We have powerful cravings for electrolytes. While we often salt our food to taste, most of us don’t prioritise magnesium and potassium.
The various electrolytes in your body maintain electrical conductivity. Without the right balance of electrolytes, your body can’t effectively use the energy from the food you eat. Your body has to work harder to recycle these precious minerals.
In the past, magnesium and potassium were plentiful in our food system, so we didn’t need to develop the same cravings for those tastes.
These minerals are not just essential for life, they will help you manage your cravings, blood pressure, insulin sensitivity and athletic performance.
Because these minerals are often not as prevalent on a low carb or ketogenic diet, many people experience the ‘keto flu’ (i.e. headaches, fatigue, cravings etc).
Our satiety analysis indicates that the various minerals have a strong relationship with eating more or less than you want to.
We always recommend you prioritise getting your nutrients from food first. However, if you are currently getting enough from your diet, this optimised electrolyte mix will help you supplement these important minerals in balanced ratios in the quantities that align with optimised satiety.
People eating a lot of processed and refined foods are already likely to be getting plenty of sodium so probably don’t need to worry about getting more.
Salt is added to processed foods to make it taste better so you eat more of it and the combination of salt, sugar, starch and fat is basically the formula for hyperpalatable junk food! However, if you switch to a minimally processed low carb or keto diet you may struggle to get enough sodium.
However, along with decline in many minerals, the sodium in our food system has decreased over the last half-century. While many people try to minimise salt, the decline in sodium in our food system actually has the strongest correlation with the rise in obesity since the 1960s.
As shown in the chart below, once we get more than about four grams of sodium per day, our cravings for salty food start to decrease. Our satiety analysis suggests a stretch target of 4.0 g of sodium for men and 3.2 g per day for women.
In the past, sodium was fairly rare and hard to get enough of, so we developed an appetite for sodium so we would actively seek it out. However, other minerals like potassium and magnesium were much more plentiful, so we don’t have the same appetite for foods that contain these nutrients. So today, we need to go out of our way to seek out these minerals.
While sodium is fairly common in our food system, potassium is a nutrient of concern. The vast majority of people are not getting enough.
Beyond the quantity of potassium or sodium, it’s important to optimise your potassium:sodium ratio. The sodium-potassium pump is critical to your energy production. Potassium is the major cation that exists inside your cells which balances the sodium outside your cells. You should have at least as much potassium as sodium in your diet.
If you have elevated blood pressure it’s likely that your potassium:sodium ratio has been out of balance for a while. Hence, you should spend some time prioritising potassium until your blood pressure returns to optimal levels.
Our satiety analysis suggests an optimal stretch target for potassium of 5.5 g for men and 4.4 g for women. This electrolyte mix has been designed to provide a potassium:sodium ratio of 1.5:1 to help the average person restore their potassium:sodium balance.
The potassium content in our food system has been trending down since the 1940s when the use of synthetic fertilisers started to become widespread. While we add nitrogen to make the plants grow faster, our soil is becoming progressively more depleted of minerals such as potassium, sodium and magnesium.
If you are already taking blood pressure medications you should check with your doctor before supplementing with potassium as these medications work to limit the losses of potassium. While excess sodium is often blamed for high blood pressure, it appears that a lack of potassium and/or poor potassium:sodium ratio that is actually the issue.
You will need to use potassium powder to get significant quantities of potassium, as pills are typically limited to 99 mg of potassium. If you have pre-existing health issues or are on any medications for your heart or blood pressure make sure you start slowly and back off if you have any adverse symptoms (e.g. racing heart, excessive thirst, increased urination or loose bowels).
Taking the potassium as part of an electrolyte mix will ensure you don’t overdo it. Your body will tell you that you are getting enough sodium and magnesium and hence stop you from consuming excess potassium.
Magnesium is another nutrient that we have a strong satiety response for. However, around half of the population is not getting enough magnesium. Our satiety analysis suggests a stretch target of 1.0 g for men and 0.8 g per day for women.
Similar to potassium and sodium, the magnesium in our food system has also been on the decline since the 1940s.
Glycine is a conditionally essential amino acid that is found in connective tissue that many people don’t get enough of when they prioritise muscle meat rather than eating nose to tail.
Creatine has been shown to have wide-ranging benefits including cognition and strength gain by improving endurance. It is one of the most well-researched supplements that has shown positive benefits. Because it’s been around so long it’s also one of the most cost-effective supplements in terms of bang for your buck.
Electrolyte mix ingredients
The small-batch mix quantities shown below is enough to provide the daily “stretch target” magnesium, potassium and sodium intake (without food). However, if you are already consuming a nutrient-dense diet you won’t need to use all of this mix in one day. When you mix up ‘a day’s worth’ you’ll realise it’s quite a lot of powder!
Once you make up this mix, you can add a teaspoon to your water bottle. We recommend you start slowly as overdoing mineral supplementation may cause some stomach upset or diarrhoea. As you find you can tolerate it you can start to add more.
But back off when it starts to taste “too salty”. This is a sign that you are not absorbing the minerals, so the sodium hangs around on your tongue. If you are active and sweat a lot you may need more.
But don’t go overboard. Back off if you find you are needing to pee more or have a dry taste in your mouth. This can be a sign that you have excess electrolytes and your body is flushing them from your system.
Potassium citrate will help to alkalise the body and will help to improve your liver and kidney health and will help your body balance the slight acid load that comes with ketosis.
The glycine in the magnesium glycinate will help with sleep and anxiety and is more gentle on the gut than magnesium citrate (note: Magnesium malate is arguably a better form of magnesium but is harder to find in powdered form).
You can treat the glycine and creatine as optional depending on your tastes and goals. You could also add stevia or another sweetener to suit your preference. You can also get some effervescent vitamin tablets that will add some vitamins and help to improve the taste of the magnesium and potassium.
The ingredients shown in the table below will provide your daily “stretch target” intake of potassium, magnesium, sodium and glycine. However, if you are eating a nutrient-dense diet, you won’t need all of this in one day. Getting all your minerals in their supplemental form will lead to ‘gut distress’ for most people, so you will only need a portion of this ‘small batch’ each day.
The hyperlinks in the table below will take you to the ingredients on iHerb if you want to order these and make it at home. You can start out by making up the small batch in a sealable container using digital kitchen scales. Give the container a bit of a shake before you use it to make sure it’s still well mixed is the various components can settle out.
|Potassium Citrate Powder||19||g|
|Magnesium Bisglycinate Powder||6||g|
Add a teaspoon of the mix to a bottle of drinking water the first day. You can try two bottles on the second day. If you find you are getting ‘gut distress’ or a new taste in your mouth you may want to back off a little.
The Cronometer screenshot below shows the amount of glycine, magnesium, potassium and sodium that this batch will yield vs the Optimal Nutrient Intake levels for 2000 calories per day (note: 19 g of potassium citrate powder will yield 5.5 g potassium, 6 g of magnesium glycinate powder yields 1 g of magnesium and 11 g of salt yields 4 g of sodium).
The large batch mix in the table below should last you a few weeks. You can use these quantities if you find you are enjoying the small-batch mix. Make sure you mix it well by shaking the airtight container before each use as some of the powder can settle out.
|Potassium Citrate Powder||120||g|
|Magnesium Bisglycinate Powder||45||g|
- Mix up a weekly batch in an airtight container. Stir and shake to get an even consistency.
- Add to drinking water or sprinkle on your food as a salt replacement.
- Consume to taste. Back off the dosage if you experience any symptoms of gut distress.