There are many supplements that supposedly help you lose weight. What about the essential mineral potassium, does it play a role in weight loss?
The relationship between vitamins and minerals and weight loss is often interesting. If there is any relationship, weight loss usually comes from resolving an insufficiency or avoiding an excess intake of the vitamin or mineral.
This is the case with potassium. Resolving a potassium insufficiency may slightly benefit weight loss but more potassium will not always lead to weight loss.
However, the most recommended way to increase your potassium intake is with whole foods. Most of these potassium-rich foods are rather weight loss friendly.
A relatively high percentage of people don’t consume the recommended daily amounts of potassium.
So if you focus on increasing your potassium intake with whole foods you will likely see more weight loss results. Partly because of the small role potassium plays but mostly because these foods are generally weight loss friendly.
Making sure you reach these daily potassium recommendations with healthy food sources will likely benefit both your weight loss and health. Potassium supplements are generally only suited for a few specific situations.
How potassium may help you lose weight
Vitamins and minerals play important roles in all kinds of processes inside of your body. If you don’t consume enough of these vitamins and minerals many of these processes take place in lesser or even zero amounts. This is usually bad for your health.
The opposite is also sometimes the case. Consuming too much of certain vitamins and minerals can cause negative side effects too.
Exercise is one of the most popular methods to lose weight. To exercise you need to be able to move your muscles. Potassium is an electrolyte, which means this mineral helps conduct electric pulses throughout your body. This process is required to make your muscles move (1).
Without enough potassium, you can get things like cramps and muscle twitches. This can decrease the quality of your workouts and sleep which both play a role in losing weight.
More indirectly related to weight loss is that low potassium intake may lead to fatigue (2). This is likely not helpful when trying to lose weight which often involves working out and using some willpower.
In short, you want your potassium levels to be at the right level. If this is already the case consuming more potassium will likely not lead to weight loss. If your potassium levels are low, consuming more potassium may help you slightly with weight loss.
It is hard to put resolving a potassium insufficiency into a certain number of extra calories burned. For most people this will not be the lifestyle change that instantly gets them to their dream weight. However, together with the health benefits, making sure that your potassium intake is sufficient may be worth it.
Potassium daily recommendations
Below you can find a table with adequate intakes for adults, infants, and children (2).
An adequate intake is a dietary recommendation used when there isn’t enough data to calculate an average requirement. An adequate intake is the average nutrient level consumed daily by a typical healthy population that is assumed to be adequate for the population’s needs (3).
Since healthy people are generally able to deal with potassium from food in higher amounts you may want to aim for higher intakes than these numbers.
Obviously, not all people have the same bodyweight, body composition, and activity levels. Hopefully one day there will be more specific dosage recommendations available. For now, these are some general intake numbers you can aim at.
|0-6 months||400 mg||400 mg|
|7-12 months||860 mg||860 mg|
|1-3 years||2000 mg||2000 mg|
|4-8 years||2300 mg||2300 mg|
|9-13 years||2500 mg||2300 mg|
|14-18 years||3000 mg||2300 mg||2600 mg||2500 mg|
|19-50 years||3400 mg||2600 mg||2900 mg||2800 mg|
|51+ years||3400 mg||2600 mg|
The daily dietary recommendations for potassium are certainly not set in stone. Recommendations from other organizations like the World Health Organization go up to quantities like 3500 mg to 4700 mg of potassium with food (4, 5).
Many people, some sources suggest up to 98%, of adults in the US don’t consume the potassium quantities in the daily recommendations (7).
Potassium is also excreted when sweating so athletes and/or people who live in a hot climate may need even more potassium.
People at risk of potassium inadequacy
Some groups of people are more at risk of a potassium inadequacy than others. Examples include (2):
- People with inflammatory bowel diseases
- People who use certain medications, including diuretics and laxatives
- People with pica
If you are in one of these groups you may need to pay more attention to get an adequate potassium intake.
Other people may want to talk to their doctors and get their blood levels checked first before heavily supplementing with potassium to see if there is any need for it.
Potassium deficiency symptoms
There are some symptoms that are associated with a potassium deficiency. Experiencing these on a regular basis may be a sign that your potassium levels are not optimal.
Some potassium deficiency symptoms include (2):
- Increased blood pressure
- Kidney stones
- Muscle weakness
Avoiding these potassium deficiency symptoms alone may be reason enough to ensure that you are getting enough of this mineral.
Ways to get enough potassium
In many cases it is luckily not that hard to increase your potassium levels. This can be done both naturally with whole foods and supplementing.
Eating whole foods with potassium in them is usually the most recommended way to increase your intake. The reason for this is the wide variety of additional nutrients you get.
Some examples of foods with relatively high amounts of potassium include:
- Spinach: about 558 mg per 100 grams (8)
- Avocado: about 485 mg per 100 grams (9)
- Kidney beans (cooked): about 405 mg per 100 grams (10)
- Potatoes (cooked): about 379 mg per 100 grams (6)
- Lentils (cooked): about 369 mg per 100 grams (11)
- Banana: about 358 mg per 100 grams (12)
When you know what foods to focus on it becomes easier to reach your daily recommended intake for potassium. Besides these examples, you can also find potassium in a wide variety of other whole foods. This nutrient is not limited to a specific food group.
The next option to increase your potassium intake is by taking dietary supplements. These are pills, capsules, tablets, or liquids with concentrated quantities of potassium.
In general potassium supplements are not recommended due to the possible side effects. Most people want to focus on whole foods for an adequate potassium intake.
Some people may require potassium supplements anyway. It is smart to talk to your doctor before heavily supplementing with potassium.
Can you consume too much potassium?
One thing you do have to keep in mind is that you can also consume too much of certain vitamins and minerals. This is called the tolerable upper intake level, the highest level of nutrient intake that is likely to pose no risk of adverse health effects for almost all individuals in the general population (13).
At the moment there is no tolerable upper intake level established for potassium. This means that it is unlikely for healthy individuals to see negative health effects from consuming more potassium than the daily adequate intakes with dietary potassium sources (2).
People with impaired urinary potassium excretion on the other hand need to be precise with their potassium intake.
Even with this in mind, it may be smart to talk to your doctor before supplementing potassium to make sure it is actually needed and you’re not overdoing it. In some cases high potassium supplementation can lead to side effects even in healthy individuals.
Implementing more potassium into your diet may help weight loss if your potassium levels are currently too low. If your potassium levels are already at a good level, adding more potassium will likely not help weight loss.
Many people don’t reach the daily intake recommendations for potassium. Whole foods are the recommended way to increase your potassium intake. Most of these potassium-rich foods are weight loss friendly.
That means that if you focus on the healthy way to increase your potassium intake, whole foods, you can expect weight loss results from increasing your potassium intake.
Supplementing with potassium in large amounts is generally only suited for specific situations.
Exactly how many extra calories you will burn by resolving a potassium insufficiency is not clear. This will likely not be the thing that gets you to your dream weight. Even so, together with the other health benefits making sure that your potassium intake is sufficient may be worth it.