Magnesium, the vital mineral for sports people that’s not only lacking in most people’s diets but also in nearly every multivitamin product on the market.

Few people today, realise the vital contribution to health and effect on sports performance that magnesium offers. This article explains what your body uses it for, how it can benefit your sport, the science that proves its place in your diet, what source of magnesium is best for supplementation and what foods you should eat to ensure your body is getting plenty of magnesium.

 

Magnesium Basics.

Magnesium is essential for the regulation of over 300 enzymes within the human body; these enzymes are responsible for the production, transport, storage and utilisation of energy throughout the body. Other vital functions carried out by magnesium include the regulation and control of nerves and nerve function and aids in optimal muscle contraction. This coupled with magnesium’s essential role in DNA synthesis and cell reproduction starts to paint the absolutely vital role of magnesium within the human body. And that’s just the beginning.

 

If you take a protein supplement its wise to ensure you are getting enough magnesium.

Today more than ever millions of people the world over take protein supplements to help recovery, build and tone muscle. However the consumption of higher amounts of dairy based protein powders will mean that your body is getting an abundance of natural dairy calcium which is a good thing but also potentially negative too(1). The increased intake of dairy calcium will increase the ratio of calcium to magnesium in the body. Magnesium is vital in the body for some of the already noted functions but also plays an important role in keeping calcium where it should be, in your bones, and where it shouldn’t; in your arteries, heart and kidneys. Magnesium helps ensure that calcium remains soluble in our blood and when the ratio of calcium starts to outweigh magnesium we are at risk from calcium. Experts in the field of magnesium suggest maintaining a ratio of 2:1 calcium to magnesium for optimal health.

 

Magnesium is essential for protein synthesis.

Sports people wishing to maintain a healthy lean body and those wanting to increase lean muscle tissue should ensure optimal magnesium intake. Intracellular magnesium plays a pivotal role in regulating protein synthesis.(2) Without adequate magnesium or when intracellular levels become depleted protein synthesis comes to a grinding halt. This one of the main reasons that ZMA products such as our Zinc Matrix have been so successful over the last decade, they provide significant amounts of highly bioavailable magnesium. This also clearly illustrates how the new Nexgen+ Sports multivitamin can be almost indispensable for today’s forward thinking sports people. The message is simple: if you want to build muscle make sure your diet has enough magnesium.

 

Magnesium and ATP energy synthesis.

Cellular energy relies on magnesium in a matter of fact way. Your body makes ATP ( adenosine tri phosphate ) the primary energy source for every single cell in your body. To make ATP active and useable in our cells magnesium is ionic-ally bound to ATP to make Mg-ATP. Recent scientific studies that have shown increased performance have theorised that the performance benefit, in part, is associated with increased efficiency of the body’s ability to make ATP and thus energy.

 

Don’t feel the burn, magnesium and lactate Levels

Very recent research (3) clearly indicates a direct link with magnesium levels and lactic acid build up during exercise. A study measured the effect of supplementing 10 mg/kg of bodyweight over a 4 week period, the effect was measurable and those taking the magnesium supplement had significantly lower levels of lactate post exercise than those who took the placebo. The study is of particular interest, in the real world, to endurance athletes because reducing lactic acid build up is seen as a significant advantage.

 

Magnesium and its action as an antioxidant.

Using antioxidants in sport is something that Reflex Nutrition has long recommended and is illustrated with the on-going evolution of AOC – Anti Oxidant Collection, a product designed specifically with sport in mind to help address the rigours of exercise. One of the new areas of research that has Reflex Nutrition focusses on is recent research with magnesium and the role it plays as an antioxidant. A military study (4) involving young cadets exposed to chronic levels of stress were assessed for levels of circulating markers of oxidative stress. The cadets with lower levels of magnesium showed higher levels of oxidative stress compared to those cadets with higher levels of magnesium. The study shows a clear link between magnesium levels and anti oxidant activity. This is another reason why it so important to keep your magnesium intake optimal, and not just for sports people, anyone leading a hectic lifestyle is exposed to stress in many its forms.

 

When supplementing, not all magnesium is equal.

Given the huge importance of magnesium and its role in health and sports it seems logical to supplement, unless of course you are consuming large quantities of magnesium rich foods discussed in the conclusion. Many vitamin pills contain magnesium and unfortunately many contain far too little to have any real world benefit and further they often contain magnesium oxide; proven in research to be only 4% bioavailable. Magnesium oxide is perhaps the least bioavailable form you could possibly use in a supplement, but it is one of the cheapest and perhaps this explains its widespread use. Reflex use magnesium citrate which is scientifically proven (5) to be more bioavailable than magnesium oxide, and even magnesium amino acid chelate (albeit by a small margin). The study also showed that magnesium oxide was no better than a placebo at raising magnesium serum levels. It’s therefore surprising to see just how many supplement companies still use magnesium oxide when research effectively shows that it’s worthless.

 

The RDA of magnesium is 375mg.

We’ve spoken about magnesium and its role in sport, its importance in protein synthesis, the need for additional magnesium when it consuming protein powders, its effect on energy, reduction in lactic acid build and more. It is easy to see why it is so important to ensure your body receives at least the RDA of 375mg per day. You can, and we recommend, that you ensure your diet provides a rich source of magnesium. Foods highest in magnesium are pumpkin seeds (approx. 530mg/100g), almonds (approx. 300mg/100g) and brazil nuts (approx. 220mg/100g), followed by vegetables like spinach (approx. 80mg/100g) and broccoli (approx. 30mg/100g).

The message is simple; make sure your diet contains plenty of magnesium either from high quality bioavailable supplements or magnesium rich foods; the best option is probably a little of each to guarantee a regular intake.



  1. Blood magnesium, and the interaction with calcium, on the risk of high-grade prostate cancer. 2011, Dai Q, Motley SS, Smith JA Jr, Concepcion R, Barocas D, Byerly S, Fowke JH.
  2. Evidence that intracellular magnesium is present in cells at a regulatory concentration for protein synthesis, Proc. Nati. Acad. Sci. USA Vol. 82, pp. 7324-7326, November 1985 Cell Biology.
  3. The effect of magnesium supplementation on lactate levels of sportsmen and sedanter. Acta Physiol Hung 2006 Jun; 93(2-3):137-44
  4. Alterations in magnesium and oxidative status during chronic emotional stress. Magnesium Research 2000 Mar; 13(1):29-36
  5. Mg citrate found more bioavailable than other Mg preparations in a randomised double‐blind study. Magnesium Research, Volume 16, Number 3, September 2003.