Potassium is a macrominerals (we consume gram amounts of it daily) which is crucial for testosterone synthesis.
Potassium is often a mineral that’s taken for granted.
It’s really important for blood pressure, insulin sensitivity, muscle contraction, pH buffering, testosterone optimization, etc.
Potassium and testosterone
Low potassium intake has been shown to lower testosterone (at least in animals). Potassium replenishment restored testosterone levels.
A few mechanisms include reduced LH pulses and decreased beta-glucuronidase in the kidney (R, R). LH stimulates the testes to produce testosterone. Beta-glucuronidase prevents testosterone excretion via the kidney.
A few potassium basics include:
- There is no RDA (recommended daily allowance) for potassium, however, it’s commonly recommended to consume 4,700 mg/day, whereas others say that 1600 to 2000 mg per day for adults is adequate.
- Potassium bioavailability for all sources are well absorbed, but generally best from animal foods.
- Foods such as grains (bread, oats, buns, pizza, tortillas, popcorn, etc.), beans, nuts and seeds are low in potassium, so a diet high in those can lead to low potassium intake.
- 98% of the potassium is located in the cells (intracellular) and only 2% is found extracellularly.
- Potassium is transported into cells via the sodium-potassium ATPase pump enzyme.
- Insulin promotes potassium uptake into the cell (R).
- Low ATP production can reduce potassium uptake. Low magnesium, which leads to low ATP (ATP complexes with magnesium), can lead to low intracellular potassium.
- Catecholamines (noradrenaline and adrenaline) promote potassium uptake. Beta-blockers reduce potassium uptake. Eating enough tyrosine, B6, zinc and copper (animal foods) will help optimize catecholamines naturally.
- Potassium is excreted mainly via the kidney and a little via the gut (about 10%).
- Diuretics can cause potassium wasting.
- Gut issues, such as inflammation and diarrhea can reduce potassium absorption and promote wasting.
- High aldosterone (aldosterone promotes sodium retention) wastes potassium.
Common symptoms of low potassium
- Muscle weakness
- Feeling of skipped heartbeats or palpitations
- Muscle damage
- Muscle weakness or spasms
- Tingling or numbness
What causes potassium to be low in blood tests
- Low magnesium (reduces cellular uptake and enhances potassium excretion) (R). It is estimated that more than 50% of people with hypokalemia also have a magnesium deficiency. Magnesium deficiency impairs the sodium-potassium ATPase pump enzyme, which decreases the cellular uptake of potassium. Magnesium replacement alone (without potassium) increases serum potassium levels in individuals who have hypokalemia and hypomagnesemia.
- Excess coffee consumption. It lowers potassium by shuttling it inside the cell and excreting it via the kidney (R).
- Diuretic use.
- Beta-blockers (perhaps even clonidine (which lowers noradrenaline)).
- A rise in the serum pH will result in a shift of hydrogen out of the cell and potassium into the cell (R). Often you’ll see high CO2 (bicarbonate) on the blood test. Supplementing sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) can slightly lower serum potassium, but only around 0.1-0.2 units (R).
Another sign of low potassium includes low insulin (potassium help produce insulin), which can lead to high blood sugar, but low triglycerides. Be sure to check your fasting insulin and C-peptide as well.
What causes potassium to be high in blood tests
- Renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS) inhibitors, lower aldosterone and increases potassium.
- Potassium-sparing diuretics.
- Drugs, such as heparin, trimethoprim, pentamidine and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs).
- Non-selective beta blockers by preventing intracellular shifts of potassium (R).
- Elevated parathyroid hormone, which promotes calcium uptake from the extracellular space into the intracellular space. This displaces potassium, yet inhibits kidney excretion of potassium (R, R). Low calcium intake can increase PTH and subsequently lead to elevated serum potassium. Dietary calcium intake lowers PTH and inhibits its own uptake into cells, thus improving intracellular potassium levels. On the flip side, low potassium levels may inhibit the kidneys’ ability to reabsorb calcium.
- Hypothyroidism can lead to elevated serum potassium, but low cellular potassium (R). Hyperthyroidism promotes potassium retention in cells (likely via enhanced ATP production), but too high T3 levels can enhance potassium excretion (R).
To make sure you balance your potassium, eat foods high in potassium as well as all the other micronutrients, especially the other electrolytes (magnesium, sodium and calcium).
The best food for these micros is milk. Other foods high in potassium include citrus fruit, kiwi, potatoes, etc. Check out my delicious kiwi shake for better sleep.
You can also do a hair minerals analysis to see which minerals you’re excreting in excess or which you are deficient in. A recent client had very high potassium in his hair test and low calcium, magnesium and boron. In his blood work, his potassium was below range and both calcium and magnesium were low. This indicates that he’s excreting potassium at a high rate. He was dairy intolerant, had hypothyroid symptoms, and had high blood sugar and bottom-range triglycerides (likely due to low insulin).
A simple approach is to supplement calcium, magnesium and boron (boron promotes the retention of calcium and magnesium) as well as thyroid hormones (which will also promote the retention of potassium).
This is why it’s important to do blood work to see what’s going on and what could be causing dysregulation.
If you want to supplement potassium, try K-water.
Mix 7.5g Taurine and 6g Potassium Bi-carb in a 1L water bottle drunk throughout the day. With that, you get roughly 2.35g of Potassium which should make up for the rest of most people’s daily requirements.
The mix can be rather salty so you can always mix it with fruit juice or flavored EAA’s, or whatever you prefer to enhance the taste.
“It has been the best thing I have added to my diet/supplement regime where I’ve felt a noticeable difference in wellbeing and energy levels. I’d imagine the Taurine is doing some heavy lifting, but when they’re paired together Taurine and Potassium bi-carb synergize extremely well.” (ref)
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