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Minerals and trace elements for athletes: the significance of Moringa and Baobab

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This article was written by Dr. Heinrich Heinrichs, plant physiologist & marathon runner.

Minerals are important to support the correct functioning of numerous important bodily processes. They do not provide any energy themselves, but play an important part in processing energy, as well as numerous other vital biochemical processes in our bodies. The body cannot produce minerals by itself – making them essential – and we must rely on our diet to provide them.

Several biochemical processes within our body rely on minerals such as:

  • Activation of enzymes
  • Transmission of sensory signals
  • Tissue Tension
  • Stimulation of muscle activity

When absorbed into our bodily system minerals are present as charged ions, which is why they are also described as electrolytes. The most important electrolytes are sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron. These electrolytes will be examined more closely below. In conclusion this article will provide recommendations for athletes based on the biochemical observations examined.

Sodium

Sodium is mostly found as Sodium Chloride, or cooking salt. This mineral has frequently been portrayed negatively in the past and it has been recommended to reduce the intake. An excessive sodium concentration in the blood is one of the contributors of high blood pressure.

On the other hand sodium is vital for us and regulates the water household of the extra-cellular bodily fluids, i.e. those that are outside of cells, such as blood. It plays a significant role in muscle contraction and the transmission of nerve signals.

Potassium

Potassium has a similar role as Sodium, only that it regulates the intracellular water household, i.e. inside the cells. It also plays an important role in muscle contraction and sensory transmission inside the nerves. This in particular also includes the signal transmission and rhythm of the heart muscles. People with heart rhythm issues are aware of the significance of potassium.

It is worth noting another function of potassium that has particular significance for athletes: Potassium ensures that energy-rich carbohydrates are absorbed by the cells – it is effectively a “carbo-loader”.

Magnesium

Even though magnesium, or rather a lack thereof, is often described as a main factor for muscle cramps, this has not been proven conclusively. More likely is that a lack of magnesium is part of the reason for cramps, along with other contributing factors.
However, twitching and trembling of the muscles are clear indications of a lack of magnesium.

Other symptoms include exhaustion, nervousness and a lack of appetite.

Calcium

A lack of calcium particularly impacts the skeleton. With long-distance runners a lack of calcium has a destabilizing effect, which can lead to stress fractures in extreme cases.

Iron

A lack of iron is a common deficiency among vegans and vegetarians, as it is mainly absorbed through animal-based foods. However a balanced, plant-based diet is able to completely cover this as well.

A lack of iron expresses itself through various symptoms. As less oxygen can be transported by red blood cells, less energy can be processed by the body, which can lead to exhaustion, dizziness and paleness. Further, it undermines the body’s ability to heal wounds, weakening the immune system. A lack of iron can also express itself in small tears to the corners of the mouth.

Recommendations

The African superfoods Moringa and Baobab are able to cover the increased demand for electrolytes of athletes. Already a teaspoon of Baobab and Moringa, for example in a smoothie, is able to cover the added need for electrolytes of athletes, as well as vegans and vegetarians. This is particularly true for potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron.

Iron is best absorbed in combination with iron. Both nutrients are present in Moringa, as well as Baobab and create a synergetic effect between them that allows the body to absorb them more efficiently.

The significance of iron for athletes is one thing, the body’s ability to absorb it effectively another. While artificial supplements are often flushed out of our bodies without significant absorption, it has been shown that the iron contained in Moringa is absorbed very efficiently by our bodies. As a consequence artificial supplements can often lead to constipation, while athletes relying on moringa to supplement their diet have had no such complaints. To the contrary, we have received feedback of increased performance optimization, as well as improved muscle recovery.

The balance of nutrients found in moringa and baobab are a good fit with the demands of ambitious athletes. The electrolytes lost through perspiration are both effectively stored in reserve, as well as replenished after exercise.

In particular the interplay of potassium, magnesium and calcium ensures that carbohydrates are effectively transported into the cells and that muscle contractions can be maintained over an extended period of time.

The increased demand for iron is directly related to the increased need for oxygen when exercising. This ensures that not only energy-providers such as carbohydrates are present, but also oxygen, that is required for aerobic energy retrieval.

African moms know about the benefits of the Baobab fruit’s rich mineral profile having traditionally relied on the fruits to replenish their children’s electrolytes when they are suffering from diarrhea.
The best long-distance runners in the world come from east Africa, while the best sprinters come from the Caribbean, with roots in west Africa. These regions grow Moringa and Baobab and the people of these regions have learned to pass on their traditional knowledge and naturally optimize their athletic performance levels.

Moring and Baobab are both edible plants and not medication. The positive benefits of these plants are already familiar to humans for centuries and many scientific characteristics can be deducted from the passed down knowledge. African mothers have traditionally given Baobab to their children when they have diarrhea and are losing electrolytes. Therefore it is no surprise that athletes talk about an “energy boost” and swear by the benefits of Moringa and Baobab when engaging in endurance sports.

Wolgang Schwerk is an ultramarathon runner from Solingen, Germany. He runs distances between 100km (62,14 miles) and 3,100 miles (4.922km). Schwerk was born in 1955 and first began running these ultra-distances since the 1980s. He continues to hold world records on several distances today.

A few years ago he discovered the “miracle plant” moringa for himself and was immediately thrilled:
„The nutritional profile provided by the Moringa tree … is simply fascinating. Moringa is amazing. There is no comparable food that provides nutrients in this combination.“ (Wolfgang Schwerk).