Of the many vitamins and minerals in our bodies very few are more abundant than magnesium. When it comes to minerals, magnesium ranks fourth overall in the body in terms of the amounts found in our bodies, with most of that found in the bones. Outside of the bones magnesium can still be found everywhere in the body from the muscles, all the way down to the extracellular fluid. Magnesium supports over 300 internal functions, but none are more important to the athlete than amino acid activation, creatine phosphate formation, cardiac muscle contraction, and protein synthesis. Just this information alone makes it blatantly obvious how important magnesium is to the human body--and especially the athlete. But there is even more to understand when it comes to magnesium and the athlete.
Whether you are a marathon runner or a powerlifter, cardiovascular health plays a role in your activity. In a study that was published in 2006 by the “British Journal of Sports Medicine,” the researchers showed that supplementing subjects with 15 mmol of magnesium twice a day improved heart function and increased exercise tolerance. The study was done on subjects with coronary artery disease. It found that on top of the other benefits, magnesium also reduced the chest pain that exercise can produce in people afflicted with coronary artery disease. Now the chest pain might not concern you unless you have coronary artery disease, but the other findings can certainly apply to any athlete. On top of that, magnesium is also thought to be a natural calcium channel blocker, which independently relaxes vascular tissue--causing vasodilation without the help of nitric oxide. This means that having sufficient magnesium levels could help to naturally increase circulation and lead to better pumps (without the use of any of the common pre-workout supplements on the market).
Aside from the benefits on the cardiovascular system, magnesium also provides another very important benefit to athletes. In studies, magnesium has been shown to reduce and prevent muscle cramps and spasms. It is thought that the body loses many minerals, including magnesium, through sweat during prolonged periods of exercise. Magnesium plays a large role in the proper functioning of the sodium/potassium pump, and without it the potassium that your muscles need cannot be properly pumped into the muscle. While not conclusive, some studies also suggest that rubbing magnesium oil on your skin after a workout will reduce post exercise soreness and speed up recovery time. It is believed that one of the best ways to absorb magnesium is topically, through the skin. This allows the magnesium to go directly to the muscles to aide in the restoration of phosphocreatine and ATP without having to go through the digestion and absorption process.
There is very little evidence showing toxicity level with overdoses of magnesium in healthy individuals. The main symptom of a magnesium overdose is diarrhea, which is nothing anybody wants in the middle of a tough workout. The one exception is in people with kidney issues. In a normal body, the kidneys are able to quickly filter out excess magnesium, but diseased kidneys have a difficult time getting rid of excess magnesium at a rapid rate. While those concerns should be taken into consideration, the real issues come when your body is lacking magnesium. The first symptoms to present are depression and an ill feeling. As your body becomes more depleted, you will experience headaches, pain, and stiff muscles. If it gets worse, you can expect calcium deposits, muscle spasms & high blood pressure, jumpiness and panic symptoms. The issue with most of these symptoms is that they are so general that they could be caused by any number of ailments and the proper diagnosis might be missed or take a long time to discover. If this is the case, you may experience these symptoms until you figure out that you are deficient and take steps to remedy the deficiency.
It is easy to see how important magnesium is to everybody, but especially the athlete. As athletes, we tend to push ourselves further than we should and lose magnesium in the process. Without magnesium, many of the other supplements we take for stronger muscles and reduced fat storage become pretty much useless. The human body is an amazing thing and it is captivating that one little piece can make such a difference in every other part of the complex machine that we call the human body.
Vitamins, herbs, minerals, and supplements the complete guide by H. Winter Griffith, M.D. Copyright 1998
Solve it With Supplements by Robert A. Schulman, M.D. Copywrite 2007
Arthur Thares – Arthur is an accomplished personal trainer and writer. After working for multiple fitness centers, he decided to start his own in-home training company to work with clients on a more intimate level. He is ACE-certified and holds a degree in Health and Exercise Sciences. In his spare time, he enjoys reading up on the latest trends in nutrition, homeopathy and fitness.