Best Minerals For Muscle Growth

  • Karl Jones BA Hons in Learning Disability Nursing, Diploma in Mental Health Nursing Oxford Brookes University
  • Anuradha Sureshchandra BClinPharm, PGDipClinPharm, PGDipBusinessManagement, University of Auckland
  • Olga Gabriel Master's degree, Forensic Science, Uppsala University, Sweden

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Introduction

Minerals play a crucial role in supporting muscle growth and overall muscular function. Essential minerals like calcium, magnesium, and potassium are vital for muscle contraction, nerve transmission, and maintaining electrolyte balance. Calcium triggers muscle contraction by initiating neurotransmitter release, while magnesium contributes to energy production and protein synthesis, both critical for muscle repair and growth. Additionally, minerals such as zinc and iron aid in oxygen transport, ensuring efficient nutrient delivery to muscles during exercise. Without these minerals, optimal muscle growth and performance would be compromised, highlighting the importance of maintaining a balanced mineral intake for those looking to enhance muscle development. 

Calcium

Calcium plays a crucial role in muscle contraction. When a nerve signal triggers a muscle to contract, it stimulates the release of calcium ions from specialised storage sites within muscle cells called the sarcoplasmic reticulum. These calcium ions then bind to proteins called troponin, causing a change in the positioning of tropomyosin, another protein. This exposes the binding sites on actin, a protein filament. 

Consequently, myosin, another protein filament, can attach to actin and form cross-bridges. Energy from ATP powers the movement of myosin, causing the actin filaments to slide past the myosin filaments.1 This sliding action shortens the muscle fibre, resulting in muscle contraction.

Once the nerve signal stops, the calcium ions are actively pumped back into the sarcoplasmic reticulum, causing the troponin-tropomyosin complex to cover the actin-binding sites again. This blocks the interaction between actin and myosin, leading to muscle relaxation.

Calcium-rich foods are commonly associated with dairy products such as milk, cheese and yoghurt. For example, 100 mg of cheese can provide 1g of calcium.2 Cereals, especially fortified ones, can also offer a good source of calcium. Nuts and seeds, particularly almonds, chia and sesame seeds, are notably high in calcium, providing 250 and 600 mg of calcium per 1g.2 Green vegetables such as broccoli, kale and watercress also offer significant p calcium levels. Throughout life, calcium requirements vary, ranging from 1000 to 1300mg daily, depending on age.  

Magnesium

Magnesium plays a vital role in supporting muscle growth, recovery, and endurance. As an essential mineral, magnesium is involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions within the body, many of which are directly linked to muscle function.3

One key connection is through ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the primary energy currency of cells. Magnesium serves as a cofactor in the reactions that produce and utilise ATP, enabling efficient energy transfer for muscle contractions during exercise.4 Without sufficient magnesium, ATP production may be compromised, leading to decreased muscle performance and growth.4

Dietary sources rich in magnesium include leafy greens, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and legumes. Including these foods in your diet can help ensure an adequate magnesium intake. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of magnesium varies by age and gender, with adult-assigned males at birth (AMAB) requiring around 400-420 mg and adult-assigned females at birth (AFAB) needing approximately 310-320 mg.

Magnesium also contributes to muscle recovery and endurance. During strenuous exercise, muscles can experience oxidative stress and inflammation.3 Magnesium's anti-inflammatory properties help mitigate these effects, promoting faster recovery and reducing muscle soreness. Moreover, magnesium aids in maintaining electrolyte balance, which is essential for muscle contraction and nerve function. This balance is particularly crucial for endurance athletes who lose electrolytes through sweat.3

For those aiming to enhance muscle growth and endurance, it's important to avoid magnesium deficiency. Insufficient magnesium intake could lead to muscle cramps, weakness, and compromised performance. However, while magnesium is beneficial, excessive intake through supplements should be avoided, as extremely high levels can lead to adverse effects. A study suggests that athletes may require supplements, as the concentration of magnesium found in their diet may not be sufficient.3 

Iron

Iron plays a crucial role in muscle growth and overall athletic performance. One of its primary functions is to facilitate oxygen transport throughout the body, including to muscle tissues.5 Haemoglobin, a protein present in red blood cells, binds with iron to carry oxygen from the lungs to the muscles. This oxygenation process is essential for energy production during exercise, aiding in muscle contraction and recovery.

Iron sources can be classified into heme and nonheme forms. Heme iron, found in animal products like red meat, fish, and poultry, is more readily absorbed by the body compared to non-heme iron, which is present in plant-based foods like beans, lentils, and spinach, and is generally less well absorbed. Including a mix of both sources in your diet can help ensure adequate iron intake.6

The RDA for iron varies based on factors like age and gender. For adult AMAB and postmenopausal AFAB, it's around 8 mg per day, while premenopausal AFAB need approximately 18 mg due to menstrual blood loss. The upper limit of daily iron intake is generally set at 45 mg, as excessive iron consumption can lead to toxicity.

Optimal iron intake contributes to enhanced stamina and endurance. Athletes with low iron levels often experience fatigue and decreased performance due to compromised oxygen delivery to muscles.7 To enhance stamina, focus on maintaining sufficient iron levels through a balanced diet. Combining iron-rich foods with vitamin C sources can enhance iron absorption. Additionally, proper hydration and rest play vital roles in stamina improvement.

Zinc

Zinc, a vital mineral, plays a significant role in muscle growth and repair, primarily through its involvement in protein synthesis, immune function, and hormone production. Protein synthesis, the process by which cells create new proteins, is essential for building and repairing muscle tissues. Zinc aids in this process by activating enzymes that facilitate protein synthesis, ultimately contributing to muscle development.8

Various foods are rich sources of zinc, making it accessible through a balanced diet. Foods such as lean meats (beef, chicken, turkey), seafood (oysters, crab, shrimp), dairy products (cheese, yoghurt), nuts and seeds (pumpkin seeds, cashews), and whole grains (oats, quinoa) are excellent choices to ensure an adequate intake of zinc.

Regarding daily allowances, the recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) for zinc differ based on age and gender. For adult AMAB the RDA is around 11 mg, while for adult AFAB, it's 8 mg. The upper limit, or the maximum daily allowance, is generally set at 40 milligrams for adults. Striking a balance is crucial, as excessive zinc intake can lead to adverse effects, including interference with nutrient absorption and immune function.

Regarding its impact on muscle growth and repair, zinc's involvement in protein synthesis directly affects the body's ability to repair and build muscle tissues.8 Adequate zinc intake ensures that the body can effectively utilise dietary protein to support muscle recovery and growth. Additionally, zinc plays a role in the production of testosterone, a hormone important for muscle development, making it an indirect contributor to muscle growth.9

Potassium

Potassium plays a crucial role in promoting muscle growth and preventing muscle cramps and fatigue.10 This essential mineral contributes to proper muscle function, aiding in the transmission of nerve signals and the contraction of muscles. It helps regulate fluid balance within cells, ensuring efficient nutrient delivery and waste removal.10

For individuals aiming to enhance muscle growth, maintaining an adequate intake of potassium is vital. Natural sources of potassium include bananas, oranges, potatoes, spinach, avocados, and yoghurt. These foods not only provide potassium but also offer other essential nutrients that support overall health.

The RDA of potassium for adults is generally around 2,500 to 3,400 milligrams, although individual needs may vary. Athletes and those engaged in rigorous physical activities might require slightly higher amounts due to increased potassium loss through sweat.

One of the primary benefits of potassium for muscle growth is its role in preventing muscle cramps and fatigue. Potassium helps maintain proper muscle contraction and relaxation, reducing the likelihood of painful cramping during or after exercise. Adequate potassium intake also supports efficient energy production, crucial for sustaining endurance and reducing fatigue during workouts.

To prevent muscle cramps and fatigue, it's important to maintain a balanced diet rich in potassium-rich foods. Staying hydrated is equally essential, as dehydration can lead to imbalances in electrolytes, including potassium. Proper hydration supports muscle function and overall athletic performance.

Selenium

Selenium, a vital trace mineral, plays a multifaceted role in supporting muscle growth and overall health. Beyond its recognised role as an antioxidant, selenium contributes significantly to muscle development and function.11 This micronutrient is crucial for maintaining optimal cellular health and protecting muscle tissue from oxidative stress, a process that can lead to muscle damage and hinder growth.

As an antioxidant, selenium helps combat the harmful effects of free radicals – unstable molecules that can damage cells and tissues. By neutralising these free radicals, selenium aids in reducing inflammation and preventing oxidative stress, which is particularly important for muscle cells subjected to the stress of intense workouts. This protection promotes muscle recovery and growth by maintaining the integrity of muscle fibres.

Selenium is found in a variety of dietary sources, including nuts (especially Brazil nuts), seafood (such as tuna, sardines, and shrimp), meats (chicken, beef, and turkey), and whole grains.11 The RDA for selenium varies depending on age, gender, and specific needs but generally ranges from 55 to 70 micrograms for most adults. Athletes or individuals engaging in regular strenuous exercise may require slightly higher selenium intake to support their increased metabolic demands and muscle repair processes.

Ensuring an adequate intake of selenium through a balanced diet or supplementation can contribute to muscle growth by providing antioxidant protection, minimising oxidative stress, and promoting tissue repair. However, it's important to note that excessive selenium intake can lead to toxicity, resulting in adverse health effects.12 Striking a balance and consulting a healthcare professional or registered dietitian is essential for optimising selenium consumption and reaping its benefits for muscle health and overall well-being.

FAQ

Can you overdose on minerals?

Whilst it is extremely difficult to overload on minerals solely from eating a healthy, balanced diet, taking too many supplements in excess regularly can be toxic and lead to some complications.

  • Calcium: The upper limit for calcium in adults up to 50 years old is 2500 mg per day. Beyond this, you increase the risk of overloading calcium. When you have too much calcium in your blood, it is called hypercalcemia. If untreated, it can be very serious and can cause kidney failure or even death. Symptoms of too much calcium can be bone pain or fragile bones, nausea, vomiting, constipation or poor appetite, increased thirst and urination, feeling twitchy, and changes in brain function, such as feeling tired or confused.
  • Magnesium: Doses above 400 mg per day can lead to diarrhoea.12
  • Iron: Too much iron can cause nausea, vomiting, and constipation.12
  • Zinc: Higher-than-normal levels of zinc cause immunosuppression, nausea, and vomiting.12
  • Potassium: Too much potassium in your body is known as hyperkalemia. The National Kidney Foundation describes the symptoms as coming on suddenly and that they can be heart palpitations, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, or vomiting.
  • Selenium: Doses above 91 micrograms daily can cause brittle hair and nails, bowel problems, and peripheral neuropathies.12

Summary

Minerals are essential in muscle growth and overall muscle function. This article focuses on calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, potassium, and selenium. Calcium is the foundation of muscle contraction, magnesium enables energy production, iron supports oxygen transport and muscle performance, zinc supports protein synthesis, potassium helps with electrolyte balance and muscle contraction, and finally, selenium offers antioxidant defence for the muscle cells.

All these are available naturally in your diet, so long as your diet is healthy and balanced. Many people take supplements that offer all or most of your recommended daily allowance. This can be helpful in topping up minerals you may be lacking in your diet. It is important, however, to be mindful that routinely overloading minerals can be damaging.

References

  1. Dunn J, Grider MH. Physiology, adenosine triphosphate. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 [cited 2023 Aug 17]. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK553175/
  2. Cormick G, Belizán JM. Calcium intake and health. Nutrients [Internet]. 2019 Jul 15 [cited 2023 Aug 17];11(7):1606. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6683260/
  3. Córdova A, Mielgo-Ayuso J, Roche E, Caballero-García A, Fernandez-Lázaro D. Impact of magnesium supplementation in muscle damage of professional cyclists competing in a stage race. Nutrients [Internet]. 2019 Aug 16 [cited 2023 Aug 17];11(8):1927. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6723322/
  4. Yamanaka R, Tabata S, Shindo Y, Hotta K, Suzuki K, Soga T, et al. Mitochondrial Mg2+ homeostasis decides cellular energy metabolism and vulnerability to stress. Sci Rep [Internet]. 2016 Jul 26 [cited 2023 Aug 17];6:30027. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4960558/
  5. Wyart E, Hsu MY, Sartori R, Mina E, Rausch V, Pierobon ES, et al. Iron supplementation is sufficient to rescue skeletal muscle mass and function in cancer cachexia. EMBO Rep [Internet]. 2022 Feb 24 [cited 2023 Aug 17];23(4):e53746. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8982578/
  6. Hooda J, Shah A, Zhang L. Heme, an essential nutrient from dietary proteins, critically impacts diverse physiological and pathological processes. Nutrients [Internet]. 2014 Mar 13 [cited 2023 Aug 17];6(3):1080–102. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3967179/
  7. Hinton PS, Giordano C, Brownlie T, Haas JD. Iron supplementation improves endurance after training in iron-depleted, nonanemic women. Journal of Applied Physiology [Internet]. 2000 Mar 1 [cited 2023 Aug 17];88(3):1103–11. Available from: https://www.physiology.org/doi/10.1152/jappl.2000.88.3.1103
  8. Wellmann KB, Baggerman JO, Burson WC, Smith ZK, Kim J, Hergenreder JE, et al. Effects of zinc propionate supplementation on growth performance, skeletal muscle fiber, and receptor characteristics in beef steers. J Anim Sci [Internet]. 2020 Jul 3 [cited 2023 Aug 17];98(7):skaa210. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7455286/
  9. Cinar V, Talaghir L, Akbulut T, Turgut M, Sar?kaya M. The effects of the zinc supplementation and weight trainings on the testosterone levels. HSM [Internet]. 2017 Sep 1 [cited 2024 Feb 5];17(4):58–63. Available from: https://hsm.susu.ru/old/hsm/article/view/248/95
  10. Sejersted OM, Sjøgaard G. Dynamics and consequences of potassium shifts in skeletal muscle and heart during exercise. Physiological Reviews [Internet]. 2000 Jan 10 [cited 2023 Aug 17];80(4):1411–81. Available from: https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/physrev.2000.80.4.1411
  11. Fernández-Lázaro D, Fernandez-Lazaro CI, Mielgo-Ayuso J, Navascués LJ, Córdova Martínez A, Seco-Calvo J. The role of selenium mineral trace element in exercise: antioxidant defense system, muscle performance, hormone response, and athletic performance. A systematic review. Nutrients [Internet]. 2020 Jun 16 [cited 2023 Aug 17];12(6):1790. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7353379/
  12. Wooltorton E. Too much of a good thing? Toxic effects of vitamin and mineral supplements. CMAJ [Internet]. 2003 Jul 8 [cited 2023 Aug 17];169(1):47–8. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC164945/

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Karl Jones

BA Hons in Learning Disability Nursing, Diploma in Mental Health Nursing (Oxford Brookes
University)

Karl has 12 years of experience in learning disability and mental health nursing in a variety of
settings. He has worked predominantly in general hospitals specialising in suicide prevention and the
psychological impact on long term health conditions. Most recently he has worked as a clinical
educator in the field of mental health. He is currently focusing on writing as a career with the aim of
imparting his knowledge to a wider audience.

my.klarity.health presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
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