The Role of Mineral and Trace Element Supplementation in Exercise and Athletic Performance: A Systematic Review

Nutrients. 2019 Mar 24;11(3):696. doi: 10.3390/nu11030696.


Minerals and trace elements (MTEs) are micronutrients involved in hundreds of biological processes. Deficiency in MTEs can negatively affect athletic performance. Approximately 50% of athletes have reported consuming some form of micronutrient supplement; however, there is limited data confirming their efficacy for improving performance. The aim of this study was to systematically review the role of MTEs in exercise and athletic performance. Six electronic databases and grey literature sources (MEDLINE; EMBASE; CINAHL and SportDISCUS; Web of Science and were searched, in accordance with PRISMA guidelines. Results: 17,433 articles were identified and 130 experiments from 128 studies were included. Retrieved articles included Iron (n = 29), Calcium (n = 11), Magnesium, (n = 22), Phosphate (n = 17), Zinc (n = 9), Sodium (n = 15), Boron (n = 4), Selenium (n = 5), Chromium (n = 12) and multi-mineral articles (n = 5). No relevant articles were identified for Copper, Manganese, Iodine, Nickel, Fluoride or Cobalt. Only Iron and Magnesium included articles of sufficient quality to be assigned as 'strong'. Currently, there is little evidence to support the use of MTE supplementation to improve physiological markers of athletic performance, with the possible exception of Iron (in particular, biological situations) and Magnesium as these currently have the strongest quality evidence. Regardless, some MTEs may possess the potential to improve athletic performance, but more high quality research is required before support for these MTEs can be given. PROSPERO preregistered (CRD42018090502).

Keywords: ergogenic aids; exercise and sport nutrition; muscle function; nutritional supplements; physical performance.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Athletic Performance / physiology*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Micronutrients / administration & dosage
  • Middle Aged
  • Minerals / administration & dosage*
  • Trace Elements / administration & dosage*
  • Young Adult


  • Micronutrients
  • Minerals
  • Trace Elements