A lot of attention goes to calories, carbs, fats and protein. Which is great because they are the building blocks of learning about a well rounded diet, unfortunately many of us don’t realize that our veggies are no longer serving us as well as they used to thanks to soil depletion.
Nutrition Journal researchers in Taiwan surveyed 210 people for body composition, magnesium intake, inflammatory status and blood pressure.
90% of the subjects were low in magnesium which was shown to correlate with higher body fat and larger waist circumference!
For everyone who was low, when they increased magnesium, their body fat began to drop. If that’s not the easiest weight loss tip ever, I don’t know what is!
And then we start looking at performance and realize magnesium for runners is crucial.
One study of male athletes supplemented with 390 mg of magnesium per day for 25 days resulted in an increased peak oxygen uptake and total work output during work capacity tests.
So let’s look more at what you need to know about magnesium, foods that can increase your magnesium and some of the best supplements if that’s what you need.
What is Magnesium?
Magnesium is one of the essential minerals for body functions.
According to the National Health Institutes: Magnesium is a cofactor in more than 300 enzymes that regulate diverse biochemical reactions in the body, including protein synthesis, muscle function, nerves, blood glucose control, and blood pressure regulation.
Magnesium is required for energy production, contributes to the structural development of bone and is required for the synthesis of DNA, RNA, and the antioxidant glutathione.
Magnesium also plays a role in the active transport of calcium and potassium ions across cell membranes, a process that is important to nerve impulse conduction, muscle contraction, and normal heart rhythm.
Whew! No wonder we need to stay on top of our magnesium levels for athletic performance.
This is such an EASY and small change which could reap big rewards for your total health. Don’t just take my word for it though, let’s dig in to what you really need to know about magnesium for athletes.
Magnesium Deficiency Signs and Symptoms
A 2006 study showed that over half of adults were getting less than 50% of the recommended amount of magnesium.
Athletes are pushing our bodies harder every day making it more important that we stay on top of our nutrient needs. What are the signs of low magnesium levels in the body?
- muscle cramps
- poor recovery from workouts
- low mood (despite the runners high)
- poor sleep
- unable to lose fat
Let’s dig in to each of these a little bit more to see if they match up with issues you might be having. (I know they hit home for me!)
Impaired Exercise Performance
A 2006 study proved that even a slight deficiency impairs performance, which is amplified by sweat loss and increases requirements by 10-20%. This is caused by an increase in the amount of oxygen needed to produce energy (ATP).
It may also reduce the build up of lactic acid and even the perception of fatigue!
A lack of magnesium can cause your sympathetic nervous system to be overactive, resulting in excess cortisol and of course a racing mind, which leads to the next point.
Because magnesium is calming, it helps to ensure a better night of sleep. Another study showed specifically that a lack of magnesium results in brain activity during the night that results in waking frequently.
Right so basically everything dealing with your brain working properly to focus on the task at head and not result in a pounding headache is related to magnesium!
Muscle Cramps/Abdominal Pain
A few years ago I was having muscle cramps to an extreme…like nightly until I ended up in the ER!!
I started drinking an enhanced water shortly there after and they went away. I knew I wasn’t dehydrated from all my blood test my minerals were good…now I know that the water had MAGNESIUM!!
As noted at the top, there is also significant research now to show it can help with fat loss. Which makes sense if it helps you sleep, reduces cortisol and allows you to perform better!
Chocolate cravings are also a sign of deficiency! WAVING HAND like crazy.Sluggish? Anxious? Muscle fatigue? The one mineral you might be missing! #runchat Click To Tweet
How Much Magnesium for Athletes?
Let’s not all run out and start pounding yet another supplement! First take a look at how much you need, some common food sources and then check the symptoms to see if you might be low.
Unfortunately this is one that doesn’t show up well is most blood tests because it’s housed in your bones and muscles, so looking at your foods and how you feel is a better way to gauge your need.
Calculate Your Need:
- 5mg of magnesium per 2.2lbs of body weight.
- i.e. a 150 lb person would need 340 mg per day
- Needs increase after age 30, especially for women, due to bone loss.
- Athletes may need 10-20% more (500-800mg appears to be safe)
No benefit has been proven to OVER doing it with magnesium. Ensure you are getting enough and you’re solid.
How does magnesium deficiency happen?
- Refined oils in most packaged foods remove all magnesium
- Refined grains/sugars remove 80-97% of magnesium
- Soil depletion isn’t giving our food as many nutrients
- Fertilizers diminish mineral absorption
- Drinking lots of water (kidneys are where it’s filtered out)
10 Foods High in Magnesium
Following are some good sources of foods sources high in magnesium and an example of how much they might have. This changes per food, but overall it will help you see what it takes to reach your target amount.
Dietary intake of magnesium is important and a first step to improving your numbers.
Green Leafy Vegetables
spinach, kale, collard greens – 1 cup cooked – 157mg, raw 24mg
pumpkin seeds, cashews, brazil nuts, almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, flaxseed – 1 ounce – 150mg
mackerel, wild salmon, halibut, tuna – 3 ounces – 82mg
soybeans, black beans, kidney beans – 1 cup cooked – 148mg
Brown rice, oatmeal, whole grain cereals – 1 cup cooked – 86mg
Avocado – 1/2 cup – 33mg
Broccoli – 1/2 cup cooked – 51mg
Bananas – 1 medium – 32mg
Dark chocolate – 1 large square – 95mg
Non-Fat Yogurt – 1 cup – 47mg
5 Best Magnesium Supplements
As with any supplement, more is not better.
Find one that works for you, check with a doctor if you have any questions. I don’t play a doctor on TV and I did not stay at a Holiday Inn last night, I’m merely imparting the results of my research. And as always, PLEASE look for a quality supplement.
Let’s first cover the common form of magnesium supplements:
- Magnesium citrate is easily absorbed and good for that laxative effect (most common and least expensive)
- Magnesium glycinate can really help with sleep and muscle relaxation (least likely to cause stomach emptying)
- Magnesium chloride high absorption rate and good for detoxing, relaxation and potentially metabolism boosting
- Magnesium sulfate is what you’ll find in Epsom salt and is the best magnesium for muscle recovery
CALM Drink – Improve Sleep
I love this drink! I have a little a few nights a week and it definitely helps me sleep better, but beware it also has an effect on the bowels!
It’s going to clean you out, so start with half the recommended dose and definitely try it at night. It will help you sleep and wake up to eh hem GO before your run.
Note: Natural Vitality CALM is made from magnesium citrate which is considered the most bioavailable and also the cheapest form. It basically tastes like an electrolyte drink.
You will make it with hot water, so you can drink it warm to make a soothing night time drink. Or let it cool and drink when ready.
Dr Teal’s Epsom Salt Bath – Muscle Recovery
Epsom salt baths have long been part of my post long run recovery routine. I quickly found that they truly helped my muscles to relax and I generally felt better on my next run for having made the time to do it.
I happen to like this one because of the additional essential oils they include. Whether it’s lavender for relaxation or eucalyptus to give you a little boost of energy to get on with the day. But honestly any bag of epsom salt will get it done!
Read more on the benefits of a hot bath instead of an ice bath!
Thorne Magnesium Glycenate Powder – Muscle Relaxation and Sleep
While Thorne is on the higher price end for supplements, it’s because they cut no corners. It’s super high quality and you know exactly what you’re getting.
This is a lightly sweetened powder you can mix with water and again drink prior to bed. It’s shown to have less digestive impact than the previously mentioned CALM. It’s also going to work more on muscle relaxation, which is really crucial during periods of high training.
Magnesium Gummies – Good Travel Option
Since when we travel, our digestion can get off which slows down our bowel movements leading to surprise issues on the run I like having a good travel option.
Additionally, we know that it’s going to help relaxation and improve sleep. That’s a super common stressor for me the first night of travel where I feel like my body just won’t quite slow down.
Magnesium citrate is what you’ll find in most. These happen to be sugar free, which I think is a bonus as I don’t need sugar on the way to bed.
Ancient Minerals Transdermal – Avoid Stomach Issues
We know that things absorb quickest through the skin, so this is certainly one option. There are a number of oils, creams or even epsom bath salts if you like to soak after a long run like me! This bypasses forcing your digestive system to do any of the work.
I prefer this one from Ancient Minerals for a magnesium oil for runners because it’s high quality, no weird metals or toxins in there. It uses magnesium chloride and MSM which is designed to improve glutothiane production and detoxifcation.
Looking for more sports nutrition tips?
- Best Electrolyte Powders for Runners
- 13 Best Energy Gels
- Blood testing for Athletes
- Preventing Runner’s Diarrhea
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