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Magnesium and Athletic Performance: Why Does It Matter?

Magnesium and Athletic Performance Stevie Lyn Smith Nutrition Tips

When it comes to sports nutrition one of the overarching themes is that athletes need more than their non-athlete counterparts. This rule doesn’t just apply to energy or macronutrients, it also applies to micronutrients, or vitamins and minerals. While there are many micronutrients, here we’ll be talking about one of the many important micronutrients for athletes – magnesium. How are magnesium and athletic performance linked?

What is Magnesium?

Magnesium is a mineral found abundantly in the body and is involved in over 300 metabolic reactions. These reactions are critical for normal body function. These include regulating muscle and nerve function, blood sugar control, energy production, blood pressure regulation, and the synthesis of bones and protein, among others.

Why Is Magnesium Important For Athletes?

Studies have shown that the more active you are, the more magnesium you need. [28846654] Higher levels of magnesium in the blood from supplementation have also been linked to improved performance. [17063625] Magnesium plays an important role in both aerobic and anaerobic energy production. It is also an electrolyte that is lost in sweat, resulting in athletes needing more, especially if they have a high sweat rate. The amount of magnesium that will be lost in sweat varies from person to person.but here a few signs that you may need more magnesium:

  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Leg cramps
  • Digestive issues
  • Abnormal heart rhythm
  • Headache

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, consult with your healthcare provider or a registered sports dietitian before starting any supplements.

How Much Magnesium Do You Need?

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for adults is 400-420mg/day for men.  For women who are not pregnant or nursing, the RDA is 310-320mg/day. While it might not seem like much, 48% of Americans are not getting enough magnesium from their diet.[29387426]

The good news is that magnesium is found in a wide variety of both animal and plant foods. 30-40% of what is consumed in foods is being absorbed by the body. Since athletes likely need more than their non-athlete counterparts, it is important to remember if an athlete is not eating enough to support their active lifestyle or excluding whole food groups, they are at a higher risk of being deficient in magnesium and other nutrients.

What Foods Have Magnesium?

Some good sources of magnesium include legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and green leafy vegetables, fortified breakfast cereals and other fortified foods,milk, yogurt, and some other milk products.

Here are some examples of foods to add into your usual routine to increase your magnesium intake:

  • 1 oz pumpkin seeds=156 mg
  • 1 oz almonds= 80 mg
  • ½ cup spinach= 78 mg
  • 1 oz cashews= 74 mg
  • ½ black beans=60 mg
  • 1 cup soy milk=61 mg
  • ½ cup brown rice, cooked= 42 mg

Magnesium and athletic performance is linked and these foods can help you reach your magnesium needs and improve performance.

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What About Magnesium Supplements?

When considering any supplement it is important to speak with your healthcare provider prior to starting any new supplements. It is recommended to have magnesium levels checked prior to adding starting supplementation. Too much magnesium can cause unwanted side effects including diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and abnormal heart rhythms. Having your blood tested for serum magnesium and RBC magnesium is currently the most accessible way to assess for a deficiency.

Even if you do not suspect being deficient, adding more magnesium rich foods can help you meet your needs. They will be adding magnesium while also getting other important micronutrients into their diet. If you do suspect you’re falling short on magnesium, reach out to an authorized healthcare provider. They can help you assess and address any nutrient deficiency. 

Stevie Lyn Smith RD Run Tri Bike Magazine Contributor

Stevie Smith is a Registered Dietitian, board certified in sports nutrition, who is here to help you fuel your busy lifestyle. As a life-long athlete, she is passionate about helping active individuals to improve performance without sacrificing their health and happiness.