Replenishing electrolytes after strenuous exercise is crucial, and magnesium has a particular role in muscular health and recovery. Researchers studying marathon runners found magnesium to be the most highly depleted electrolyte in athletes, followed by potassium. We look at the health benefits of magnesium for sore muscles and how to make sure you are getting enough of it in your diet and from any supplements.
Bananas are an abundant food source of both magnesium and potassium, as well as being a conveniently portable high-energy snack - no wonder this year's Wimbledon saw the total consumption of 2,100kg of bananas by players. Magnesium, for athletes especially, is a vital mineral required for the mechanism of muscle relaxation to occur.
With a lack of magnesium, our muscles would remain in a permanent state of contraction, which is why this mineral is a particularly important consideration for athletes and the fitness community. The combined factors of stresses placed upon the muscles and the natural loss of electrolytes during exercise means that the replenishment of magnesium for muscles and their recovery is crucial.
Beyond the matter of muscular function, magnesium is a powerful anti-inflammatory mineral offering protection against illnesses such as Alzheimer's Disease and arthritis. It is a vital mineral for general health as it assists in the body's ability to absorb calcium into the bone matter, and is crucial for nerve function. Without sufficient magnesium intake, elevated levels of calcium occur in the bloodstream which can contribute to heart problems and poor bone health. A long-term deficiency can contribute to the development of osteoporosis, particularly in women.
Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency
Mild magnesium deficiency is relatively common amongst the modern day general western population, believed to be the by-product of modern farming and food processing methods. Over 60% of the western population is believed to be deficient in the mineral, with 30% of the US and UK population consuming below the recommended daily intake within their daily diet.
Symptoms of low-level magnesium deficiency include muscular symptoms such as cramping, muscle spasms, and prolonged muscle soreness and tension without improvement or recovery. Mild magnesium deficiency can also present symptoms of poor sleep, anxiety and an inability to relax.
The most precise method to determine a mild deficiency is generally believed to be cellular testing, as only 0.3% of the body's magnesium is stored in the blood serum.
Magnesium and nutrition
Foods rich in magnesium include dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, bananas, nuts and seeds, dried apricots, fish, legumes, natural yoghurt and dark chocolate. Those with an existing magnesium deficiency, or those with digestive issues that impede upon correct nutrient absorption, may wish to take a high-quality oral supplement. As with all vitamin and mineral supplements, it is advised to check the appropriate dosage with a healthcare professional. Requested blood work can determine your existing blood serum levels of magnesium, and whether you are in need of supplementation.
As exercise leads to the natural depletion of electrolytes and trace minerals in the body, replenishing magnesium lost during exercise can aid muscle recovery and negate potential soreness and aches after an intensive work out. Sports drinks, designed to replenish electrolytes lost during exercise, contain magnesium, and certain mineral waters contain a trace amount of the mineral. Whilst nutritional sources are excellent supplies for daily maintenance, there are other options which maximise muscular absorption of magnesium.
Transdermal magnesium for muscle recovery
An option which is gaining strong popularity in the sporting and fitness community is to replenish magnesium using topical products. Transdermal products such as bath salts, lotions, and sprays allow magnesium to be absorbed instantly into the skin for immediate assimilation by the muscles. This is an excellent choice, particularly for those without an existing long-term magnesium deficiency, who wish solely to aid muscle recovery after intensive sports and exercise.
Magnesium bath salts
Bathing in magnesium salts supports muscle recovery on two levels, efficiently utilizing the dual benefits of immersive heat therapy and the replenishment of depleted magnesium stores from exercise-induced electrolyte loss. This is why Epsom salts are such an important bathroom and locker-room staple of many professional athletes and dancers. Epsom salts are widely accessible from pharmacies, and magnesium bath flakes are readily available online.
Magnesium recovery sprays and lotions
Increasingly some athletes have made a topical magnesium spray or lotion part of their sports kit, utilising it for efficient assimilation into the bloodstream, effectively negating the effects of muscle strain and tension after exercise. As with magnesium salt baths, this method immediately replenishes the body, but with the added time-saving convenience and portability of the product.
The use of a topical magnesium product is particularly beneficial for those undergoing intensive weight training - such as bodybuilders - and those undertaking sports involving short periods of sprinting. Both activities have a particular tendency to cause shortening and bulking of the muscles, which causes heightened stress to them. Replenishing magnesium can help negate soreness and tightness associated with intensive muscle stress.
Magnesium is a vital mineral and ensuring your requirements are met is necessary to optimum health. Boosting your intake of magnesium via nutritional and topical means can aid muscle recovery after exercise, negate post-exercise muscular discomfort, and therefore can potentially assist muscular recovery and boost athletic performance.