13

votes

Potassium on VLC

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created August 01, 2011 at 7:23 PM

Potassium is essential for every cell in our bodies to function. It is mostly found in foods that have a sizable amount of carbohydrate like tubers, fruits, and vegetables. Even though it is found in leafy greens, which have a low carbohydrate content, you'd have to eat quite a bit of them to fulfill your potassium RDA. There's also talk that the RDA is too low even. So my question is: Do any VLCers routinely get enough potassium? What does a VLC day with suffficient potassium look like? And if you're on VLC and you don't get enough potassium, are you worried about it?

This question stems from my own inability to reach the potassium RDA without at least 100g carbs or so. I got 100% potassium in cronometer with only 75g carbs, but thats using 2 avocados. I'm also not sure I could eat that many vegetables, especially day after day.

Dfada6fe4982ab3b7557172f20632da8

(5332)

on December 19, 2011
at 12:01 AM

Maybe cut back on the salt? I mean, on a steak? Really? Maybe that's why eating meat didn't work for you.

Medium avatar

(39831)

on December 18, 2011
at 09:48 PM

While this is true, it's thought that our K:Na ratio historically sat around 10-16:1, which means a bunch of salt on that steak may negate the K content in some way. Also, we very likely need quite a lot more K than can be realistically had from meat (for most people), though that may simply be due to the typical person's salt intake. Difficult to say.

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on December 18, 2011
at 05:06 PM

Gives me acne if I eat it regularly. LOL

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19413)

on December 18, 2011
at 04:30 PM

edited to correct dose. Nope, just that the nutrition db measures things as 100g.

A2e210815fde92a9ae304a70cee63ba3

(0)

on December 18, 2011
at 02:55 PM

You eat 200 grams of cocoa powder per day?

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19413)

on November 23, 2011
at 02:09 PM

Wonder if we simply licked it off the cave walls the way elephants do in Kitum Cave? http://www.gnolls.org/tag/kitum-cave/ (scroll down half way for the excerpt.)

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on September 28, 2011
at 12:59 PM

You can get dulse at iHerb too btw. Will get mine there.

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on August 03, 2011
at 01:28 PM

Yes, Phinney & Volek say keto diets are "natriuretic," making the kidneys dump sodium. They advise a minimum of 5 grams/day of sodium, which on a keto diet has no effect on blood pressure. They have whole paragraphs on the sodium/potassium relationship in The Art & Science of LC Living, in the chapter called "Low Carbohydrate Research Pitfalls."

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on August 02, 2011
at 04:07 AM

Yeah, I like dulse, and it's a good source of other minerals, too, like iodine. As someone who is very sensitive to vegetables, it doesn't seem to bother me to eat a few oz. But like you, I basically don't worry about it, because I don't have any symptoms associated with hypokalemia.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on August 02, 2011
at 12:23 AM

UncleLH- True--my sodium intake is also not very low in absolute terms, since I add salt to everything. But it is much lower than when I ate packaged foods.

9a5e2da94ad63ea3186dfa494e16a8d1

(15833)

on August 01, 2011
at 10:00 PM

I don't find that my sodium is much lower. There is a surprising amount of sodium in say yogurt, cheese, and nuts. It is pretty easy to hit the RDA of sodium even on pretty strict Paleo and low carb.

03f5a69fde4012b827ebdb6d93b71e7a

(2007)

on August 01, 2011
at 09:55 PM

Rose: that's awesome! Good to know about the salt, I did switch to those a while back but figured minerals would be pretty trace... every little bit helps though! If people used to eat things that were much 'dirtier' (not to mention the water), I could see getting a lot more minerals in naturally...

Cbb1134f8e93067d1271c97bb2e15ef6

on August 01, 2011
at 09:46 PM

It might help some to understand that sodium and postassium have an inverse relationship. Thus, as Kamal says, if sodium intake is lower, then potassium isn't being "pulled down." High sodium intake in the face of lesser potassium intake is going to = lower potassium.

D1c02d4fc5125a670cf419dbb3e18ba7

on August 01, 2011
at 09:01 PM

Thanks for the clarification :-)

9a5e2da94ad63ea3186dfa494e16a8d1

(15833)

on August 01, 2011
at 08:59 PM

Real mineral salts such as Celtic Sea Salt and Pink Himalayan Salt are said to have higher levels of potassium, as well as magnesium, calcium and other minerals. I found one web site that says "1.2% sulfur, 4% calcium, .35% potassium, 16% magnesium". Obviously 0.35% isn't going to get you very far with salt, though the 16% magnesium is encouraging.

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on August 01, 2011
at 08:57 PM

i like the stems too. beet-y!

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on August 01, 2011
at 08:54 PM

i like the stems too. beety!

9a5e2da94ad63ea3186dfa494e16a8d1

(15833)

on August 01, 2011
at 08:52 PM

I too eat lots of chard. When I make it, I also trim and chop the stems and saute them in butter, they are delicious, though I have been unable to find a nutritional breakdown of the stems vs. the leaves.

9a5e2da94ad63ea3186dfa494e16a8d1

(15833)

on August 01, 2011
at 08:50 PM

I eat a lot of chard and kale, and in my opinion you get a whole lot of nutrition for a small amount of carbs. FitDay says that 1c cooked chard (which is a lot of raw chard, probably 10-12 leaves) costs you 6g carbs but has a long list of nutrients. I am also a VLC'er and these are my go-to vegetables, though it doesn't hurt that I like the taste.

Cab7e4ef73c5d7d7a77e1c3d7f5773a1

(7314)

on August 01, 2011
at 08:47 PM

I don't, and I'm not. I average probably 150-200g carbs a day as I'm very active. I'm asking out of curiosity because it seems to me like a major shortfall of a low carbohydrate diet and I was wondering how people dealt with this, or if they just mainly ignored it.

D1c02d4fc5125a670cf419dbb3e18ba7

on August 01, 2011
at 08:38 PM

Why do you feel you need to be VLC?

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on August 01, 2011
at 08:33 PM

I've wondered about mineral water, too. Digging around in the archives, I found a link to a site that helps you find a local spring, which overjoyed me. I'd much rather fill some jugs at a spring than drink water shipped in from halfway round the world: findaspring.com Might not solve the potassium question, but certainly will have more good stuff than tap water.

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on August 01, 2011
at 08:30 PM

Theresa, the dulse I get comes from Maine Coast Sea Vegetables, and I get it in our local upscale organic market, in the "Asian" section. http://www.seaveg.com/shop/

03f5a69fde4012b827ebdb6d93b71e7a

(2007)

on August 01, 2011
at 08:29 PM

Didn't know about the dulse, thanks for the tip! I see there are shakers on Amazon... might have to try that. 4% RDA from a tsp. The little things add up...

Ab19df3ededa28f7bf7daeba8435b205

(1471)

on August 01, 2011
at 08:28 PM

where do you get dulse? is it packed like nouri?

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12 Answers

11
3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on August 01, 2011
at 08:15 PM

PaleoHacker Ambimorph introduced me to dulse, which I've since used as a replacement for the seaweed snack packs I used to eat. As a virtual zero-carber (all meat with some herbs and spices, very occasional nuts, and seaweed), I won't be horking down tons of chard or spinach. The dulse is pretty tasty, and it's so packed with potassium that I feel a little goes a long way.

But honestly, until the dulse came along, I didn't worry about it. I had night leg cramps once in a while, especially during the weight loss phase, but potassium supps didn't do diddly for those so I stopped taking them. Otherwise, my health has done nothing but improve since I started eating this way, so I don't pay too much attention to RDAs and whatnot.

EDIT: I've been reading Phinney and Volek's new book, The Art and Science of Low-Carbohydrate Living, and here's a passage from Chapter 13 that directly addresses this question:

Early on in the VLCD era, hypokalemia (low blood potassium) was not uncommon, but once we learned to supply a modicum of sodium to avoid aldosterone-induced potassium wasting, this became a rare finding (limited usually to individuals with the concurrent use of diuretics). However, persistent hypokalemia unresponsive to sodium and potassium replacement can be a sign of underlying magnesium depletion.

Phinney and Volek spend a bit of time discussing the uses of sodium in a VLC diet; in their view, sodium is necessary to avoid mineral depletion while VLC, because restricting carbohydrates has a strong diuretic effect (Mike Eades also talks about this in his recent post on adapting to LC).

03f5a69fde4012b827ebdb6d93b71e7a

(2007)

on August 01, 2011
at 08:29 PM

Didn't know about the dulse, thanks for the tip! I see there are shakers on Amazon... might have to try that. 4% RDA from a tsp. The little things add up...

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on August 01, 2011
at 08:30 PM

Theresa, the dulse I get comes from Maine Coast Sea Vegetables, and I get it in our local upscale organic market, in the "Asian" section. http://www.seaveg.com/shop/

9a5e2da94ad63ea3186dfa494e16a8d1

(15833)

on August 01, 2011
at 08:50 PM

I eat a lot of chard and kale, and in my opinion you get a whole lot of nutrition for a small amount of carbs. FitDay says that 1c cooked chard (which is a lot of raw chard, probably 10-12 leaves) costs you 6g carbs but has a long list of nutrients. I am also a VLC'er and these are my go-to vegetables, though it doesn't hurt that I like the taste.

Ab19df3ededa28f7bf7daeba8435b205

(1471)

on August 01, 2011
at 08:28 PM

where do you get dulse? is it packed like nouri?

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on August 02, 2011
at 04:07 AM

Yeah, I like dulse, and it's a good source of other minerals, too, like iodine. As someone who is very sensitive to vegetables, it doesn't seem to bother me to eat a few oz. But like you, I basically don't worry about it, because I don't have any symptoms associated with hypokalemia.

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on September 28, 2011
at 12:59 PM

You can get dulse at iHerb too btw. Will get mine there.

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on December 18, 2011
at 05:06 PM

Gives me acne if I eat it regularly. LOL

5
21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on August 01, 2011
at 08:12 PM

My hunch is that this is similar to the difficulty we have in getting enough vitamin E.

Meaning this: vitamin E is important as a fat-soluble antioxidant, but we don't have as much rancid fat in our bodies as SAD eaters. So reaching the vitamin E RDA might be hard, but we probably shouldn't care because the RDA doesn't apply to us.

Similarly, we have a smaller intake of sodium than the general populace, and maybe getting a ton of potassium isn't as important for us because of that.

Cbb1134f8e93067d1271c97bb2e15ef6

on August 01, 2011
at 09:46 PM

It might help some to understand that sodium and postassium have an inverse relationship. Thus, as Kamal says, if sodium intake is lower, then potassium isn't being "pulled down." High sodium intake in the face of lesser potassium intake is going to = lower potassium.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on August 02, 2011
at 12:23 AM

UncleLH- True--my sodium intake is also not very low in absolute terms, since I add salt to everything. But it is much lower than when I ate packaged foods.

9a5e2da94ad63ea3186dfa494e16a8d1

(15833)

on August 01, 2011
at 10:00 PM

I don't find that my sodium is much lower. There is a surprising amount of sodium in say yogurt, cheese, and nuts. It is pretty easy to hit the RDA of sodium even on pretty strict Paleo and low carb.

3
7bf306ada57db47547e9da39a415edf6

(11214)

on November 23, 2011
at 05:55 PM

Ah, here we see a strange phenomenon that I have noticed on the internet. We know we need potassium. We know that it is used by every cell in the human body. And yet, somehow we do not know that it is in meat! 3 ounces of beef has 267mg of it! wolframalpha is good for something.

If you are doing VLC, you are eating meat, in which case you are getting plenty of potassium. (If you are doing VLC and not eating meat I fear your time here on Earth will be abruptly curtailed.) You will not know that unless it occurs to you to actually check specifically how much potassium is in meat. Internet searches lead you to fruits and vegetables with nary a mention of meat!

A frustratingly perverse situation to be sure. One could almost assume some sort of conspiracy arranged, perhaps by banana growers, to keep us in the dark. Maybe vegan brigades are hacking into Google.

This happened to me. I was afraid to give up my daily banana, but I knew it was jacking with my blood sugar. And then, after years of worrying about getting enough potassium, I learned the truth. There was plenty of potassium in the brisket!

Medium avatar

(39831)

on December 18, 2011
at 09:48 PM

While this is true, it's thought that our K:Na ratio historically sat around 10-16:1, which means a bunch of salt on that steak may negate the K content in some way. Also, we very likely need quite a lot more K than can be realistically had from meat (for most people), though that may simply be due to the typical person's salt intake. Difficult to say.

Dfada6fe4982ab3b7557172f20632da8

(5332)

on December 19, 2011
at 12:01 AM

Maybe cut back on the salt? I mean, on a steak? Really? Maybe that's why eating meat didn't work for you.

3
E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on August 03, 2011
at 08:23 AM

Following up Kamal's suggestion that people eating a paleo diet may need less potassium than the RDA for those on the SAD, Nephropal suggests a mechanism:

SGK1 increases sodium reabsorption and potassium excretion in the kidneys. Moreover, SGK1 is influenced by insulin.... Considering that the Paleolithic sodium to potassium ratio was 1:16, then sodium was a much more crucial electrolyte to conserve... In the hospital setting, sugar in the form of dextrose and insulin are a quick way to lower serum potassium levels.

So people on paleo (or more specifically, low carb paleo) may well have lower potassium needs. On the other hand, I have heard that a ketogenic diet leads to higher excretion of salt, but I'm not sure what the excretion of sodium relative to potassium is.

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on August 03, 2011
at 01:28 PM

Yes, Phinney & Volek say keto diets are "natriuretic," making the kidneys dump sodium. They advise a minimum of 5 grams/day of sodium, which on a keto diet has no effect on blood pressure. They have whole paragraphs on the sodium/potassium relationship in The Art & Science of LC Living, in the chapter called "Low Carbohydrate Research Pitfalls."

3
9a5e2da94ad63ea3186dfa494e16a8d1

on August 01, 2011
at 08:41 PM

After entering everything I eat into FitDay, it tells me that I am low in potassium, magnesium, manganese, vitamin E, calcium, and fiber. By "low" I mean like 30-45% of RDA. I found this kind of disturbing, and am looking at ways to get this back in line. I would really rather not take a handful of supplements every day, so am looking to adjust my diet.

I am also pretty high in vitamins A and B, especially when I eat liver.

I want to keep nuts moderate in my diet, but almonds are high in almost all of these things, and so I want to get almonds, meal or butter into my diet.

I looked into eating freshly ground flax seeds (I figure I could put them in yogurt or something), which also have a bunch of these nutrients. But the reports are mixed on flax seeds, Mark Sisson says they have been linked to prostrate problems. As a 41 y.o. male, that is a bit of a turn-off.

The obvious answer is to just eat a wider variety of vegetables and fruits, you can have a lot of certain types without boosting carbs much. Since I am high in vitamins A and B, I could cut out some of the meats and replace them with vegetables and butter. This might sound kind of anti-Paleo, but this is what the RDA nutrient profile requires...

2
B14dc4aa1ddefbec3bc09550428ee493

on August 03, 2011
at 06:27 AM

I've wondered how paleo man dealt with this during the times when he was forced to live on mainly meat. I can't imagine that he got muscle cramps all the time and just dealt with it. Did he get the potassium he needed from bones? Maybe bone broth is the answer for us?

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19413)

on November 23, 2011
at 02:09 PM

Wonder if we simply licked it off the cave walls the way elephants do in Kitum Cave? http://www.gnolls.org/tag/kitum-cave/ (scroll down half way for the excerpt.)

2
03f5a69fde4012b827ebdb6d93b71e7a

on August 01, 2011
at 08:28 PM

I've dealt with leg cramps and fatigue in the past, so when I went VLC I made sure to eat a lot of greens/spinach, herbs, fish, and I focus my occasional nut/seed snacks on those with higher levels of potassium (pistachios, almonds). I also switched my magnesium supplement to one that also has potassium, albeit not much (8% RDA).

Cocoa powder/unsweetened chocolate also has a fair amount, and I snack on 99% chocolate bars anyway. I also use some molasses in sauces, stews, etc (chili and bbq sauce especially!) when I learned that it was very high in potassium -- it's a great way to add some depth of flavour, and I'll gladly have the touch of sugar.

I've also wondered if there are natural salts or mineral water that have more than a trace amount of magnesium/potassium, if anyone knows? I didn't look for hours or anything but I couldn't find actual data on the quantities.

Will have to check out dulse too..

9a5e2da94ad63ea3186dfa494e16a8d1

(15833)

on August 01, 2011
at 08:59 PM

Real mineral salts such as Celtic Sea Salt and Pink Himalayan Salt are said to have higher levels of potassium, as well as magnesium, calcium and other minerals. I found one web site that says "1.2% sulfur, 4% calcium, .35% potassium, 16% magnesium". Obviously 0.35% isn't going to get you very far with salt, though the 16% magnesium is encouraging.

03f5a69fde4012b827ebdb6d93b71e7a

(2007)

on August 01, 2011
at 09:55 PM

Rose: that's awesome! Good to know about the salt, I did switch to those a while back but figured minerals would be pretty trace... every little bit helps though! If people used to eat things that were much 'dirtier' (not to mention the water), I could see getting a lot more minerals in naturally...

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on August 01, 2011
at 08:33 PM

I've wondered about mineral water, too. Digging around in the archives, I found a link to a site that helps you find a local spring, which overjoyed me. I'd much rather fill some jugs at a spring than drink water shipped in from halfway round the world: findaspring.com Might not solve the potassium question, but certainly will have more good stuff than tap water.

1
Cf32992bfa1907147c7cdc451bba9c63

on December 18, 2011
at 04:35 PM

Use light salt. Not sodium-free salt (which tastes horrible).

It's essentially 1:1 NaCl KCl.

Use that on your meals, I think you'll be surprised it tastes fine.

(And for what it's worth I'm a big cook/foodie.)

1
3eca93d2e56dfcd768197dc5a50944f2

(11697)

on November 23, 2011
at 09:01 AM

Beet greens have the most potassium than any other vegetable or food. Just make sure you steam them or fry them, because the potassium will go away in the water if you boil them. A cup of stir-fried beet greens is about 8 grams of carbs.

1
66974b2cb291799dcd661b7dec99a9e2

(11121)

on August 01, 2011
at 11:36 PM

I have been LC or VLC for a few years now, use sea salt, drink mineral water here & there and I work outside all day long sweating a lot - have never had the leg cramps, or other low potassium symptoms. But like anything else YMMV.

1
559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on August 01, 2011
at 08:04 PM

i do worry about it. well, not worry, but i do consider it.

from what i can figure, swiss chard has the most potassium bang for yr buck vis-a-vis leafy greens. i try to eat it at least once a week for that reason.

i read somewhere - and it couold be wrong, i don't even remember the context - that our bodies are pretty good at K regulation, so we don't lose a lot on a daily basis. it takes a while before we become deficient. prob depends quite a bit on lifestyle, natch.

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on August 01, 2011
at 08:57 PM

i like the stems too. beet-y!

9a5e2da94ad63ea3186dfa494e16a8d1

(15833)

on August 01, 2011
at 08:52 PM

I too eat lots of chard. When I make it, I also trim and chop the stems and saute them in butter, they are delicious, though I have been unable to find a nutritional breakdown of the stems vs. the leaves.

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on August 01, 2011
at 08:54 PM

i like the stems too. beety!

0
96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19413)

on November 23, 2011
at 02:18 PM

One place to avoid is supplements. They all seem to be 99mg per pill, which is 3% of RDA. You'd need an insane amount of pills to get to 100%, which, may not be enough (or might be too much) depending on body size/needs since RDA is a poor measure at the individual level.

My favorite: 100g of Cocoa powder (~11 tbs) provides 1.5g grams (44% RDA). I mix cocoa powder with coconut oil until it looks like chocolate, then pour hot coffee over it. A couple of tablespoons of these a day (i.e. hot chocolate or mixed with coffe), and you get a bunch of potassium (and magnesium, zinc, etc.)

http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/sweets/5471/2

A2e210815fde92a9ae304a70cee63ba3

(0)

on December 18, 2011
at 02:55 PM

You eat 200 grams of cocoa powder per day?

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19413)

on December 18, 2011
at 04:30 PM

edited to correct dose. Nope, just that the nutrition db measures things as 100g.

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