Whether you’re an athlete, gym rat or just someone who wants to optimize their fitness and health, certain nutrients are key to maintaining a healthy body and supporting the body’s ability to heal itself and stave off illness and disease. While this is by no means a complete list, here are 5 key nutrients that you need in your diet in order to optimize your health and fitness.

There are no shortcuts to achieving optimal fitness and health (sustainable and long-term, at least). The best way to optimize your performance and by extension your fitness is through a well-balanced diet. Five key nutrients that will help you meet those goals are potassium, magnesium, protein, B-vitamins, and anti-oxidants.

1. Potassium (Dietary potassium): Is a mineral that is critical for the proper functions of all body systems. We hear a lot about potassium and potassium-rich foods, but most people don’t realize how critical it is to sustaining life. In particular, Major organs like the heart, kidneys, etc require potassium in order to work normally. For the most part, most people who eat a healthy and balanced diet typically get enough potassium naturally without having to resort to supplements.

In general terms, it’s never a good idea to be chronically deficient in key dietary minerals like potassium and magnesium. As a matter of fact, low potassium is associated with a risk of success conditions as arthritis, high blood pressure, and infertility, name just a few. For those experiencing low potassium, your health care provider can recommend anything from changes in diet to supplements, etc.  From a nutritional stance, the demands of athletic sports and intense exercise generally contribute to a significant loss of salt, potassium, and magnesium in the sweat.

   2. Magnesium: As I pointed out earlier, magnesium plays a vital role in maintaining normal cellular function and bone health. When it comes fitness, performance and actually seeing “results”, balance is key. Too little or too much of any one mineral never bodes well for your health. In a lot of instances, a deficiency in one nutrient can hinder the proper function of another. For instance, magnesium in combination with phosphorous plays an essential role in energy metabolism.

3. Protein: Yes, we’ve all our doctors and dieticians talk about it, but how often are we guilty of not having either enough of it or we’re consuming poor quality proteins in our daily diet?  In case you missed it, protein is a critical building block for building muscle, repair tissue, and is an important component of all cells within the body. Also, protein is required for the synthesis of various hormones, enzymes, etc.

Want to lose weight and keep it off? You really need good quality protein as a regular part of each meal. Plus, if you’re not into animal protein, there are plenty of plant-based sources that are equally good (i.e.beans and other legumes)!

4. B-vitamins: Include thiamin, riboflavin folate, B6 and the more well-known vitamin B12, are all required for the proper function and development of the brain, nerves, blood cells, heart, etc. When you’re deficient in these nutrients bad things happen. Anemia, memory loss, fatigue, weakness, and digestive problems are just some of the signs one can expect to see. Typical sources of these vitamins are fish, meats, poultry, eggs, and dairy products. For those who have adopted a vegan lifestyle, other sources can be found in dietary supplements or food sources that have been fortified.

However, fat-soluble vitamins like B12 can only be found in animal sources so a strict vegetarian or vegan must have foods either fortified or you need to use dietary supplements.

5. Anti-oxidants: They include but are not limited to, some vitamins ( beta-carotene and vitamins E and C), some minerals (i.e. selenium), and flavonoids (a diverse group of phytonutrients found in most fruits and vegetables). The best sources of antioxidants are fruits and vegetables. Just in case you’re wondering, flavonoids can also be found in red wine and teas.

Antioxidants are powerhouses of goodness and their benefits cover a broad spectrum of health benefits from combating inflammatory responses (i.e. workout recovery), antioxidative stress (i.e. cell damage brought on by free radicals).

The bottom line here is that nutrition is a key portion of a healthy lifestyle and is especially important when it comes down to optimizing your fitness and performance. So the next time you leave the gym, finish a sweat session at home or in the great outdoors, remember to fuel your body with a balanced plate of wholesome goodness. As a matter of fact, make sure you take a good hard look at what’s inside your fridge and or pantry and give it a good detox for the new you in the New Year!

Tonye Tariah

Tonye Tariah

Freedom At The Crossroads Founder

Tonye Tariah, Holistic Health Strategist and founder of Freedom at The Crossroads Blog, helps free women from inaction and unhealthy habits so they can get fit, healthy, and live free. Her approach is “the cookie cutter method only works for cookies,” meaning she helps each person in a unique way helps them transform their lives from the inside out. She’s not about helping you lose weight quick. She’s about changing your habits and helping you fall in love with yourself so you can live a life with pure joy.