Magnesium, Muscles and Movement

Have you ever  been biking, hiking, ski touring or running for miles on end and experienced uncomfortable muscle spasms or cramps? Maybe you thought you were just dehydrated. But what if I told you you were actually lacking magnesium?

 

Although Magnesium is buddy-buddy with sodium on the periodic table, it happens to be a micronutrient important for supporting our health in many ways. Athletes with an increased energy expenditure lose micronutrients through sweat and stress on the body. Magnesium is an electrolyte, which means athletic pursuits (especially long, sweaty endurance pursuits) deplete stores of magnesium and require athletes to consume more than the average person requires⁵.

Almost two thirds of Americans do not meet the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for magnesium.¹. This means most people do not include sufficient quantities of magnesium-rich foods in their diet, let alone understand the importance of magnesium intake for  everyday health.  Various studies have found that athletes across sport disciplines and age groups are also do not consume sufficient magnesium⁷. More long-term research is necessary for determining magnesium’s long term benefit as an ergogenic aid for athletes. However, current research suggests this mineral’s role in energy metabolism and muscle function should benefit athletic performance in the short term and long term⁷. A few examples of foods rich in magnesium include legumes, nuts, seeds, and leafy greens³. Because of its pivotal roles in the body, a lack of magnesium intake could compromise health and performance for athletes. 

 

 So, let’s review the finer details about magnesium and dive into whether or not a magnesium supplement makes sense for you.

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key things you should know about magnesium

  • It is involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body, including but not limited to: the synthesis of protein, fat, and nucleic acids; muscular activity; bone maintenance; and brain function⁶.
  • Magnesium is the second most abundant mineral in all cells (behind potassium)⁶.
  • Our bones store 60% of magnesium, while our muscles hold 26% and our cells contain 7%¹. 
  • This micronutrient is required for converting muscle glycogen to glucose since the ATPases required for ATP (the main energy currency in the body and primarily used for exercise) are magnesium-dependent enzymes. Without magnesium, accumulation of H+ leads to the increase in acidity and eventual muscle failure⁶. 
  • Studies have shown that combined Vitamin D and Magnesium supplementation corrects Vitamin D deficiency better than Vitamin D supplementation alone.

magnesium as a laxtive

Wait, what? You read that right. Magnesium is a powdery silver metal in its pure form, but as a supplement that is not well absorbed, it sits in your gut. The body reacts by flooding the gut with water to dilute the concentration of magnesium in the gut. This leads to many trips to the bathroom. This is why choosing a bioavailable form of magnesium is important. This also explains why Gnarly chose magnesium citrate over alternative forms of magnesium found in other supplements.

magnesium for your muscles and bones

Magnesium is necessary for the active transport of calcium and potassium across cell membranes for muscle contraction, nerve impulses, and heart rhythm⁴. All of our cells have a semipermeable membrane (which you may have learned in middle school science class). Therefore, to move the necessary ions across the membrane, enzymes, energy, or a transporter are required to facilitate the movement to a region of higher concentration inside the cell.

Photo: Tim Behuniak

This is where the magic happens and magnesium plays a role in this transport necessary to cell function. Additionally, exercise’s strain on muscle cells is associated with magnesium depletion². This is part of the reason why adequate magnesium concentrations can contribute to optimal muscle performance. It is also critical for muscle ATP production also known as glycolysis². 

 

All humans see a decline in bone mass accumulation after age 30. After a quarter-life crisis ensues, people should focus on maintaining bone health to lose as little mass as possible while aging.  Because of magnesium’s interconnected relationship with vitamin D, it plays a major role in bone formation, regulates bone homeostasis, and lowers an individual’s risk for osteoporosis².

magnesium for movement

The importance of magnesium during exercise is two-fold. First, exercise increases urinary excretions. The more you pee, the more magnesium you are likely to lose through urine loss, as this is how most magnesium is dissipated from the body⁴. Our kidney does a wonderful job preserving magnesium and filtering it out of urine. But, with increased stress on the body from exercise,the kidney has a lot going on. So, the magnesium is not filtered out. 

 

Second,  we have to consider magnesium’s role in glycolysis. Without turning this into a biochemistry lesson, all you need to know is glycolysis is a necessary process for extracting energy from carbohydrates, which is the primary fuel source for exercise (especially at high intensity). To turn glycogen (which is glucose stored in muscle and liver) into usable energy (ATP), glycolysis takes place. Magnesium needs to be present for this process to happen.

In conclusion, if you regularly incorporate legumes, nuts, seeds, leafy greens and fish in your diet, you may not be magnesium deficient. If you do not regularly incorporate these foods, you could consider supplementation to cover your bases. Gnarly Nutrition’s Baseline Mg Citrate is easily absorbed by the body.  This has a major positive impact on how your gut will feel and how effective the product will be for you. Using Gnarly’s Mg Citrate with Gnarly’s Vitamin D3 Baseline product allows these nutrients to work in synergy, which promotes bone health and helps streamline their essential functions in the body. It’s up to you whether or not it makes sense to supplement with magnesium. But if you do, it’s worthwhile to choose a form your body will easily absorb.

Photo: Matt Burbach

works cited

  1. Clarkson, Priscilla M., and EMILY Haymes. “Exercise and Mineral Status of Athletes: Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, and Iron.” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 27.6 (1995): 831-43. Web.
  2. Ligia J Dominguez, Mario Barbagallo, Fulvio Lauretani, Stefania Bandinelli, Angelo Bos, Anna Maria Corsi, Eleanor M Simonsick, Luigi Ferrucci, Magnesium and muscle performance in older persons: the InCHIANTI study, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 84, Issue 2, August 2006, Pages 419–426, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/84.2.419
  3. Magnesium-Rich Food Information. (n.d.). Retrieved December 05, 2020, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/15650-magnesium-rich-food
  4. Office of Dietary Supplements – Magnesium. (n.d.). Retrieved December 05, 2020, from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/
  5. Scott-Dalgleish, Jo. (2020, October 12). Magnesium: A guide for endurance athletes. Retrieved December 05, 2020, from https://www.endurancesportsnutritionist.co.uk/magnesium-a-guide-for-the-endurance-athlete/
  6. Why magnesium matters to athletes. (2018, June 04). Retrieved December 05, 2020, from https://www.peakendurancesport.com/nutrition-for-endurance-athletes/supplements/magnesium-matters-athletes/
  7. Volpe, Stella Lucia PhD, RD, LDN, FACSM Magnesium and the Athlete, Current Sports Medicine Reports: July/August 2015 – Volume 14 – Issue 4 – p 279-283
Lizzie Larkins

Lizzie Larkins

Lizzie Larkins is a recent graduate from the University of Vermont where she earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Nutrition and Food Science. She raced all four years on the UVM Nordic Ski Team and is now transitioning into a full-time ski coaching position. Lizzie is a coffee connoisseur, runner, backcountry skier, and type 2 fun enthusiast who thrives on gratitude and positivity!

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