Being active is beneficial for your physical and mental health, but regular sport and exercise also increases how quickly you lose nutrients from your body. To stay healthy and active it’s important to ensure you’re getting the nutrients your body needs. Here are 6 essential nutrients your active body needs. 

Iron

Iron is necessary to help your body process carbohydrates, proteins and fats. If you have (or think you have) a deficiency, it can affect your endurance as well as your immune system and your cognitive functions. To add more iron to your diet, p some red meat pork and poultry, beans and green leafy green vegetables. Eating these alongside foods high in vitamin C will help your body absorb both nutrients. 

Magnesium

Not only does magnesium aid in more than 300 biochemical processes in the body, it also plays an essential role in the recovery stage. Magnesium helps to relax your muscles and nerves as well as calm the mind, regulate blood pressure and heart rhythm. It also plays a role in your muscle building process by synthesizing protein in order for your muscles to repair and grow. Magnesium can be found in nuts, whole grains, seeds, meat and dairy.  

Potassium

When you sweat you lose electrolytes, one of which is potassium. Potassium’s main role is to help maintain normal levels of fluid inside our cells, as well as help muscles contract and support normal blood pressure. Potassium’s role in hydration and muscle contraction explains why you’re encouraged to eat a banana when you have a muscle cramp. Potassium can especially be found in fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts and starchy vegetables. 

Vitamin B12

Your body uses vitamin B12 to break down fat and protein during a workout. It also supports recovery by helping form new red blood cells. If you have a vitamin B12 deficiency, one of the most common symptoms is fatigue. You can get vitamin B12 from enriched grains and animal proteins like meat, fish, eggs and dairy. 

Vitamin D

We’ve all heard about the role calcium plays in maintaining healthy bones, but did you know your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium? Plus, many of the body’s organs and tissues have receptors for vitamin D, indicating that it may have many other undiscovered important roles. Those who live in more northern climates (hello, Canada!) are more likely to have a vitamin D deficiency which can lead to bone paint, muscle weakness, cognitive issues and a weakened immune system. Vitamin D also helps the body fight inflammation. Not many food sources contain vitamin D since the body creates it when exposed to sunlight. Supplements are available in a variety of formats, and it can also be found in fatty foods like salmon and sardines and egg yolk.  

Sodium

For any long workouts, especially situations where you’re working out in the heat (like hot yoga), it’s important to replenish your sodium levels. Sodium helps prevent dehydration by supporting water retention in your cells. It also enables ATP (adenosine triphosphate) generation, which are energy-carrying molecules that help fuel other cellular processes. Athletes should aim for 80 to 100 mg of sodium per 4 cups of hydrating beverage. 

Knowing the benefits of these key nutrients when it comes to fitness can help you plan your meal and snack choices on the daily. It can also inform your decisions about whether to take vitamins to supplement your food intake. No matter what, aim for lots of variety and enjoy the foods that make you feel good in your daily activities.