breast.
Selenium is a powerful antioxidant that can help fight off the dangerous effects of free radicals. Selenium is also involved in the production of the critical thyroid hormones and aids metabolism. Research has shown that individuals who have a higher level of selenium intake exhibit more strength. The recommended daily intake for selenium is 70 micrograms per day. Food sources for selenium is tuna, eggs, brown rice and chicken breast.
Zinc is a critical component to a number of processes in the body involved in muscle building. It is involved in enzyme production, plays a role in protein synthesis (i.e., the process by which muscle is made) and contributes to the production of growth hormones, including testosterone and IGF-1. The recommended daily value for zinc is 15 micrograms per day. Zinc can be found naturally in kidney beans, beef and barley.
Without calcium, muscular contraction could not occur. Calcium helps facilitate the signal to stimulate muscle contraction. If adequate calcium is not available in the muscle, full hard contractions during weight training cannot be maintained. Additionally, calcium is needed to help build and maintain bones, which in turn helps support increased lean muscle. The recommended daily intake of calcium is 1,000 milligrams. Calcium can be found in broccoli, yogurt, cottage cheese and dark leafy greens.
Magnesium goes hand-in-hand with calcium. It allows chemical messengers to stimulate the muscle cell so that calcium can enter and muscle contraction can occur. Magnesium is involved in ATP production, or muscle energy, by assisting in the conversion of glucose in food into smaller molecules that can be used inside the mitochondria to produce more energy. By supplementing with magnesium, you can help ensure that you have the energy you need to exercise at higher intensities for longer periods. The required daily need is 320 milligrams daily. Good sources of magnesium include whole grains and green, leafy greens.
Iron is required by red blood cells to assist in carrying oxygen throughout the body. Iron is also involved in ATP production. Not having enough iron in the body can lead to weakness, fatigue and anemia. Women have a greater need for iron, particularly if they are pregnant or in their reproductive years. The daily recommended dose for iron is 18 milligrams. Iron can also be found in red meat, tofu, pumpkin seeds, almonds, and dark, leafy greens.
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