Potassium for Lower Blood Pressure and Better Work Outs

Q I have been using potassium bicarbonate for a couple of months now to lowering my blood pressure and it works like a charm. Annoyingly, at first I more often than not ended up with a tummy ache following ingestion. However, upon advice about how best to take it, with a large quantity of tepid water (about 20 oz), those problems are behind me. The result is that my systolic rating has come down from a borderline high of 140, to about 115, and my diastolic has dropped too, from 90 to about 75.

One other thing I’ve noticed is that I seem to have a lot more energy, which shows up especially in the gym, where I’ve recently made great gains, increasing my maximum load in my workouts. Could that be the benefit of lower blood pressure, or could something else be involved?

JENNIE, Saratoga, FL

A Recently, a paper was published reporting that potassium controls endothelial deformability (by preventing the stiffness resulting from small physiological changes in extracellular sodium levels) and increases nitric oxide (NO) release.1 The answer to your question can probably be attributed to lower blood pressure, but it may also involve NO which has been associated with decreased cardiovascular oxidative stress and an increased mitochondrial biogenesis.

A study has been done showing the benefit of mitochondrial biogenesis for both muscle and brain (see page 15 in this issue) when induced by quercetin.2 What’s especially interesting about this study—in distinction to others showing the induction of mitochondrial growth with resveratrol or through exercise—is the evidence that an increase in brain mitochondria increases motivation and the willingness to exercise. Other researchers may not have thought of a way to measure this (it involves fMRI scanning). Nevertheless, any induction of mitochondrial biogenesis may do the same, and by stacking supplements known to do this, the results may be more emphatic.


  1. Oberleithner et al. Potassium softens vascular endothelium and increases nitric oxide release. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2009;106(8):2829-34.
  2. Davis JM, Murphy EA, Carmichael MD, Davis B. Quercetin increases brain and muscle mitochondrial biogenesis and exercise tolerance. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol 2009 Apr;296(4):R1071-7. Epub 2009 Feb 11.

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