It’s safe to say we all have our less-than-optimal days. Maybe the previous day was a heavy workday, you had a late night, a binge session; whatever the case, feeling a bit shitty and tired the next day is standard. But experiencing constant fatigue several days a week that’s affecting your performance? This fatigue another beast, and could be the result of burnout
Most of us have experienced burnout at least once in our lives. Suddenly, getting through a normal day becomes completely exhausting (mentally and physically), and you feel like you have no fuel left in the tank for anything. Typical burnout is usually the result of overworking, excess stress, and not enough sleep, plus a combination of lifestyle details like eating too much sugar or maybe even not getting enough calories.
However, might be wondering how burnout is possible if you’ve already optimized every other aspect of your training and lifestyle, such as sleep and diet, and you’re not overly stressed. Surprisingly, it turns out that even if you’re eating well and doing everything “correctly,” the problem could actually be stemming from something most of us overlook when it comes to performance: Essential minerals.
Lack of Minerals Can Reduce Performance
Essential minerals are called “essential” because our bodies need to get them from outside sources (aka, food). They are critical for optimal function and are easily lost through any type of physical activity, and especially sweat. This is so important to consider from a performance standpoint, considering research has even confirmed mineral levels like iron are often lower in athletes due to constant sweating. [*]
“Macro” minerals that play an extremely important role not only in performance, but just in everyday function include calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium. We need these in higher amounts.
“Trace” minerals like iodine, chromium, copper, fluorine, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, and zinc are also important but are needed in lower amounts.
Most of us assume we get enough of these from the foods we’re already eating. However in reality, unless we’re eating a high amount of the right foods, we’re most likely lacking. Plants and vegetables that we get minerals from only have as many minerals as they can absorb from the soil they’re grown in, and our soils have been found to be mineral deficient from over-farming throughout the years. [*]
So let’s take a look at what happens if you’re even lacking just one mineral. To use iron as an example again, consider that research shows iron deficiency impairs muscle performance and work capacity (meaning your lifts will suffer) and that simply correcting the deficiency should improve performance. [*]
And that’s just iron. Magnesium has also been shown to be directly linked to muscle performance as well. Not having enough can reduce it, while also reducing endurance, energy metabolism (the reason for constant fatigue because you aren’t using energy efficiently), and even disrupting neuromuscular function. [*]
The same goes with potassium. We lose a ton through sweat, and not replenishing has been shown to result in fatigue. [*] This is why endurance runners are always “refueling” with mineral drinks and energy packets.
On the flip side, getting more minerals can increase exercise performance, often improving endurance, energy levels, muscle performance, and even recovery. [*] In the case of magnesium, studies have also gone over how it could contribute to improved grip strength, leg power, knee extension torque, ankle extension strength, rotation, and jumping performance. [*]
How to Get Enough Minerals
Even with depleted soils, choosing the right foods can greatly enhance your intake of minerals. Try adding the ones below to your diet to make sure you can rule out mineral deficiencies as the cause of any fatigue or under-performance. Also check out the other supplement options to easily cover all of your minerals bases.
Best High-Mineral Foods
Adding high-mineral foods to your plate daily is one of the best ways to keep your minerals levels at peak. Add at least one of these a day; two or more if you’re consistently breaking an intense sweat.
- Wild Salmon
Salmon is packed with selenium, potassium, and magnesium, along with a hefty amount of protein and anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats, making it not only an excellent source of minerals, but also a great protein to nosh on for recovery. [*] [*]
You probably haven’t thought much about seaweed outside of sushi, but these sea plants are loaded with minerals, especially iodine and magnesium. An easy way to get a good dose every day is to add kelp or dulse flakes (they’ll be in a container that looks like a salt-shaker in your health food store) to salads, soups, or topping veggie sides. You can also try nori wraps to wrap veggies and meat in.
- Pumpkin seeds and Brazil nuts
Pumpkin seeds are one of the best quick sources of magnesium and zinc. [*] Toss a handful on a salad or eat them plain and you’re golden. Add 1-2 brazil nuts a day and you’ll also get a full dose of selenium. [*]
Slurp about three of these babies and get over 200 percent of your daily zinc requirements, as well as over 50 percent of your copper needs. [*]
- Leafy Greens
I know. Sometimes it seems like leafy greens like kale, spinach, chard, and dandelion greens are recommended in every health article in existence, but I promise it’s for good reason. Obviously these aren’t only packed with vitamins and antioxidants, but they’re also some of the most mineral-rich. Just one cup of raw kale contains tons of trace minerals, and is particularly high in manganese and copper, while chard . [*]
If you haven’t dabbled in trying organ meats yet, liver might be a great place to start. It’s extremely high in copper, selenium, zinc, and phosphorus, as well as other vitamins you might be lacking, like vitamin A. [*]
Other foods with decent amount of minerals are avocados, low-sugar berries like blueberries, egg yolks, and sardines.
Another option to get a high dose of minerals quickly, especially after a heavy sweat session, is to pop a multi-mineral supplement. There are so many brands to choose from, from tinctures to waters and even concentrates, but I’ve found Onnit’s Key Minerals to work the best for me.
Of course, this isn’t only because I’m affiliated with them, but because the formulation focuses on high-quality sourcing as well as the best ratios of minerals for optimal bioavailability.
Not to mention, they’re easy to take because they’re capsules, which takes any stress off having to add them to smoothies or liquid.
Do you have any experience with upping your mineral intake? How did it affect your workouts? I’d love to hear everyone’s experiences!