Mineral nutrition is important for overall health and athletic performance. Minerals are essential for numerous body functions, including energy production, nerve function, and muscle contraction. Athletes need to be especially mindful of their mineral intake because of the increased demands on their bodies. Mineral nutrition can be in danger due to prolonged strenuous exercise that can make changes in copper, magnesium, and zinc metabolism.
Evidence of these changes can persist for several days after the exercise is finished. Some changes in plasma mineral concentrations may be attributed to an acute-phase response. The acute-phase response is a general elevation of certain proteins in the blood that occurs in response to infection, injury, or other forms of stress. The magnitude of this response can vary depending on the person's health and fitness level.
Copper is essential for the formation of red blood cells. It also helps to form connective tissue, enzymes, and neurotransmitters. This mineral is required as a cofactor for enzymes used in carbohydrate metabolism, which ensures the proper utilization of glucose. Copper also plays a role in normal iron metabolism.
The major function of magnesium is to relax muscles and blood vessels. It also regulates nerve transmission, promotes proper insulin secretion and glucose uptake, activates vitamin B-6, and is required for the production of energy from carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
Zinc's primary function is in protein synthesis and cell division. It also activates certain enzymes that are responsible for carbohydrate metabolism. In addition, zinc helps to maintain a healthy immune system by activating white blood cells to fight inflammation and infection. It is also involved in the production of insulin, growth hormone, testosterone.
Being at rest is not enough for athletes to maintain proper mineral status because these minerals are mobilized from tissues when exercise begins and/or intensifies. Exercise may decrease serum concentrations of copper, magnesium, and zinc due to increased urinary excretion induced by stress hormones released during exercise. In addition, sweat losses can be significant and can result in a decrease in serum mineral concentrations.
The American Dietetic Association (ADA) recommends that athletes meet the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for all minerals, not just the ones that have been studied extensively.
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