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Chromium Supplementation - what it is and who needs it.

Chromium supplements are a popular go-to for people hoping to improve blood sugar with diabetes, enhance muscle mass, or lose weight. Many of these effects are anecdotal, and there are isolated reports of negative side effects.

You should always talk to a doctor before including any new supplementation into your daily regime, and we always recommend discussing your unique nutritional requirements with a registered dietitian (RD) and/or nutritionist.

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In December of 2000, a study was published to the Journal of American Dietetics Association reviewing the nutritional requirements of athletes. In the study it is repeatedly mentioned the importance of balancing and maintaining fluid and blood sugar levels before, during, and after exercise. [8] There’s not a lot of consensus on what to eat, when, how, and why when it comes to the world of sports and sports nutrition.

In general, the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine agree on one thing: “physical activity, athletic performance, and recovery from exercise are enhanced by optimal nutrition”. [1]

But what is optimal nutrient intake? What additional supplements should be added, and for whom? And what is safe to take for a long time?

At Yudae we’re not so much competitive athletes as we are competitive wellness-lifers. We aim to perform high-level athletics for a long time, not a brief time. So when it comes to maintaining athletic performance for your entire life, this little known and somewhat forgotten supplement might just be your secret weapon.

What is chromium?

There are two types of chromium: hexavalent chromium (chromium 6+) and trivalent chromium (chromium 3+). Hexavalent chromium (Cr6), the kind of chromium used to make "chrome plated" auto parts, is a highly toxic element known to cause cancer. Meanwhile its cousin, trivalent chromium (Cr3) is a naturally occurring element found in certain foods such as broccoli, whole grains, meat, poultry, fish, and some fruits and vegetables.

That said, the chromium found in these foods may vary (significantly) depending on the soil and farming practices used. As most soil is not of good quality in the United States, and the nutrients which inhibit absorption - such as simple sugar and certain acids - are in just about everything you eat, it’s very likely most people aren’t getting enough. And if you exercise, you might be losing more than you gain.

What chromium does?

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, chromium may “suppress appetite, break down fat, and stimulate heat production (thermogenesis) causing a mild increase in calorie usage.” [7]

Another study defined the primary function of chromium “to potentiate the effects of insulin, and thereby alter glucose, amino acid and fat metabolism.” Suggesting that chromium supplementation may increase muscle mass and decrease body fat by aiding in lipid metabolism and blood sugar control. [7]

Another study, published to the journal of Sports Medicine in 1997, titled "Effects of exercise on chromium levels", found exercise may increase chromium loss in the urine. [7]

Before that, another study published to the journal of Sports Nutrition in 1992, stated "due to excessive chromium loss and marginal chromium intake, athletes may have an increased requirement for chromium", and that "the restoration and maintenance of chromium stores via supplementation would promote optimal insulin efficiency, necessary for high-level athletic performance." [6]

You now know a few facts:

  • It's important for the body to maintain adequate blood sugar and fluid levels before, during, and after exercise.

  • Exercise can be optimized by adequate nutritional intake.

  • The ability for our bodies to effectively regulate blood sugar and utilize the hormone “insulin” is directly related to a decreased risk in things like heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and metabolic deficiencies.

  • Chromium supplementation may help maintain and regulate blood sugar levels, increase muscle mass, and improve athletic performance.

  • The addition of sugar in the diet can increase the rate at which chromium is excreted from the body.

This all leads to one big question; is it possible we’re not consuming enough dietary chromium, and if so, what happens to the body?

Can you be chromium deficient?

The short answer is no, but this is where things start to get interesting. A report published in 2014 by the European Food Safety Authority very clearly states chromium is a non-essential trace mineral (meaning it is not required by the body to function properly) and does not need to be supplemented due to an inability to document a deficiency in dietary chromium.

Because of this there is no generally recognized recommended daily intake (RDI) or daily allowance (DA) necessary to be provided. [5]

However, the Harvard School of Public Health, as part of Harvard Medical, has a somewhat different interpretation of chromium supplementation.

Harvard recognizes chromium as “an essential mineral that the body needs in trace amounts.”[9] In other words, Harvard recognizes chromium to be an essential trace mineral required by the human body. (And this is important to note).

This same Harvard report cites a study in which patients with type-2 diabetes mellitus were tested for chromium concentration via blood samples. This study noted statistically lower chromium levels in diabetic patients as compared to those without diabetes. [9]

Additionally, one case study found people fed solely through intravenous feeding (IV drip) in which chromium was excluded from the feeding, developed chromium deficiency and hyperglycemia." [9]

And, although they were given high doses of insulin, their condition did not improve until chromium was added into the IV drip. This demonstrates 1) a deficiency of chromium may very well exist and 2) may be linked to metabolic deficiencies such as diabetes.

Who, why, and when to supplement chromium?

At this point in the conversation I want to switch voices and make it more personal. Chromium is something I have been supplementing on for a few reasons, all of which I will explain. But before I do I would like to cover the different types of supplements and where you can naturally find it in food.

As I mentioned earlier, chromium (Cr3) is a naturally occurring element found in certain foods such as broccoli, whole grains, meat, poultry, fish, and some fruits and vegetables.

However, due to poor soil quality in the United States, the chromium found in these foods may be pretty low. and the nutrients which inhibit absorption - such as simple sugar and certain acids - are in just about everything you eat, it’s very likely most people aren’t getting enough. And if you exercise, you might be losing more than you gain.

To create chromium supplements, the chromium mineral is extracted from a natural source (such as brewers yeast) and processed into a concentrated form. It is then used to produce various types of supplements, such as chromium picolinate, chromium polynicotinate, and chromium chloride.

It should also be noted the most tested form of dietary chromium is chromium picolinate. Personally, I prefer the use of GTF Chromium derived from brewers yeast. This type of chromium is absorbed better and more bioavailable than other sources. For this I take anywhere from 1-2 servings (1 serving = 200 mcg tablet) with a high carbohydrate meal.

Reasons why we take chromium:

Type 2 Diabetes & Blood Sugar Although not genetically transmitted, T2 diabetes runs in my family which significantly increases my risk of developing the disease. I use chromium to help mitigate that risk and improve/maintain insulin sensitivity before it's too late. [9, 6, 7]

Body Composition I look young because I actively take steps to decrease my rate of biological aging. One of those steps is to minimize the amount of muscle wasting which naturally. Chromium has been shown (in small studies) to help maintain muscle mass by increasing lip metabolism keeping you anabolic for longer. [7]

Strength & Performance I train mixed modality and athletic plyometrics at least twice a week, and combine that with various strength and conditioning workouts throughout the week. Recovery is important, so similar to why I take chromium for body composition, I take chromium to help maintain a state of anabolism for longer allowing for addition strength gains naturally. [7]

Potential Side-Effects and Drug Interactions

Some reports indicate adverse reactions to chromium supplementation, such as diarrhea, vertigo, hives, and headaches. [3]

Other case reports have described “kidney damage in doses of 1,200-2,400 micrograms daily for four months”. [4]

“Chromium supplements can interfere with many medications, among them corticosteroids, proton pump inhibitors, beta-blockers, insulin, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.” [2]

Always check with a doctor before adding any new supplement to your daily regime.

This post was written for educational purposes only.


If you are interested in trying this supplement, please consult with a registered MD or RD prior to adding any new supplements or altering your daily routine. To adhere to our "no-promotion" standard, we've linked to a generalized Amazon shopping page where you may find various chromium supplements available. Make sure to check the quality of anything you may purchase. Please note that Yudae may collect a small commision on any purchase made through this link. We appreciate your support and dedication to living a longer, happier life.




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