The human body is made up of various systems including the skeletal system, digestive system and the muscular system. While each body system works together, each system requires specific nutrients for proper function. The muscular system, for example, uses macronutrients such as vitamins and minerals for general processes and muscle function while micronutrients such as carbohydrates and protein provide an essential energy source along with the building blocks for growth and development.
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Electrolytes receive exposure by athletes and the role they play in maintaining a proper water balance while supporting normal muscle contractions. Electrolytes are charged ions when mixed with water and include sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium and chloride. During physical activities such as running, electrolytes, especially sodium and potassium, are lost through sweat. When the electrolyte levels drop, muscles may decrease performance or stop working completely resulting in a cramp. Electrolytes can be replaced by eating foods with these minerals or drinking electrolyte-enhanced sports drinks.
The muscular system utilizes different energy sources depending on the intensity and duration of the activity. Muscle glycogen, however, is the most important energy source used by the muscular system. Glycogen can be stored in the muscles by consuming carbohydrate-dense foods such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables. After athletic events or exercise, replacing glycogen stores is essential to recovery. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, consuming chocolate milk within 30 to 60 minutes of exercise can increase muscle glycogen content.
Protein consists of individual amino acids that provide the building blocks for muscle tissue. As a result, the muscular system uses the amino acids and protein to develop, repair and grow new muscle tissue. Consuming the appropriate amounts of protein based on your dietary requirements, body size, fitness goals, age and sex is essential for proper muscle growth and development. You should consume 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. For example, if you weigh 77 kilograms, you should consume between 77 and 115 grams of protein daily.
Additional macronutrients play an important role in maintaining regular muscle and body functions. These macronutrients can generally be received by consuming a balanced nutrition plan. The Harvard School of Public Health recommends consuming a plant-based diet consisting of fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, whole grains and lean meats. If these foods can’t be consumed due to food allergies or other dietary complications, taking a daily multivitamin can provide the additional nutrients needed by the muscular system.