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Roger Weller, geology instructor

minerals in muscles
by Maximillian Hardison
Physical Geology
Spring 2017
                                                                    How Minerals Affect Our Muscles


    Our bodies are precious things and we must care for them. To do this, it is important to educate ourselves on all sorts of matters including exercise, diet and mental health. These are things ordinary people all over the world talk about, but shockingly few of them mention the mineral content in our bodies, unless they are doctors or something of that nature. It is actually more important than most realize or care to realize that our bodies receive the proper amount of certain minerals other than the most popular one: iron. Our iron levels are perhaps the most discussed of all, but athletes, as it turns out, should be more focused on other minerals such as potassium and magnesium. The reason for this is that these and other similar minerals greatly impact the muscular system and directly affect our athletic performance.

     In order to function properly and complete daily tasks, our bodies need specific minerals every day. The most noticeable function of these minerals in our bodies is in our muscular system. We have three types of muscle: skeletal, cardiac, and smooth. Skeletal muscle is the muscle we visually see on a people’s bodies.

Image result for three types of muscular tissue


These muscles are responsible for moving our joints to allow for locomotion and everyday interaction. Cardiac muscle comprises the muscle known as the heart. Many believe that the muscles within our blood vessels are also cardiac muscles, however they are what are referred to as Smooth muscles. They mostly aid in blood movement, but also line the digestive tract. Our skeletal muscles are typically the ones that people think of when talking about muscles, but the other two play equally if not more important roles in day to day life. Without the proper minerals, these muscles can not do their jobs. Symptoms can include muscle weakness and twitching, brittle bones, quicker muscle fatigue and excessive cramping. Two of these minerals, sodium and potassium, are actually quite well known and most try to integrate them into their diets. In order to contract a muscle, our brains send signals via the nervous system and through neuromuscular junctions to the muscle cells. However, even if the nervous system does send the commands to the muscle cells, they will not contract unless there is an electrical charge present. During contraction, the sodium enters the cell and contracts it, and potassium leaves the cell. Then potassium enters the cell, relaxing it, and sodium leaves the muscle cell. This cycle keeps a constant electrical charge within a muscle cell so that it can carry out the directions from the brain. Most people have plenty of sodium in their bodies, but several of them fail to ingest nearly enough potassium. Aside from the obvious inability to contract muscles that would result from a potassium deficiency, continuous lack of potassium over a sustained period of time causes constriction of the smooth muscle and eventual heart attacks.

Image result for sodium potassium pump


    Another pair of really helpful minerals is calcium and magnesium, which primarily work together with the proteins actin and myosin to elongate and relax the muscle cells. The calcium shortens a muscle cell while magnesium restores it to its previous size. Additionally, magnesium actually activates the sodium-potassium pump and puts the potassium back into the cell. A person could consume all the sodium and potassium in the world but still get bad cramps because they didn’t eat enough magnesium. Lack of calcium can bring about osteoporosis especially in the elderly. Iron also aids in the contraction of a muscle by providing the energy needed to run the sodium-potassium pump. Possibly the most important use of iron is that it stores oxygen within the muscle cells and thus promotes healthy circulation. Eating more foods containing iron such as red meat is especially important for athletes in order to better performance.

    So sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and iron all play extremely important roles in our muscles on a daily basis. But how can we get these minerals into our body? For the most part, we get minerals from vegetables in our daily diet. These vegetables get the minerals from the soil in which they grow. The very best soil is comprised of ground up rocks and organic material, and the rocks in the soil contain a lot of the minerals needed to sustain muscular function. However, the soil in a single area can not contain ALL of these minerals, so we typically have to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables from different places to maintain a healthy diet. For calcium, we can eat dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale and seaweed, as well as dairy products. Most meats, beans, spinach and lentils contain vast amounts of iron, and potatoes, bananas and raisins provide us with potassium. These are some of the most beneficial foods and many eat them on a regular basis, however there are very few people who eat enough magnesium and thus they tend to get cramps. The easiest way to get a healthy amount of magnesium and avoid cramps is to eat a lot of spinach and pumpkin seeds, both of which can be made into a salad and easily eaten with other mineral dense foods. Clearly, if we wish to avoid all types of ailments we have to make sure to eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, which is actually an exciting way of living as we can continuously explore new avenues of preparing and growing our food.

 Image result for potassium


    Properly taking care of our bodies means not only exercise and eating proteins and fats, but also watching our mineral levels. Diligence in this field can stop minor symptoms of mineral deficiency such as cramping and long-term problems such as heart attack and osteoporosis, and allows us to live much more efficient and comfortable lives. Why wouldn’t we want to live better and longer? We only have to learn a little about how our bodies work and what to do to fix small problems to prevent much larger, more serious ones from appearing. In this way, basic knowledge about minerals and geology is imperative to all, and this is only one field where such knowledge can be exponentially useful.


Works Cited