(deepening edited by Melissa Haywood – all rights reserved)
Whether or not you're an athlete, we all need muscles that are in good shape to help us maintain our strength and to move freely. From participation in sport and taking the dog for a walk to chores around the house and garden, we need healthy muscles for all of these activities, not to mention those jobs that require fine muscle movements; even to maintain our posture when sat or standing, we couldn't do it without our muscles. Don't forget that besides our skeletal muscles, we have a range of other muscles within our body that are vital for our organ function from cardiac muscle and that within the walls of the blood vessels to the muscle that helps us move food through our digestive system.
Although physical activity helps to maintain our skeletal muscles in good form, the nutrients that we supply our muscles with are also essential for their structure and function. Besides ensuring a diet rich in protein for muscle growth and repair, and adequate carbohydrate to fuel our muscles, a number of other nutrients are essential to support our muscles.
Preventing muscle cramps
If you ever have muscle cramps, it could be a sign that you are not getting sufficient calcium, magnesium or potassium in your diet. Magnesium plays an important role in the transport of calcium and potassium across cell membranes needed for the conduction of nerve impulses and muscle contraction; a deficiency of one or more can therefore lead to cramps. These deficiencies are easily corrected by upping your intake of foods rich in these electrolytes. However, if you don't eat dairy foods or fortified alternatives you may struggle to get enough calcium in your diet, in which case a calcium supplement may be helpful, which won't just benefit your muscles but will help to maintain the strength of your bones too. Magnesium is mainly sourced from foods of plant origin such as green vegetables, wholegrains, nuts and pulses, while fruit and vegetables are among the richest sources of potassium. Although these foods should be included in a healthy diet as a matter of course, if you have a poor appetite or a restricted diet for any other reason perhaps you struggle to eat fibre rich foods for instance you may like to use a combined supplement or if you feel you just need one of them, a separate potassium or magnesium supplement.