If I asked a group of athletes to name some key elements or minerals for human health & performance, common responses would probably include calcium, iron, fish oil, or even probiotics. A not so common answer would be magnesium. I’m hoping that after reading this post your response would have magnesium close to the top of the list!
I started taking magnesium a few years ago to help with constant night cramps in my calves. It’s worked wonders on the front but I also began to notice that I was sleeping better, my body wasn’t as sore & tight as it usually was and I had more energy. This sparked my investigation into Magnesium, The Master Mineral that I now find myself encouraging many of my clients to start taking on a daily basis.
Why is magnesium so important? Magnesium plays a pivotal role in the body being required for over 325 enzymatic reactions including synthesis of fat & protein, neurological functioning, muscle contraction & relaxation, cardiac activity and bone metabolism. It also has a crucial role in anaerobic and aerobic energy production via activation of the enzymes that produce ATP which is essentially the energy currency of the body. The highest concentrations of magnesium are found in your heart and brain which is why slight deficiencies in the body can have a dramatic impact on our ability to live, breathe, think and perform.
These days, even with a healthy diet, it can be difficult to get enough magnesium to meet the body’s demands. Some of the most magnesium rich foods include spinach, pumpkin seeds, almonds, beans, lentils, cashews and whole grain bread. Unfortunately many of the plant rich sources have been affected by modern day farm practices which has resulted in soil that is nutrient scarce translating to fewer nutrients in our food.
Interestingly our ability to metabolise and actually use magnesium is affected by several other lifestyle factors. High stress levels, mineral imbalances particularly calcium deficiency and metabolic illness can all impact the body’s ability to actually use the magnesium we give it.
How much magnesium do we need? This is hotly debated among health & fitness professionals. The recommended daily intake is 400mg a day for men and 320mg for women however some research suggests a minimum of 500mg for the average population. The higher your levels of exercise the more magnesium your body will need as you burn through your energy stores at a more rapid rate. There has been suggestion that elite level athletes may need in excess of 1500mg of magnesium to maximise athletic performance. It’s role in assisting with recovery is also essential.
A few common signs that may indicate magnesium deficiency can include muscle cramps or spasms, facial twitches, headaches, sleep problems, anxiety, depression or high blood pressure. For an athletic population the more you exercise and the harder you push yourself the faster you burn through ATP stores, without magnesium to help replenish energy stores your performance and ability to recover will be reduced.
As you can probably tell I’m a big believer in the power of magnesium. I take it religiously every night before bed, and a double dose on Sunday to prepare for the week ahead! I think ensuring adequate levels of minerals like magnesium should be a fundamental goal of maintaining good health and wellbeing. I don’t necessarily have a favourite brand, most reputable supplement companies have a magnesium supplement all of which are quite similar. Choose between powder or tablets depending on your preference, however tablets seem to be a little more cost effective.
We ask a lot from our bodies; we smash them at the gym then cramp them in crappy office chairs, we beat them down with modern day life stress, lack of sleep and for many poor nutrition; yet we expect to do it day in day out. The system will eventually start to break down. Time to start giving a little back to your body.
**Magnesium is generally safe for everyone to consume however it is always advisable to speak to a health practitioner before you start taking a new supplement.