We all know the importance of recovery when it comes to training performance.
Unfortunately, many of us struggle to get in the recovery we need due to time constraints, lack of quality sleep, and nutritional deficiencies.
That’s why any aid we can find to help us improve recovery can have a dramatic impact on our training and performance.
In that regard, one supplement that is becoming increasingly popular and well-researched is magnesium.
Magnesium is an essential dietary mineral, the second most prevalent electrolyte in the human body, and involved in more than 300 chemical processes inside your body.
Most importantly to runners, magnesium plays a critical role in energy production, muscle recovery, improved sleep and bone development.
Yet, about 75% of runners are deficient in magnesium. So, is supplementing with magnesium something that could help your performance and recovery?
In this article, we’re going look at the research on…
- How magnesium can enhance training and recovery.
- Why magnesium supplementation can improve your quality of sleep.
- Why athletes are more prone to magnesium deficiency.
- How to supplement magnesium effectively.
Why Magnesium is Important for Performance and Recovery
One of the main performance benefits of proper magnesium levels and potential supplementation is an increase in muscle oxygenation and aerobic capacity during high intensity exercise.
One study demonstrated that running, swimming and biking times significantly decreased when participants were given magnesium supplementation.
The data indicated that this was due to improved blood oxygenation.
Lower stress levels
In addition to the pure aerobic benefits, the athletes given magnesium in the same study also experienced a lower stress response to the intense exercise, indicating less recovery would be needed after the session.
For runners who suffer from stress fractures, and women in particular, many studies have shown that magnesium supplementation can enhance bone mineral content, which can help strengthen bones and prevent bone-related injuries.
Reduction in Muscle Cramping
Another specific benefit to runners is that magnesium supplementation may help reduce cramping.
Skeletal muscle, responsible for your muscle contractions, stores approximately 35% of the body’s total magnesium. The function of magnesium found in skeletal muscle is to work against calcium to prevent inappropriate firing.
As such, when serum magnesium levels are low, the chance of cramps increases dramatically. Supplementing with magnesium may therefore be especially important for marathon runners.
Why Magnesium is Important for Sleep
Better sleep can accelerate muscle repair, enhance metabolism, sharpen concentration, and make you more motivated to get in your harder workouts.
That said, as much as we understand the critical role sleep plays in the recovery process, most runners simply can’t find the time to consistently get in the quality sleep they need.
So, what if we could find a way to maximize the sleep we can get by squeezing every bit of benefit out of the precious hours we are able to snooze? That’s where magnesium may come into play.
Reduces Cortisol Levels for Deeper Sleep
Cortisol is your body’s main stress hormone and works to control your mood as well as your sleeping patterns.
The most common reason for elevated cortisol levels is stress, which can come from our daily work, family and other obligations.
Luckily, numerous studies have shown that supplementing with magnesium can lower coritisol levels and improve the length of time in a deep-sleep state.
This in turn helps maximize the recovery benefits of the sleep you are able to get, even when you’re not getting enough.
Why Runners are at Greater Risk of Magnesium Deficiency
To start, magnesium deficiencies are more common in developed countries because refined grains are poor sources of magnesium and other sources of magnesium, like nuts and leafy vegetables, are not a common staple in most diets.
Second, the magnesium we do eat from foods isn’t easily absorbed. Magnesium bioavailability appears to be in the 20-30% range.
Therefore, most of us are already at risk of magnesium deficiency due to our normal diets.
For runners in particular, studies have shown that sweating significantly depletes magnesium levels. One study showed that as much as 12% of daily magnesium loss could be attributed to sweat loss.
Numerous studies have also demonstrated that serum magnesium concentrations in marathon runners immediately following a race were significantly lower than prerace values due to sweat loss (and again could contribute to cramping issues many marathoners face.
How to Supplement Effectively
If you’re looking to supplement with magnesium, you should aim to take 400-500mg daily with a meal, preferably in the evening as this will help more with sleep.
Selecting the right type of magnesium supplement is also important. You’ll want to take an organic form that contains all seven critical forms – chelate, bisgylcinate, oxide, malate, orotate, taurate and citrate.
Many cheaper supplements contain synthetic forms, which have low bioavailability and absorption rates, and only one or two of the critical forms.
Having all 7 forms of magnesium in your supplement is critical because each form “specializes” in helping a specific area.
For example, Magnesium L-threonate is best know for cognitive enhancement and orotate is best for recovery and athletic performance.
My recommendation is Magnesium Breakthrough from Bioptimizers because it’s made with high quality, organic magnesium with no preservatives and contains all 7 critical forms. You can also use the discount code run10 to save 10 percent.
I’ve looked at a lot of different magnesium supplements and this is the one that best combines optimal dosage, all 7 critical forms, and doesn’t contain any filler.
In short, based on all of the available research, adding a quality magnesium supplement with all 7 critical forms to your daily routine can be one of the easiest ways to improve sleep, recovery and training performance.