An Athlete's Guide to Magnesium
Magnesium is a critical nutrient, involved in over 300 metabolic reactions in the body. Unfortunately, under-consumption of magnesium in the diet is widespread in the United States, especially among athletes. Some of the most important physiological functions of magnesium include:
Energy production (carbohydrate and fat metabolism)
Building structural proteins
Utilization of other nutrients (vitamin D and calcium)
Possible Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency
Fatigue and muscle weakness
Numbness and tingling
Poor quality sleep
Abnormal heart rhythms and coronary artery spasms
Dietary Sources of Magnesium
Green leafy vegetables (spinach, Swiss chard)
Nuts and seeds (almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, Sesame seeds, and Brazil nuts)
Legumes (beans, lentils, edamame)
Whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, oats)
Herbs (chamomile, parsley, hops, sage, fennel, dandelion, alfalfa, and cayenne)
Magnesium in Dietary Supplements
Certain individuals will need to supplement with magnesium in order to ensure optimal magnesium status. Magnesium supplements are available in capsules, tablets, powders, and even topical preparations, but it’s important to know the form of magnesium in the product. Some of the most common forms of magnesium include: glycinate, citrate, malate, chloride, lactate, and oxide. Small studies have found that magnesium in the aspartate, citrate, lactate, and chloride forms are absorbed into the body more completely and are more bioavailable than magnesium oxide and magnesium sulfate.
You should consult with your healthcare provider or schedule an appointment with us before starting magnesium or other dietary supplements.
How Much Magnesium Do I Need?
According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the daily recommended allowances (RDA) of magnesium are around 400mg per day for men and 310mg for women, which gradually increases with age (RDA). The RDA guidelines work fairly well for the average “healthy” person. However, there are many situations and health conditions that result in increased needs beyond the RDA:
Intense physical activity (endurance competitions, prolonged sweating, weight lifting)
Gastrointestinal issues (problems with digestion/absorption)
Autoimmune conditions, kidney disease, and other chronic health problems
Medications that deplete magnesium (antacids, antibiotics, diuretics, etc.)
Genetics (COMT and other genetic variants)
How Do I Know if I’m Getting Enough?
Magnesium can be assessed reliably in blood and urine in most circumstances. However, it’s not typically part of “standard bloodwork” that your primary healthcare provider may be monitoring. Furthermore, there are some nuances to interpretation of magnesium testing that may account for why some debate exists about the best testing methodology in the medical literature.
However, having interpreted countless magnesium test results over the years, I find red blood cell (RBC) magnesium (especially when correlated to other biomarkers associated with magnesium deficiency) to be one of the most valuable for athletes. RBC magnesium makes good clinical sense in the non-acute care setting, since the majority of magnesium’s functions occur within body cells.
If you’re interested in having your RBC magnesium level checked or anything else related to your health, give us a call, email, or reach out through the contact page on our website. We would love to hear from you!