The human body needs a wide spectrum of nutrients to function properly, even when you’re on a diet striving to lose weight. One of those nutrients is potassium. While you’ve probably heard a thing or two about this mineral this post will focus on its benefits on dieting. Scroll down to learn more about this vital mineral and why you need to ensure your diet delivers enough.

What is Potassium?

Potassium is a mineral and a type of electrolyte. This essential micronutrient is naturally present in many foods and also available as a dietary supplement. Potassium is present in all tissues of your body and cells need it to function properly due to its electrolyte role. 

The mineral, represented by a symbol K, has a strong relationship with sodium which happens to be the main regulator of extracellular fluid volume and plasma volume (1). 

Potassium helps the nerves to function and muscles to contract. Probably the most well-known function of potassium is the regulation of blood pressure and the potential to manage hypertension. 

How Can Potassium Help You?

The importance of potassium is immense for good health and wellbeing. You also need this mineral when dieting or trying to lose weight. Below, we are going to discuss different mechanisms through which potassium can benefit you.

Weight loss 

The most common dietary approach to lose weight is to reduce the intake of carbohydrates and fat. However, diet, weight gain, and weight loss are so much more than carbs and fat intake. Alterations in the consumption of certain micronutrients can also contribute to weight gain or support weight loss. Potassium is one of those micronutrients.

The reality is that increased potassium intake is associated with a lower risk of obesity and may prevent metabolic syndrome (2). A study published in the June 2019 issue of the journal Nutrients confirmed that potassium could predict weight loss in the treatment of metabolic syndrome. The findings of this study revealed that the increase in dietary potassium was a strong predictor of the achieved change in BMI. What’s more, a model that predicted 45% of the variation in the achieved weight loss, a linear stepwise regression analysis demonstrated that the most notable variable of BMI reduction was the elevated intake of dietary potassium. 

Scientists explained that a successful weight loss is a complex outcome of multiple factors including metabolic rate, baseline weight, dietary compliance, calorie intake, physical exercise, overall health. The above-mentioned study confirmed potassium consumption is also an important factor. That being said, the underlying mechanisms through which potassium may lead to weight loss are elusive. Possible effects include a reduction of inflammation and increased insulin sensitivity (3).

Fluid balance

The human body is made of 60% water and it is critical for life (4). About 40% of this water content is inside the cells in the substance called intracellular fluid (ICF). The rest is outside the cells e.g. in blood, spinal fluid, and between the cells. Water outside the cells is called extracellular fluid (ECF).

The concentration of electrolytes influences the amount of water in ECF and ICF. Sodium and potassium play an important role here. In fact, potassium is the main electrolyte in ICF. In intracellular fluid, potassium determines the amount of water inside the cells while sodium does the same for ECF. 

The term osmolality refers to the number of electrolytes relative to the amount of fluid. Under normal circumstances, the osmolality is the same both inside and outside the cells. But it’s not uncommon for osmolality to have unequal values. When that happens, water from the side with a lower count of electrolytes moves to the side with a higher electrolyte number in order to equalize values. As a result, cells may shrink as water moves out of them or swell when it moves into them (5).

Inadequate fluid balance causes many problems ranging from dehydration to heart and kidney function. Electrolytes i.e. fluid balance influences your weight, too. When electrolyte levels are too high or too low, they cause shifts in fluid balance which may increase water weight (6). For that reason, you need to adjust electrolyte consumption to water intake. If you drink a lot of water, you need more electrolytes. Additionally, if you exercise regularly you also need more electrolytes to replace those lost with sweat (7). 

Keep in mind it’s incredibly important to adjust electrolyte to water intake otherwise consuming higher levels of electrolytes ad, not enough water could lead to increased water weight.

What we can conclude here is that potassium is crucial for fluid balance. You need fluid balance to remain healthy, but also to slim down or maintain weight in a healthy range. Potassium prevents fluid retention, which tends to be a problem for many people. This mineral reduces water retention by increasing the production of urine and reducing sodium levels. 

Faster metabolism and energy boost

Successful weight loss and management require proper metabolism. A fast metabolic rate allows the body to burn more calories at rest and during activity. When you burn more calories than consume, you lose weight. That’s why some people may eat more than others without gaining weight (8). Diet influences metabolism. Foods you eat can either help increase metabolic rate or slow it down. Potassium consumption supports your diet by helping you increase your metabolic rate thus supporting your weight loss. 

The reality is that the effects of potassium on metabolism aren’t direct. This mineral may influence the body’s ability to use nutrients that interact with metabolism. For example, people low in iron tend to have a slow metabolism. Besides consuming more iron, you also need to eat foods abundant in nutrients that help absorb it. These nutrients include potassium, vitamin C, and manganese (9). 

In other words, potassium gives the body components it needs for an energy boost and physical activity. The mineral does so by helping the body use metabolism-boosting nutrients. While potassium is not a powerful fat-burning supplement and may not accelerate metabolism directly, we shouldn’t underestimate its indirect influence. To help the body use nutrients that speed up metabolism, we need to consume potassium. As a result, the body may burn calories from our diet more effectively and we have more energy for our workouts. Keep in mind that regular exercise is also important for healthy metabolism (10).

It’s also useful to mention that potassium may play a role in carbohydrate metabolism. The mineral is active in glycogen and glucose metabolism, converting glucose to glycogen that can be stored in the liver. The body then uses it for energy. This fuels you up during workouts. Now you know why athletes tend to eat a banana before a training session or big game. They use it as a source of much-needed energy so they can endure physical activity ahead. You could do the same. Dieting should go hand in hand with physical activity. But sometimes our energy levels decline and we lose motivation to exercise. A simple energy boost thanks to potassium-rich foods such as bananas could give you the motivation and endurance you need for a gym session, jogging, or any other activity you do. 

Potassium could also fill you up and prevent you from eating more foods. You stay full for longer and avoid overeating. 

Muscle building

Whether you want to lose weight or maintain it in a healthy range you need a healthy diet. The food you eat should contain nutrients that are good for your muscles. That way, your muscles function properly and increase the results of regular workouts. Of course, this is especially important if you want toned and defined muscles. It all comes down to your diet, not just exercise.

What’s the role of potassium here, you wonder?

It all starts with the effects of this mineral on the nervous system. Your nervous system relays messages between the brain and body. These messages are delivered in the form of nerve impulses. Nerve impulses help regulate muscle contractions, reflexes, heartbeat, and other body functions (11). What most people don’t know is that nerve impulses are generated by potassium ions moving out of cells and sodium ions moving into cells. The movement of ions changes the cell’s voltage and generates a nerve impulse (12). A decrease in blood levels of potassium affects the body’s ability to produce nerve impulses (13). In a nutshell, you need potassium for proper nerve function.

The function of the nervous system regulates muscle contractions. Inadequate potassium levels affect nerve impulses and weaken muscle contraction. This happens with both low and high potassium (14).

The benefits of potassium for muscle function and building are also tied to its electrolyte role. You see, potassium is lost when sweating meaning intense physical activity results in immediate fatigue and muscle weakness. For this reason, athletes usually need high levels of potassium for optimal performance. A common consequence of low potassium is muscle cramps. That happens because muscle contraction and relaxation require potassium. This mineral also ensures muscle tissue growth. The muscles can’t use the energy released during metabolism without potassium. Potassium is also important for the synthesis of proteins that influence tissue regeneration and metabolic balance after a workout (15). 

Basically, your diet needs foods that support muscle growth and strength, and potassium play a huge role here due to its impact on nerve function. 

How Does Potassium Benefit Dieting?

As seen above, potassium benefits dieting in many ways; which is why you need to consume adequate amounts of this micronutrient. First of all, potassium helps the body use metabolism-boosting minerals. Indirectly, potassium may increase metabolic rate and help us burn more calories. It also gives us more energy and benefits our nerves and muscles. Potassium also combats water retention. All these factors are necessary for a healthy weight and we need potassium to achieve all of them. It’s also important to mention that potassium helps manage high blood pressure, which would otherwise increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases. 

Potassium is one of the crucial components of a well-balanced diet, even if you’re striving to slim down. Without potassium, our nerves and muscles wouldn’t function properly. Efforts of our diet and regular exercise would diminish. 

What Happens If You Eat Too Little or Too Much Potassium?

The human body is a complex system that requires specific amounts of different nutrients every day to operate properly. Potassium is not the exception. Your body needs specific values of potassium to give you the above-mentioned effects. Recommended daily values are available below. 

It’s not uncommon for people to eat too much or too little of certain vitamins or minerals. Some people may believe the more they eat the better. Others adhere to an unhealthy diet that doesn’t deliver enough potassium. The latter is a more common occurrence. You see, only 2% of Americans meet the U.S. recommendations for potassium (16). Low intake of potassium may not cause deficiency immediately. Deficiency usually happens when the body suddenly loses too much potassium due to chronic vomiting, chronic diarrhea, or losing a lot of water. 

Low potassium levels in the body are known as hypokalemia. The symptoms of hypokalemia include muscle cramps, weakness, and irregular heartbeat. High levels of potassium are known as hyperkalemia and may induce similar symptoms. 

Taking too much potassium through food is not common, but it does happen in persons who also take a lot of potassium-containing supplements. Excess blood potassium tends to occur when the body fails to remove the mineral through urine. It mostly affects people with poor kidney function or chronic kidney disease. 

Some people may need to limit their potassium intake. These include persons with chronic kidney disease, elderly people, and those taking blood pressure medications.

While potassium supplements are convenient and practical, they could make it easier for a person to overdose. As a result, excessive potassium could overcome the kidneys’ ability to remove excess potassium. This doesn’t mean you should avoid potassium supplements. It means you need to be careful and stick to dosage instructions. If you take multiple supplements, you should read the label to see whether they contain potassium. Then, you can determine whether the total amount of potassium would exceed the daily limit. 

How Much Potassium Do We Need?

Since our body needs potassium and this mineral is important for dieting, it’s important to understand how much we really need. Recommended daily intake of potassium is represented in the table below:




Birth to 6 months



7-12 months



1-3 years 



4-8 years 



9-13 years 



14-18 years 



19-50 years 



51+ years 



Sources of Potassium

Potassium is present in many foods and it’s easy to obtain a sufficient amount of the mineral through diet. Some of the best sources of potassium include:

  • Bananas
  • Avocados 
  • Sweet potatoes 
  • Spinach
  • Watermelon 
  • Legumes 
  • Butternut squash
  • Potatoes 
  • Dried apricots
  • Chicken breast
  • Salmon
  • Tomato 


Potassium is an important mineral our body needs for proper function. The benefits of potassium for dieting are down to its impact on metabolism, fluid balance, and nerve function to promote muscle contraction. It’s easy to obtain potassium from the diet, but for some people, dietary supplements may be practical. If you use supplements, make sure to stick to the instructions provided by the manufacturer. 


















Older Post Newer Post