Like other electrolytes (e.g. sodium), magnesium is lost through sweat (particularly during long, gruelling training sessions carried out in high heat). However, what many people don’t know is that this loss can also be aggravated by mental stress. It’s probably no surprise then that 2 out of 3 Australians are magnesium deficient.
Because athletes and fitness enthusiasts are faced with both higher demands for magnesium, thanks to their active lifestyle, as well as accelerated loss of magnesium (for the same reason), it is important for these individuals to consider an increased magnesium intake. This can be done by eating more magnesium-rich foods such as raw nuts and seeds, unprocessed whole grains (e.g. brown rice), quinoa, spinach, legumes and bananas. A dietary supplement can also be useful in quickly restoring magnesium levels to minimise any present symptoms of deficiency (such as muscle tiredness and fatigue), and potentially enhance performance and recovery.
Magnesium plays a role in regulating the relaxation of muscle cells and the excitability of our nerves. As a result, one of the first signs of a magnesium deficiency may be muscular cramps and/or spasms. This can occur in both smooth muscle (e.g. contributing to head aches), and in skeletal muscle (contributing to leg cramps etc.). This means that increasing your magnesium intake may therefore reduce muscle weakness, spasms and support normal muscle contractions through periods of intense exercise.
Magnesium is anti-inflammatory, and is also involved in the break-down of inflammatory chemicals associated with pain, so it may assist in minimising post-exercise muscle pain and inflammation.
Magnesium plays a role in energy metabolism. Essentially, magnesium maximises the ATP (aka energy) that is available for our working muscles (including the heart) during exercise. Research also suggests magnesium supplementation can assist athletes in achieving desired gains in strength, as part of a strength training program. This benefit may also be due to to magnesium’s role in supporting muscle protein synthesis.
Magnesium is also involved in helping our heart to contract naturally, and assists in the maintenance of healthy blood pressure.
In addition to this, magnesium plays a role in helping our cells effectively utilise oxygen, by increasing our capacity to uptake oxygen, which in turn reduces blood lactate levels (which may assist in the maintenance of peak athletic performance). Interestingly, early findings have revealed that magnesium can improve all of these factors in athletes, even when a deficiency is not present.