Credit Image: Nutrientsreview / Google.

I had a brief discussion on this matter with a pal that I met on Instagram. Honestly, I was quite shocked when he mentioned about how potassium can give you energy, as in my knowledge, it's carbohydrate that contributes to the MAJOR energy. The issue that he raised was interesting, but I can't comment since I was not sure myself.  Hence, I did reading on the clouds and read some books that I had. Yes, most of the books that I found, they did not really mention potassium gives the energy but some clouds reading shows potassium INDIRECTLY gives you the energy, especially when you are doing physical activity, no wonder he had a thought of potassium and it's relation to the energy.

According to Livestrong Website (Writer: Harper Jones):

"Potassium is a mineral and electrolyte, a substance that conducts electricity in the body. As a mineral, potassium promotes normal body growth and maintenance by supporting the functions of organs on a cellular level. As an electrolyte, potassium promotes normal heart, digestive and muscular system function. Consuming a diet that includes a wide variety of fruits and vegetables is the best way to obtain your daily potassium needs. While potassium supplements are available, speak with your doctor before using them"  - ehem, I think you can refer to your dietitian or nutritionist. After all, they are expert on this matter.

The moment he mentioned about that, I felt astonished. Is he really a bookworm (read: cyberworm)because I seriously never heard about it - or maybe he was talking about all the importance of nutrients and specifically on K+ to the energy?. Lacking in one of the nutrients may cause you feel less energetic, hence, it's true.

Considering his physical activity level into account, I would like to summarise, how potassium gives you energy in view of activity level.

Nerve and Muscles

As an athlete (read: physically active), you might want to fulfill your potassium needs as it is has its relation with nerve and muscle. One of the main roles of potassium, is they control nerve and muscle function. Nerve needs some amounts of potassium (along with sodium) to function, in which it helps to send electrical signals required for nervous system function. If we have less potassium in the body, we might notice abnormal nerve function, and affect muscle controls and sense of touch. If your nerves no longer communicate with your muscle cell, it causes you to have muscle twitches or cramps until your potassium level turns to normal. (You can also develop paralysis - even worse)
The reason why potassium can help you prevent any stroke episode. Make sense right?

Digestive Issues

Low potassium levels can also cause stomach upset, or digestive upset, because mostly foods that high in potassium are also rich in fiber (vegetables, fruits). The muscle that lines our digestive tract is actually depends on the nerve to contract and break down the foods, so, when there is a deficiency of potassium, it will cause constipation, bloating and abdominal pains, since nerves and muscle no longer cooperate and muscle can no longer move the stools through our digestive system. Again, something to do with muscle and nerves.

Nah, if you lack in potassium.. you will easily have a fatigue muscle, thus, you cannot run on the treadmill!.

Hence, it can be concluded that potassium helps the cells to produce energy and potassium deficiency can cause fatigue. 

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There are certain diet (Dash Diet, Med Diet, Vegetarian Diet etc) that encourage higher potassium consumption as the research has shown, it can prevent people to get hypertension, heart disease and stroke. But, there are special cases where one should restricting his potassium intake through diet, by the name called as "low-potassium diet".

Elevated potassium level (hyperkalemia) is most often due to renal failure but also may result from inadequate adrenal gland function (Addison's disease), severe burns or crushing injuries. Low potassium level (hypokalemia) can result from a number of causes, including the use of diuretics or intravenous fluid administration wihout K+ supplementation, vomitting, diarreha and certain eating disorder.

For a normal people like us (if you have no underlying disease), we don't have to worry about being in a hypokalemic state. Unless you experienced some problem and causes you to have a frequent episodes of vomiting and diarrhea, or some eating disorder, you may go to see a doctor and seek for a medical treatment.

Honestly, during my clinical training, I have always like being in a Nephrology setting, because we can see the after effect of the non-compliance to diet. If you don't comply to low-protein diet, your chronic kidney disease (CKD) can progress to its end stage. If you are in the End stage, you can see the elevation of some serums level on your blood result, which can cause you to have some problem. Example: hyperkalemia, once your blood result shows you had hyperkalemia, you seriously should restrict the intake of potassium foods, because, it causes you to have arrhythmia (abnormal heart rate) and what make its worsen - heart attack. Yes, potassium also has its relation with abnormal heart rate.  It's interesting to see that case though Aside from that, high potassium in your blood also can cause your skin to be a tone darker and itchy - the reason why you see ESRD patient does not have glowy skins.

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My human being instict told me:

"If they are having an irreversible kidney problem and diet restriction can only slow the progression of the disease, not to heal, why do they need to control it (eg: protein) ? they will eventually go to that stage, some day" 

My passionate dietitian side told me:

"At least, you can still delay your dialysis treatment and experienced a normal life like some people, except for the diet restriction part. You may want to live remains in that chronic stage until your last breath, or having an end stage failure, which decreasing your quality of life. 

But, honestly, it's food that makes your life wonderful, and its food that causes your life dreadful, so, eat in moderation guys. 

Oh, I have the urge to practice as a dietitian now!!

Till then!

1) Nutritional Assesment Book. (Fifth Edition, Writers: Robert D. Lee, David C. Nieman)
2) Livestrong Website. (Writer: Harper Jones)
3) Nutrition and Diagnosis Related Care Book (Writer: Escott-Stump)