You need potassium to support just about every bodily function, including muscle contractions and heart action. While potassium is readily available in many foods, if you take added amounts of this mineral, you may wonder what is the right potassium supplement dosage.
For anyone taking 99-milligram potassium tablets, stick to the daily number prescribed by your doctor. The National Institutes of Health recommends adults get between 2,500 and 3,400 milligrams daily. Women should aim for the lower end of the range and men for the higher end. Potassium is readily available in food, so you shouldn't need added potassium unless it's been prescribed to you.
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It’s best to get potassium from food, but if you do take 99-milligram supplements, consume only the amount cleared by your health care provider. Always consult your doctor before adding supplements to your regimen.
Why Is Potassium Important?
Potassium is one of the minerals that your body needs to work properly. It's an electrolyte, critical to muscle contraction and to your nerves' ability to fire. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics explains that you need potassium to:
- Regulate fluid and mineral balance in your body cells
- Maintain normal blood pressure
- Reduce the risk of recurrent kidney stones
- Mitigate bone loss as you get older
Potassium also helps you maintain normal body growth, break down and use carbohydrates, build protein and control your heart and kidney activity.
Read more: The Best Ways to Replace Electrolytes After Exercise
Potassium is present in many foods that are a part of a regular, healthy diet. Leafy greens, vine fruits, root vegetables and citrus fruits are good sources, as are dairy, legumes and bananas. Some leading ways to include potassium in your meal plan include:
- Add 1 cup cooked spinach to dinner for 840 milligrams.
- Have 1 cup chopped cantaloupe with breakfast for 430 milligrams.
- Eat one medium banana as a snack for 420 milligrams.
- Drink 1 cup low-fat milk with lunch for 350 to 380 milligrams.
- Consume 1/2 cup cooked legumes for 365 milligrams.
A bonus is that these potassium-rich foods are rich in other important nutrients, including iron, vitamins C and A and fiber.
Is a Supplement Necessary?
Your kidneys do a great job of regulating your potassium levels as long as they're healthy. The National Kidney Foundation explains that the level of potassium in your blood should be between 3.5 and 5.0, depending on the laboratory that is used.
You can get all the potassium you need by consuming a healthy diet full of lean meats, whole grains, fresh produce, beans and nuts and low-fat dairy. Some people may have trouble getting all the potassium they need, however, reports the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Dietary Supplements. These include:
- People with Crohn's disease or other forms of inflammatory bowel disease.
- People who have pica, or eat things that aren't food (such as dirt).
- People on certain medications, such as some diuretics and laxatives.
- People with eating disorders.
Alcoholics and those who have had bariatric surgery are also at risk of potassium insufficiency. If you don't get enough potassium, you may experience an increase in blood pressure, reduction in bone calcium and a greater risk of kidney stones.
In extreme cases, such as with prolonged diarrhea or vomiting, laxative abuse or heavy sweating, you may experience a condition called hypokalemia. Symptoms include muscle weakness, tiredness, cognitive problems and constipation. Severe cases can also result in excessive urination, high blood sugar levels, difficulty breathing and irregular heartbeat.
What's Too Much Potassium?
If you consume potassium from food, it shouldn't cause any side effects unless you have abnormal kidney function, notes the NIH. Your kidneys are skilled at regulating your potassium level; they rid the extra mineral through your urine.
People with chronic kidney disease or who use certain medications can develop hyperkalemia, or abnormal levels of potassium in their blood. Even the typical amounts of potassium found in food can be a problem for people with certain conditions. Your doctor can help you develop a diet that won't cause hyperkalemia if you should need it due to disease.
Healthy people can get too much potassium from supplements. Your body just can't eliminate the excess. The Food and Drug Administration keeps over-the-counter potassium supplement dosage to less than 100 milligrams to help avoid the danger of overdosing, explains Harvard Health. You'd have to take a lot of pills to overload your system, but it's still important to follow the labeling instructions and directives of your physician.
Read more: The 14 Best Foods for Your Heart
Supplements are available as potassium chloride, potassium gluconate, potassium bicarbonate, potassium aspartate, potassium orotate and potassium citrate, explains the Linus Pauling Institute. Multivitamin-mineral supplements may also contain potassium, but never more than 99 milligrams of potassium per serving. Any of these can lead to an excessive intake if you exceed your doctor's recommendations.
Higher Potassium Supplement Dosage
Supplements with higher levels of potassium are available, but usually through versions prescribed by your doctor. A potassium tablet with 600 to 750 milligrams of the mineral may be recommended to you by your health care provider if you take a diuretic medication to ensure your potassium levels don't dip too low.
If you take high doses of supplemental potassium, you need close monitoring of both your blood levels and your kidney function, recommends the Linus Pauling Institute. Talk to your doctor about regularly scheduling your screenings.
If you're a healthy person who is concerned about not getting enough potassium, it's best you increase your intake of the mineral through dietary sources, such as dried apricots, baked potatoes and raisins.
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By upping your potassium intake with potassium-rich foods, you avoid the potential side effects of potassium supplements, too. These side effects include nausea and vomiting as well as occasional rashes. Not everyone who takes potassium supplements experiences side effects, but why risk it if you can easily up your levels with whole foods?
- National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements: "Potassium"
- StatPearls: "Hyperkalemia"
- MedlinePlus: "Potassium in Diet"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "What is Potassium"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Should I Take a Potassium Supplement?"
- Linus Pauling Institute: "Potassium"
- National Kidney Foundation: "Six Steps to Controlling High Potassium"