Magnesium is one of the most plentiful minerals in our bodies, and it’s responsible for over 300 chemical reactions—nearly every cell in the body utilizes magnesium in some capacity! This mineral is located in your bones, teeth, and red blood cells. Plus, it’s responsible for proper cardiac function, nerve function, the contraction and relaxation of your muscles, the production of energy, and so much more.
Because magnesium is involved in many important processes in the body, it’s crucial for a runner to have sufficient intake of this mineral. A magnesium deficiency can have an impact on your athletic performance, and supplementing with it may help your training stay on track. Here’s how:
- It supports your metabolism. Magnesium leads the charge when it comes to helping your body convert glycogen to glucose—your body’s primary source of fuel when you engage in strenuous physical activity. When your body lacks magnesium, it can shift to anaerobic metabolism—which causes lactic acid to accumulate in your muscles, creating discomfort, spasms, and fatigue. Even a small deficiency can cause your running to be less than your best, so if you’re experiencing some of these symptoms, you may want to consider upping your magnesium intake.
- It reduces inflammation. A 2018 study in the Journal of Inflammation Research showed that a deficiency in magnesium could promote the release of inflammatory chemicals like cytokines and increase production of free radicals—resulting in chronic, low-grade inflammation. Chronic inflammation can lead to pain, stiffness, and a multitude of health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. If you eat foods that are rich in magnesium like spinach, dark chocolate, almonds, avocados, and others, you might be able to ward off this sneaky source of inflammation. For women, the recommended daily intake of magnesium is between 350 to 400 mg, depending on age or pregnancy. For men, the range is between 400 to 420 mg.
But if you’re unable to obtain adequate levels of magnesium from your food sources for one reason or another, a magnesium supplement may be instrumental in helping you keep excess inflammatory compounds at bay. And, let’s face it—the less inflammation you’re body has to deal with, the more comfortable it will feel as you run.
- It enhances your body’s ability to recover. When you participate in demanding activities, your body sweats more and has an increase in urinary output, which can lead to a shortage of magnesium in your body, according to research from the Nutritional Magnesium Association.
When magnesium becomes depleted, you’re more prone to muscle cramps, spasms, feeling weak or fatigued, muscle and nerve twitches, and other unpleasant symptoms. Although magnesium supplementation alone hasn’t been linked to an increase in athletic performance, increasing your intake by 10 to 20 percent on intense running days can stave off these symptoms and hasten your ability to recover.
- It improves sleep. If you’re struggling to get a good night’s sleep, magnesium supplementation before bed might be just the thing you need to get some serious shut-eye. Magnesium is naturally calming to your musculoskeletal and nervous systems, reduces the stress hormone “cortisol,” and helps you wind down before you go to bed. Plus, research shows magnesium may lessen the severity of insomnia, and sleep is a vital part of sustaining any running program.
Supplementing with magnesium is quite safe, though, high levels of it can cause abdominal cramping or have a laxative effect. To reduce the chances of bowel upset, stick to 300-400 milligrams of magnesium per dose. If you experience a laxative effect, cut back on the amount you’re taking.
Understanding this mineral, and utilizing it properly, may help take your training to the next level. If you’re uncertain about whether or not magnesium supplementation is right for you, please speak with your doctor about individualized recommendations.