Unlike the main macronutrients carbohydrate, fat, and protein, magnesium doesn’t get a whole lot of attention. Perhaps this is because many people are unaware of the role magnesium plays in nearly every biological process. In fact, magnesium is involved in over 600 hundred chemical reactions in the body responsible for:
- Protein formation
- Muscle movements
- Nervous system regulation
- Gene maintenance
- Converting food into energy
Magnesium is considered a major mineral, meaning your body requires higher amounts compared to trace minerals like iron or zinc. Magnesium is also an essential mineral meaning your body doesn’t produce it; therefore, it must be obtained through food or supplementation. Despite the widespread availability of foods that contain magnesium, many health organizations suggest that only about 50% of people in the United States get the daily recommended amount.
Athletes have a higher need for magnesium as it enhances sports performance and aids in the recovery process. During exercise the body needs an extra 10-20% more magnesium. This is due to the fact that magnesium helps to move the sugar from your blood into your muscles for optimum energy.
Magnesium is also vital for athletes because it allows the muscle to go from a contracted state to a relaxed state. When confronted with a magnesium deficiency, muscles will stay tense for too long, which can lead to cramps.
Magnesium also disposes of lactic acid build up in the muscle which, without removal, can lead to pain and decreased performance. Magnesium levels drop when you perspire during exercise furthering the need for more magnesium to provide your body with the power it needs.
Surprisingly, magnesium also has anti-inflammatory properties enabling your body to recover faster by reducing swelling and joint pain.
The body stores almost all (99%) of the body’s total magnesium in the bones, muscle, and other soft tissues while only 1% is stored in the blood. This makes testing blood levels of magnesium a little tricky. How does an athlete know if they’re deficient in magnesium or not? Signs of low magnesium in the body include:
- Muscle cramps
- Poor recovery after workouts
- Poor sleep patterns
There are many options for ensuring that you get an adequate amount of magnesium. These include changing your diet to include higher magnesium foods, magnesium supplementation, and topical treatments including bathing with magnesium flakes
Excellent food sources of magnesium include, pumpkin seeds, spinach, swiss chard, dark chocolate, black beans, quinoa, halibut, almonds, cashews, and avocado.
Magnesium supplementation is a simple way to ensure the body is receiving adequate amounts. Magnesium is best absorbed in the body with the aid of vitamin C and calcium while high fiber meals and carbonated drinks can hinder absorption. Absorption is also enhanced when magnesium supplements are taken in smaller doses twice per day.
While there are some topical magnesium supplements, one of the best ways to help speed the recovery process is through adding magnesium flakes to a bath. Epsom salts can be used as they are high in magnesium, however, magnesium flakes will help muscles recover even faster.Despite magnesium’s critical responsibility in the body’s various functions, many athletes remain unaware of its role in optimizing health and peak performance. Getting adequate magnesium helps to recover more quickly and ensures an athletes’ performance will be at its peak.