Working Out? You Need Magnesium

When it comes to expert advice on how to recover after a strenuous workout, you might have heard trainers and professionals extolling the virtues of a magnesium bath. But if you’ve ever wondered why this powerhouse mineral is so widely recommended both before and after your workout session, we’re here to help. Read on to discover more…

The power of magnesium

Supporting over 300 processes in our body, magnesium is an essential mineral for supporting and maintaining optimum overall health. Responsible for regulating nerve function, blood sugar levels, cellular energy, strong bones, brain health and a healthy immune system amongst other things, about 60% of the magnesium in your body is found in bone while the other 40% is found muscles, soft tissues and fluids. Although it’s such an important mineral for our bodies, most of our magnesium intake actually comes from our food. However, thanks to modern farming methods and processed foods, caffeine and alcohol, the likes of which actually hinder our ability to absorb magnesium properly, magnesium deficiencies are hugely common; around 80% of the UK population according to a recent survey. Add to that the fact that most of us don’t enough fresh fruit, vegetables and wholegrains (all great sources of magnesium) and it’s no wonder the statistics are so high. If you do suffer from low magnesium levels, it’s likely to show up in lots of ways including poor sleep, low mood, lack of concentration and muscle cramps and soreness so it’s important to redress the balance as quickly as you can.

During your training session

Thanks to its important role in providing energy to cells via the production of ATP, sufficient levels of magnesium in your body when exercising are crucial – around 10-20% more is needed during a workout than when at rest. Magnesium also helps negate excess lactic acid build up, which can cause muscle ache and nausea. That happens when there isn’t enough oxygen to break down the glucose and glycogen produced by your body for energy. It also helps regulate muscle contractions thanks to its anti-inflammatory benefits and helps inhibit the production of calcium, so if you are cramping a lot during your workout, it could be another sign that your magnesium levels are low.

Post-workout recovery

One of the key benefits of magnesium is its ability to improve sleep quality, which as any expert will tell you, is an essential part of any training and recovery programme. It also helps your body handle stress better by acting on the NMDA receptors in the brain which help enhance brain development and decrease fatigue and anxiety. In short, making sure you have a good supply of magnesium will enable you to switch off from stress more easily, regulate any post workout cortisol spikes and induce sleep better and more easily.

How to take it

Eating a diet that is high in plenty of magnesium-rich foods is the best first step for everyone, so up the ante on things like leafy green vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, raw cacao and fish such as salmon, mackerel and tuna. If you do want to supplement elsewhere then look for magnesium glycinate which is easily absorbed, gentle on the stomach and directly aids the liver and muscle tissue. Magnesium threonate is said to be particularly helpful in aiding better sleep and relaxation. While the RDA varies depending on age and gender, aim for between 310mg and 420mg per day. Another option is to up your intake through your skin via bath salts and body products like muscle rubs. As well as reaping the benefits of the magnesium, the very act of taking a warm bath or taking time out to moisturise can be a potent stress reducer too, so don't underestimate the benefits of a bit of self-care.