Everyone wants to achieve their fitness goals faster and we all know that nutrition is essential for good results. However often we are searching for that extra ‘kick’ and battling with the ‘is it natural’ dilemma. What some of us may not realize is the role that magnesium in particular and the combination of other trace minerals could be doing to naturally boost our sports performance.
All minerals are micronutrients needed in very small amounts, yet this is not to underestimate their importance in enhancing your body’s physiologic functions. Magnesium is a vital mineral for health and performance and along with other trace minerals play a major role in the body’s production and use of energy, which is an essential component required for physical activity. In addition to assisting with energy metabolism, magnesium is required by practically every cell in the human body and participates in more than 300 enzyme systems, assisting with nerve function, cardiac activity, blood pressure regulation, bone health and supporting the immune system, just to name a few.
Unfortunately, dietary intakes of magnesium for most Australians and Americans fall below the recommendations and many people suffer from symptoms without even realizing. This could be you if you have a diet high in refined foods, alcohol, salt, and coffee or experience frequent stress, sleep deprivation, profuse sweating and participate in regular exercise. In fact, athletes, in particular, are a population group who are at higher risk of magnesium deficiency. Consequently, a lack of magnesium can interfere with energy production, which could result in common symptomsof weakness, tiredness, lethargy, confusion, muscle twitches and cramps. Sound familiar? Now all this info might be a tad confusing so to help you understand specifically how all of this relates to exercise we’ve created a list of our top 5 ways magnesium and trace minerals can boost your sports performance:
1. Restore Electrolytes
Exercising, especially in warm weather can make you quite sweaty and the loss of electrolytes through sweat and urine can leave you rather dehydrated. What you might not realize is that electrolytes are made up of magnesium, sodium, potassium and other trace minerals and are therefore lost through sweat. If you are a physically active person, remember to replace your body fluids by drinking plenty of water and for extra benefit add a mineral supplement to restore those important electrolytes and avoid burning out.
2. Muscle Contraction and Relaxation
When you workout, do you ever get those horrible cramps? Well, rethink these evil villains, as they could be related to your magnesium levels rather than a simple hydration matter. You see magnesium plays an essential role in muscle function, especially muscle contraction and relaxation, and a lack of magnesium can cause muscle spasms. Additionally, magnesium supplementation has been shown to improve muscle function, assist in reducing the frequency of muscle spasms and therefore enhance physical performance. Aside from magnesium supplements, we recommend a good old-fashioned Epsom salt bath or spraying on some transdermal magnesium directly onto the affected area.
3. Promote Better Sleep
Most of your body’s recovery from exercise or even just your daily routine occurs while you are sleeping. Your body finally gets the chance to relax, dream about that overdue holiday in Hawaii and focus on preparing for the next day. We previously highlighted that sleep deprivation can cause a deficiency in magnesium along with reduced physical performance. Interestingly, studies suggest that magnesium can actually help support a good night’s sleep and therefore a better recovery. Try supplementing magnesium before bed and let your body do the rest of the work.
4. Improve Cardiorespiratory Function
According to a study conducted by the Nutrition Research Centre, women who presented with deficiencies in magnesium experienced higher heart rates and required more oxygen during physical activities. Basically, their bodies were working harder and we all know that working hard leads to exhaustion. This study along with others on physically active men found that with the addition of magnesium supplementation participants experienced reduced heart rates and oxygen uptakes along with increases in endurance performance. In other words, they had an improvement in heart and circulatory health during exercise with less of an effort, winning!
5. Energy Metabolism
If you’re still not convinced, let us restate the importance of magnesium in energy metabolism. As we explained above magnesium plays an important role in our body’s production of energy, which in turn helps keep your body moving. Actually, magnesium is also extremely important for the breakdown of other minerals, including the trace minerals zinc, copper, iron, lead, and cadmium, which commonly interact with other minerals and nutrients in a well-coordinated way to meet our body’s needs.
How Can I Ensure I’m Getting Enough Magnesium?
While a healthy diet with a variety of different foods is the best way to get in your nutrients, magnesium can be found in higher quantities in the following foods:
- Vegetables, especially the leafy green kinds.
- Legumes, such as beans and lentils.
- Seeds & nuts (think almonds & cashews!)
- Whole grains.
- Dark chocolate.
- Mineral water & ‘hard’ water.
It is almost impossible to get too much magnesium from food sources, and toxicity is rare; it’s getting enough that seems to be the problem. Although the recommended dose for Australians is different depending on age, gender and health status, it is 320mg per day for women and 420mg per day for men aged between 31-50.
If you are searching for that extra kick (naturally), why not try taking a magnesium supplement?
We recommend trying two of the more absorbable forms, magnesium glycinate or citrate. Keep in mind that there is an upper limit from non-food source magnesium (350mg per day) and that too much can cause diarrhea. Usually, a multi-mineral formula is an ensured way to know you won’t overdo it, plus taking minerals along with others minerals is often more effective!