I am a firm believer that a diet based in a variety of whole, healthful foods can supply all the nutrients a body needs. However, when you begin eliminating food groups (meat, dairy, gluten...), start restricting intake to drop weight, or are looking for serious performance gains, your diet is likely in need of a little extra edge.
Let’s start with the basics. Magnesium is a mineral required by your body in order that assists in almost every aspect of your body’s ability to stay alive and healthy. It assists in hundreds of enzymatic reactions, liver function, nerve function, blood pressure, maintaining normal cardiac activity, muscle contractions, bone structure, DNA synthesis, transporting other nutrients, blood glucose control, sleep patterns, and energy production. Obviously, it is a pretty vital component of your day to day well-being! Of course, as athletes, we need to be look beyond just supporting health to promoting performance.
While all magnesium’s functions are vital to you performing well, there are a few more specific to athletic needs. Magnesium is essential in ATP production and every athlete knows the ability to produce energy is key to sustained high performance. When fat is used for muscle fuel, magnesium is needed for lipolysis, making those athletes following popular low carb/keto diets more at risk. Athletes performing daily endurance training sessions typically have higher chronic cortisol levels. This population also has high anxiety and nerves due to constant exposure to competition and training analytics. Athletes can also benefit from more hours of sleep to help the body rebuild and replenish. Magnesium plays a role in optimizing all those functions. Another huge role Magnesium plays is in muscle contraction & relaxation; too little magnesium and spasms occur. Every athlete knows that electrolyte imbalance can cause muscle cramping. This is typically combated by upping salt and potassium, but those are only 2 of the minerals needed to maintain good hydration status and preventing spasms/cramps; magnesium is a big part of this equation. Try using a sport beverage that contains magnesium in addition to other minerals as part of your training and hydration routine.
Magnesium has the potential to derail your efforts if you don’t get enough. Current guidelines are ~300-400mg/day for adults (men on the higher side). Athletes engaged in on-going athletic training might benefit from a higher intake as they may excrete more of the mineral through sweat, transport to red blood cells, and GI stress/malabsorption. Although this mineral is abundant in food sources, Americans generally do not get enough of the mineral (only 30% consume the suggested amount). Spinach, pumpkin seeds, leafy greens, almonds, avocados, bananas, fortified grains, potatoes and black beans are all great ways to consume magnesium. However, choosing processed, convenience foods over whole ingredients makes for a low intake. Athletes, while more in tuned with eating habits, are still at risk of suboptimal magnesium intake due to the consumption of sport food that traditionally lacks fortification of the mineral. Even if you do consume a diet rich in whole, magnesium loaded foods, only about 40% of the magnesium content is actually available and absorbed by the body for use. Basically, it is tough to get enough! I suggest getting simple blood work done know your current magnesium status.
While supplementation might be the easy answer, don’t start a high dose too quickly! I never advise a high dose of any supplement because they can have adverse effects and it is always best to get most from whole foods. Magnesium works to neutralize stomach acid and is a component in many laxatives. This effect may the already volatile GI system of an athlete, so use caution. I suggest supplementing small doses several times a day, especially in times of high athletic training and stress.
How I Supplement:
One way I’ve incorporated a little extra magnesium is by taking KLEAN Athlete multivitamin which provides 6% DV and LyteZone Ionic Sport drink which provides 10% DV/bottle. These small additions along with my normal balanced diet help ensure my performance won’t suffer due to low magnesium.
Here's more to do with SUPPLEMENTS: