Top 5 Potassium Supplements

Best Potassium SupplementsPotassium is more than just bananas. This key mineral is essential for multiple life processes, including:

  • Nerve stimulation
  • Muscle contraction (including the heart)
  • Healthy blood pressure
  • Cellular hydration
  • Development and preservation of bones
  • Moving nutrients into cells
  • Moving waste and toxins out of cells

Before you reach for a bottle of potassium tablets, there are some things you need to know.


The Sodium:Potassium Interplay

Potassium is the major intracellular cation – up to 98% of the body’s potassium is found within cells. Sodium on the other hand is found outside of the cells, as the major extracellular cation. The interplay between these two minerals is essential for life.

Potassium keeps water in the cell to stop it from becoming dehydrated, while sodium wants to draw water out of the cell. The balance between these two minerals keeps things just right. The sodium:potassium ratio governs not just cellular hydration but also hydration on the whole – through the kidneys. Anything that increases water loss (i.e. high intake of sodium) will also deplete potassium, whether through urine or other means – where water flows, potassium goes! Sweating, urination, vomiting and diarrhea are the major causes of potassium loss.

The sodium:potassium interplay creates so much cellular tension that it creates electrical potential and supports nerve function. The molecular pumps that pull potassium into the cell also push sodium out of the cell, and this interplay creates a kind of charge – like a chemical battery. This drives the transmission of nerve signals and the contraction of muscles – a particularly important process in the heart and skeletal muscles [1].

Because high sodium is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, a high intake of potassium can help to eliminate the sodium and reduce that risk.

  • A 2011 study showed that a higher sodium:potassium ratio is associated with higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease and general mortality [2].

The Calcium Connection

Once you get your head around the sodium:potassium connection, add calcium into the mix. Sodium increases calcium loss while potassium retains calcium in the body. Having low amounts of potassium and a lot of sodium in the blood will increase urination and mineral loss – this results in calcium being released from the blood into the urine. To restore serum calcium to healthy levels, the body breaks down bone to release minerals into the blood stream.

The upshot is that increasing potassium levels can retain calcium in the blood and protect bones, even if you have a high sodium intake.

Potassium even helps the body to absorb calcium, and joins calcium to strengthen bone mineral structures. They’re basically best friends.

Dangerous Minerals

With its intimate link to sodium and calcium, potassium is essential for well-being and survival. Without enough potassium, things can go very wrong. But chances are you won’t notice that you have low potassium levels unless they are very, life-threateningly low.

On the other end of the spectrum, too much potassium is highly toxic and life-threatening too.

Most healthy bodies have no problem maintaining adequate levels – potassium is found in pretty much every food, and the body has many mechanisms to keep it just right. But when these fail, symptoms of hypokalemia (low potassium) or hyperkalemia (high potassium) can occur.

Fever, excessive sweating, diarrhea and vomiting are common causes of mild hypokalemia, with more severe issues occurring due to kidney conditions and/or diabetes [3].

Symptoms of Low Potassium:

  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Headaches
  • Muscle cramps
  • Abnormal heart rhythm
  • Fainting
  • Low blood pressure
  • Weakness
  • Constipation
  • Palpitations
  • Tingling or numbness
  • Passing large amounts of urine
  • Hallucinations, delirium and psychosis [3]

Good news – seriously low potassium only occurs in ~1% of healthy individuals. However, those statistics dramatically increase with 17% of people with cardiovascular issues, 20% of hospitalized patients, and a whopping 40% of people taking diuretics [8]. Other at-risk populations include people with AIDS, eating disorders and alcoholics. Seek medical advice immediately if you believe you have symptoms of seriously low potassium [3].

Symptoms of High Potassium:

  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Abnormal heart rhythm
  • Paralysis [4]

NOTE: High levels of potassium, known as hyperkalemia, is a serious and life-threatening condition because it affects the heart. Seek medical advice immediately if you believe you have high potassium levels.


Potassium for Muscle Support

Potassium works with nerve cells to send signals called “action potentials” between the nervous system and muscles. With low levels of potassium, these action potentials can’t fire as quickly or effectively, resulting in symptoms of weakness, fatigue, cramping and twitching. These symptoms are particularly common from potassium loss through sweaty high intensity or endurance exercise.

Potassium is also essential for the growth of muscles [5], and don’t forget that big muscles need healthy bones – potassium is essential for retaining calcium and other minerals that make bones resilient against impact exercise.


Potassium & Blood Pressure

Sodium is the first mineral that comes to mind when talking about blood pressure, but potassium is just as important. These two minerals work together in the kidneys to balance body fluids. When sodium levels are high, the kidneys do what they can to flush it out – but this also eliminates potassium. If potassium levels are low, the kidneys will hold onto it and sodium. “Water flows where sodium goes” – with excessive sodium, water stays in the body and blood volume increases. With a higher blood volume, blood pressure rises and the heart has to work harder to push it through the circulatory system. When potassium levels are healthy or slightly high, the kidneys will flush out what they can, reducing sodium, water, blood volume and blood pressure at the same time [6].

The take away: low potassium leads to high sodium which is one cause of high blood pressure.

Potassium supplements are sometimes prescribed in severe cases of hypertension but diet changes to include more potassium-rich foods is more common – taking high doses of supplemental potassium can be risky so always follow the label directions and speak to a practitioner if you are concerned.


Potassium & Blood Sugar

How much potassium is found in the blood can affect how the body metabolizes carbohydrates.

Quick 101 – Insulin is a hormone that grabs glucose (sugar) out of the blood and transports it into the body’s cells. It also pushes potassium out of the blood and into the cell. Because they’re all connected, the potassium content of a meal can signal the pancreas release more insulin which will help to transport both glucose and potassium [7].

A low level of potassium reduces the amount of insulin the pancreas can release after a meal. High levels of potassium demand more insulin, creating great opportunity for blood glucose to be reduced quickly. If you are looking to improve your body’s utilization of blood glucose, potassium might be the key.

FOR DIABETICS:

In type 1 diabetes, where the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin, potassium levels are often high – sometimes dangerously high. Without insulin, there is no transport into the cell and potassium is left to float in the blood leading to potentially dangerous heart issues. In type 2 diabetes, taking too much potassium could spike insulin release and speed up pancreatic depletion. Speak to your doctor if you are concerned about your potassium levels.

DO NOT self-prescribe potassium supplements if you are diabetic.


How To Take Potassium Supplements

When To Take Potassium: Take potassium supplements with a meal to improve blood sugar metabolism, absorption of calcium, and reduce risk of gastrointestinal side-effects like nausea and diarrhea.

Dosage: Potassium supplements are generally capped at 99mg of potassium per dose – this is a safe, effective dose when combined with a fairly healthy, varied diet. Speak to a nutritionist or naturopath if you suspect you require higher amounts of supplemental potassium. It is dangerous to take too much potassium and commonly results in diarrhea, nausea and vomiting which will further lower your potassium levels.

CAUTION: Do NOT take potassium supplements if you have, or suspect you may have:

  • Reduced kidney function
  • Type 1 or type 2 diabetes

Do NOT take potassium supplements if you are taking:

  • Anti-hypertensive medications for high blood pressure (ACE-inhibitors and potassium-sparring diuretics)
  • Aspirin
  • Ibuprofen
  • Naproxen

It is safe to increase your potassium intake via diet.

Rich sources include: avocados, potatoes, bananas, spinach, Brussels sprouts, white beans and lima beans.


Top 5 Potassium Supplements

#5 NOW Magnesium & Potassium Aspartate (49.5mg, 120 Capsules)

Now Potassium SupplementNOW have created a formulation with a therapeutic does of magnesium aspartate, potassium aspartate and 100mg of taurine – a combination that supports heart health and neuromuscular function. Taurine helps to regulate electrolytes and neurotransmitters, while potassium and magnesium are both indicated to support heart and nerve health.

Two capsules per day delivers a therapeutic dose of all ingredients, packed into vegie caps and manufactured with no exposure to common allergens. This is a great potassium supplement if you are looking to support cardiovascular health, particularly after a heart attack or diagnosis of atrial fibrillation. Speak to your physician to make sure that potassium is right for your condition.


#4 Thorne Research Potassium Citrate (99mg, 90 capsules)

Potassium Citrate CapsulesThorne Research offer a simple, clean potassium citrate supplement in vegetarian-friendly capsules. This product is guaranteed to be free from flavors, colors and preservatives, GMOs, and all common allergens. Each capsule delivers a 99mg dose of potassium – one a day is enough to safely boost levels in most people without causing disruption to sodium balance.


#3 MegaFood Calcium Magnesium & Potassium (11mg, 60 tablets)

MegaFood Minerals with PotassiumThis MegaFood supplement contains a gentle dose of potassium attached to the probiotic bacteria, Saccharomyces cerevisiae for optimal absorption and utilization by the body. Combined with optimal ratios of magnesium and calcium, this potassium supplement is designed to support heart function, bone health and blood pressure. The formula is created from wholefood sources of naturally occurring trace minerals found in dandelion root, nettle leaf and parsley leaf – herbs which benefit the liver.

MegaFood supplements are tested three times during manufacturing processes to ensure optimal purity.


#2 Pure Encapsulations Potassium (200mg, 180 capsules)

Pure Encapsulations PotassiumPotassium citrate is an easily absorbed form of supplemental potassium that is ideal for boosting energy and muscle contractility. Pure Encapsulations offer a 200mg dose of potassium citrate in each capsule, which should deliver ~99mg of potassium per dose (the remaining 101mg being citrate). One capsule per day is enough to reach a therapeutic dose.

We love the clean manufacturing processes of Pure Encapsulations supplements, which are guaranteed to be free from common allergens including wheat and egg, soy, artificial colors and flavors, hydrogenated oils, and unnecessary binders, fillers or preservatives. This is a good choice if you’re looking for a clean potassium citrate supplement that delivers a strong dose in just one capsule.


#1 Hi-Lyte Advanced Electrolyte Salt Caps (150mg, 100 capsules)

Best Potassium SupplementHi-Lyte have created a rehydration supplement that is fast, effective and gentle on the stomach. This formula combines 150mg of potassium chloride with other essential electrolytes and nutrients to support rapid rehydration and recovery. All minerals are derived from naturally-occurring salt deposits from the great salt lakes of Utah and are in very absorbable, bioavailable forms.

If you’re looking for a potassium supplement to support high impact workouts or endurance sports performance, this is a great choice!

View Advanced Electrolyte Caps on Amazon Here


Further Reading:

About James Lyons

James Lyons (BHSc Nutritional Medicine) is a clinical nutritionist, medical writer, and educator. He specialises in plant-based nutrition and is passionate about improving public access to reliable and accurate health information.

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