How Important is Magnesium for Athletes?
Magnesium is probably one of the first minerals that come to mind when you think of fitness. But, hardly anyone knows how essential magnesium truly is and how it can improve your physical performance. We have the facts for you!
Magnesium performs numerous functions
Magnesium is a vital mineral: it is present in nearly every cell of your body. Approximately 30% of the magnesium in your body is stored in the muscles. The mineral performs numerous functions: it is needed for aerobic (= with oxygen) and anaerobic (= without oxygen) energy production. Magnesium is also required to form endogenous protein (protein of body origin, rather than dietary origin) and plays an important role in muscle contraction and relaxation. The mineral is also essential to the formation of bone and teeth. In addition, it is involved in the activation of hundreds of enzymes.
How important is magnesium for athletes?
Studies show that the more active you are, the more magnesium you need.(1) Scientists have linked a high level of magnesium in blood to improved muscle performance, such as greater leg strength. This means that you can improve your performance by ensuring an adequate supply of this important mineral. What happens in your body? According to studies, magnesium appears to lower lactate levels in your blood.(2) Lactate (lactic acid) is a metabolite that is primarily produced by intense physical exercise. If it builds up, it can limit muscle performance and you will fatigue faster. Plus, exercising without sufficient magnesium will lead to increased oxygen consumption and heart rate. The mineral also plays a major role in strengthening your immune system. It works similarly to an antioxidant by strengthening your defenses and protecting you from diseases.
Increased magnesium intake can be helpful
According to the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), healthy adult females should get 310-320 mg per day and healthy adult males 400-420 mg per day.(3) A balanced diet is usually enough to satisfy this daily requirement. But, if you like to exercise or work a physically demanding job, your diet probably won’t cover your daily needs because you can lose a lot of magnesium through sweat. This loss has to be replaced, but the amount of magnesium required varies depending on the individual and should be discussed with a sports physician.
You also need to consume more magnesium in the case of stress.(4)
How can I tell if I’m getting enough magnesium?
Pay attention to Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms
- Leg cramps
- Digestive problems
- Abnormal heart rhythm
Consult your doctor if you experience the magnesium deficiency symptoms listed above.
Top 9 Magnesium Rich Foods
The general rule is that getting nutrients through your food is the healthier option – as opposed to taking dietary supplements. The same holds true when it comes to magnesium for athletes. A balanced diet gives us (almost) all the nutrients we need. So which foods are highest in magnesium? Here are the 11 best sources of magnesium:
- Sunflower seeds (395 mg/100 g)
- Pumpkin seeds (402 mg/100 g)
- Sesame (347 mg/100 g)
- Flax seeds (350 mg/100 g)
- Cashews (270 mg/100 g)
- White kidney beans (140 mg/100 g)
- Chickpeas (115 mg/100 g)
- Oats (139 mg/100 g)
- Swiss chard (81 mg/100 g)
Good to know:
Mineral water also contains varying amounts of magnesium. You can find the nutrition facts on the label of the bottle.
Magnesium Supplements – Good or Bad?
If your doctor recommends magnesium supplements to treat a magnesium deficiency, it’s important to be careful about the dosage. You shouldn’t take more than 250 mg of supplemental magnesium per day.(5) Magnesium can act as a natural laxative; if you take too much, it may cause diarrhea.
The more you work out, the more magnesium you need in your diet. Don’t underestimate the importance of magnesium for athletes and focus on meeting your daily requirements with a balanced healthy diet including magnesium-rich foods. If you do experience magnesium deficiency symptoms, consult your doctor. Supplements could be a helpful solution. Keep in mind: if you are preparing for a race or competition, make sure to start integrating the supplements into your diet several weeks beforehand to give your body time to adjust.