Over the summer break I was getting stuck into reading my Christmas present “Tools of Titans” by Tim Ferriss. A summary of the interviews he has undertaken with elite performers of the world ranging from pro athletes, silicon valley investors and leading medical researchers.
One supplement that kept popping up with multiple elite athletes and medical researchers was magnesium. Now as a Physio I am the first to recommend cramp eze or magnesium for patients suffering with cramps either at night or during physical activity. However the recurring theme throughout these people was daily or twice daily supplementation of magnesium.
This got me intrigued to learn more.
Do you have a guilty pleasure of white bread? Been neglecting green leafy vegetables? Not into almonds? Like a few alcoholic beverages? OR are you on a paleo diet?
Well you should probably read on…
Do you like to train hard? Sweat a lot? Do an endurance sport such as triathlon, running, jiu jitsu?
Cramping a lot? Feeling tired and irritable?
Magnesium is the second most common mineral in our cells after potassium with about 1/5 found in our muscle and ⅗’s found in bone.
This work horse mineral is involved in a number of roles in the body such as the synthesis of fat, protein and carbs, getting our nervous system to move us, muscular contraction and most importantly in relaxation of muscle, cardiac activity and bone metabolism.
What is really interesting is dietary intakes of magnesium in the west have declined by more than half of those recorded 100 years ago and is still falling. Wow.
There have also been associations discovered between low magnesium and a number of chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s, hypertension, type 2 diabetes and chronic migraines.
Being a Sports Physio I am solely interested in its effects on the athlete. How can we squeeze more performance out of the human body?
There is now good evidence to support supplementation in people with low magnesium levels to improve cardiovascular performance.
Supplementation of 390 mgs of magnesium per day for 25 days resulted in an increased peak cardio fitness output and reduction in heart rate in male athletes
In a group of active students daily supplementation of magnesium experienced significant increases in endurance during submaximal performance
10 women were depleted of magnesium for 8 weeks and were found to have reduced metabolic efficiency, increased oxygen consumption and an increase in their heart rate during exercise (not great). The more they were depleted of magnesium the harder they had to work cardiovascularly.
Email me if you want a copy of the above studies.
I haven’t found any studies demonstrating increased performance in those people with already good levels of magnesium.
So you are saying it will improve my athletic performance? Sounds like I need some magnesium ASAP… Where does one get it from?
My good friend and one of Sydney’s best nutritionists Veronika Larisova (Chief Bar/ Agoga) recommends that you should always attempt to get your magnesium naturally as our body processes this more efficiently.
She recommends pine nuts, almonds, green leafy vegetables (especially spinach) and bananas consistently as a good start.
For time poor people put some spinach, banana and almonds in a nutribullet (the best infomercial purchase ever) for a big dose of magnesium.
Veronika also states that for severely deficient people this may not be enough. Such as someone with persistent cramping or someone who gets the stitch when running. For athletes she recommends to make sure the supplement has magnesium chelate specifically for muscle function. Her favourite magnesium supplement is the bioceutical ultra-muscleze which is available at most pharmacies. It is also the one I personally take and have found incredibly rapid at eliminating post training cramping.
So if you had a very merry time over the holiday period combined with a return to full training combined with this ridiculously hot summer we are having, you may be magnesium deficient. Purchase some spinach and almonds and enjoy a potential increase in cardio performance!