Phosphorus

Essential Micronutrient

OVERVIEW

Summary

Phosphates support many of our bodies’ functions, including energy production, cell stabilization, bone formation, and cellular communication. While there are many forms of phosphates, the form most used for supplementation is sodium phosphate.
Other names for Phosphorus

phosphates, any salt of phosphoric acid containing the radical PO4, phosphoric acid salts

Where to find Phosphorus

Phosphates are found in milk and milk products as well as in fish, meat, and poultry.

Popup: Foods highest in Phosphorus

Daily Value

The Daily Value for Phosphorus is 1000 mg.

PERFORMANCE BENEFITS

Why athletes use Phosphorus

Phosphates are known for inhibiting exercise-induced lactic acid production in muscle tissue, allowing muscles to work harder and longer without the “burn” that limits athletic endurance. Both strength and endurance athletes use phosphates to enhance their workouts and stimulate muscle-building potential as well as to enhance the effects of creatine.

Ways that Phosphorus can enhance Muscle Gain & Recovery:
  • Protect against protein breakdown by acting as a “buffer” within cells
Ways that Phosphorus can enhance Energy & Endurance:
  • Enhance performance by increasing available ATP (the energy factory)
  • Postpone the “burn” during intense training by decreasing lactic-acid buildup

HEALTH BENEFITS

Signs of Phosphorus deficiency

Deficiency of Phosphorus has been linked to:

  • Fatigue/Weakness
  • Decreased attention span
  • Bone and joint problems
  • Irritability/nervousness
  • Numbness
  • Confusion
  • Anemia
  • Impaired immune function
Potential uses for Phosphorus

Research indicates that Phosphorus may also be useful in the treatment of:

  • Fatigue/Weakness
  • Muscle spasms and tension
  • Mental fatigue
  • Osteomalacia
  • Osteoporosis
  • Rickets

DISCUSSION

More about Phosphorus

Phosphates, or the mineral form phosphorus, support many functions in our bodies, including energy production, cell stabilization, bone formation, and cellular communication. While there are many forms of phosphates, the form most used by athletes for supplementation is sodium phosphate.

Why we need it

It is believed that sodium phosphate is a buffering agent, meaning that within the cells, this substance inhibits lactic acid production. Many of us have heard the words “lactic acid” and know its build-up is undesirable, but a lot of people are confused as to why this phenomenon takes place and what we can do about it.

Well, lactic acid is a byproduct of an energy system in our bodies called glycolysis, which our bodies rely on when we don’t have enough ATP, the primary source for energy fuel used for the initial contraction of muscles. If our bodies have too much lactic acid, our muscles don’t function properly — essentially, they just stop because their functions are inhibited by the toxic buildup.

Best forms

One form of phosphate that our bodies require is creatine phosphate (or phosphocreatine), which is the “storage form” of creatine in muscles. Creatine phosphate helps form ATP. When our bodies have more creatine phosphate, more ATP is created, and the result is lower levels of lactic acid in the muscle tissues, which means longer workouts without the burn, more reps, and enhanced endurance. One way to increase the creatine phosphate in our bodies is to supplement with sodium phosphate.

In conclusion

While we do get sodium phosphate from some foods, absorption and utilization are often inhibited by other substances, such as alcohol and antacids. As a hard-training athlete, you’re probably well aware of what lactic acid buildup feels like — that burning pain and the inability to force out that last rep or push through the last mile. By supplementing with phosphate, you may be able to delay that “feeling.” And if you can work harder, you can pretty much count on greater gains in the gym or on the field.

NOTES ON USAGE

Amount

For endurance athletes, up to four grams daily of sodium phosphate in divided doses in the three to five days before an event is recommended. Strength and physique athletes can supplement with much lower amounts — about two grams.

Timing

Phosphate supplementation should be divided into four dosages daily and taken with meals.

Notes

The average intake of phosphorus in the American diet is between 800 and 1,500 mg daily.

Studies have shown that calcium phosphate is the least effective form.

Synergists of Phosphorus

Phosphates enhance the formation and utilization of creatine phosphate or phosphocreatine. For optimal health, phosphorus and calcium should be taken in a 1:1 ratio.

Safety of Phosphorus

Oral phosphates are a mild laxative at very high doses.

Those with kidney disease, liver disease, heart failure, or high blood pressure should avoid adding phosphorus to their supplement regimen.

Toxicity of Phosphorus

In the mineral form of phosphorus, toxicity is rare but can cause calcium deficiency.

Bans and restrictions

None reported.

RELATED RESEARCH

  • Cade, R., et al., “Effects of Phosphate Loading on 2,3-Diphosphoglycerate and Maximal Oxygen Uptake,” Med Sci Sports Exerc 16.3 (1984) : 263-8.
  • Clarkson, P.M., “Minerals: Exercise Performance and Supplementation in Athletes,” J Sports Sci 9 Spec No (1991) : 91-116.
  • Galloway, S.D., et al., “The Effects of Acute Phosphate Supplementation in Subjects of Different Aerobic Fitness Levels,” Eur J Appl Physiol 72.3 (1996) : 224-30.
  • Kreider, R,B, et al., “Effects of Phosphate Loading on Metabolic and Myocardial Responses to Maximal and Endurance Exercise,” Int J Sport Nutr 2.1 (1992) : 20-47.
  • * Kreider, R.B., et al., “Effects of Phosphate Loading on Oxygen Uptake, Ventilatory Anaerobic Threshold, and Run Performance,” Med Sci Sports Exerc 22.2 (1990) : 250-6.