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Nutrition
Marisa HeinzeJanuary 2, 2023

Magnesium: Before or after sports?

Every athlete will have heard it before: Magnesium is probably especially important for people who are active in sports, because this mineral offers numerous health benefits. A study has shown that 70% of the population is insufficiently supplied with magnesium.
But why should athletes in particular pay attention to an adequate supply of magnesium? What are the benefits of magnesium? And should magnesium be taken before or after sports? We answer these questions here.

What are the benefits of magnesium?

Magnesium is involved in a large number of cellular functions. These include, for example, glycolysis, DNA transcription, protein synthesis and the stabilization of cell membranes. Furthermore, the intake of magnesium has various positive effects that can be directly noticeable. Magnesium:
  • reduces fatigue,
  • contributes to normal muscle function,
  • participates in the functioning of the nervous system.
Magnesium is also a component of back and teeth. Therefore, a sufficient supply of the mineral has a positive effect on various areas:
  • mental and nervous functions
  • muscle, bone and dental functions
  • electrolyte balance
  • good energy metabolism
  • protein synthesis
  • cell division processes

Daily demand and consequences of magnesium deficiency

It is important to supply our body with magnesium every day, as our body cannot produce it itself. It is recommended to consume 6 milligrams of magnesium per kilogram of body weight. For women, the optimal amount is therefore about 300 milligrams per day, and for men 350 milligrams.
However, the need for magnesium increases in athletes. The production of sweat and urine during athletic training increases magnesium losses by up to 20%. It is therefore important for athletes to pay attention to their magnesium balance, especially during intense training sessions or competitions.
Athletes on restrictive or low-calorie diets are at high risk of magnesium deficiency. Such a deficiency can also occur if the daily micronutrient requirement is not met or the amounts ingested are insufficient in relation to physical activity.
However, severe magnesium deficiency is rather rare. The exact amount of this nutrient in the body is best determined by a simple blood test.
What are the consequences of a magnesium deficiency? Low magnesium levels affect everyone's health. In athletes, there are significant effects on performance and health. First of all, magnesium appears to lower blood lactate levels.
This substance, better known as "lactic acid," is produced during intense physical activity. An increase in lactate levels limits muscle performance and leads to fatigue. For this reason, magnesium supplementation is associated with improved athletic performance.

Magnesium before or after sports?

For maximum success in sports, an adapted training program and sufficient rest breaks are essential. But your diet and the vitamins and minerals you take in also play an important role.
Research in the journal Nutrients shows that magnesium helps to improve the availability of glucose in the brain, muscles and blood. This, in turn, boosts performance and resistance.
The mineral can also improve one's heart rate. Conversely, magnesium deficiency after exercise is associated with increased muscle weakness, cramps and structural damage to muscle fibers.
In general, the question is whether magnesium should be taken before or after exercise. Most experts agree that it makes sense to take magnesium after exercise to speed muscle recovery. Many athletes take a dose of magnesium in the form of a dietary supplement in the evening, shortly before going to bed.

A faster metabolism and reduced stress level

But also the intake of the mineral before sports offers some advantages. As already mentioned, magnesium contributes to a healthy energy metabolism. This is of particular interest for endurance athletes such as cyclists, triathletes or marathon runners: Energy bars consumed during sports are converted into energy much faster if they contain magnesium.
Taking magnesium after exercise helps the body to calm down. So magnesium can reduce stress levels and make your muscles relax after an intense training session. By the way, cramps that occur immediately after exercise are most likely due to a magnesium deficiency.
Therefore, it is beneficial to strictly monitor your nutrient intake and, if necessary, add magnesium in the form of supplements to prevent possible joint and muscle damage.

Should athletes take in magnesium supplements?

It is true that the magnesium requirements of people who participate in sports are higher. However, this does not mean that taking magnesium supplements is absolutely necessary. First and foremost, it is a matter of improving the absorption of the substance through the diet.
However, if supplements are prescribed, the amounts should not exceed 250 milligrams per day. Too much can lead to side effects such as nausea and diarrhea. The most natural way to absorb magnesium is through diet.
If supplementation is necessary, you can find special magnesium supplements in pharmacies or drugstores. Ideally, these should contain vitamin B6 in addition to magnesium, because vitamin B6 helps magnesium penetrate the cells.
Magnesium supplements with taurine are also particularly suitable, as taurine is a good cell receptor. Another tip: Avoid supplements that contain magnesium oxide. This has a low bioavailability.

How do I integrate magnesium into my diet?

Magnesium is not only available in the form of dietary supplements. As with all vitamins and minerals, diet is the key to supplying the body with this mineral. Very rich in magnesium are the following food categories: Whole grains, legumes, dark chocolate with high cocoa content (min. 70%) and seafood. The foods richest in magnesium also include:
  • nuts
  • green leafy vegetables
  • swiss chard
  • oats
  • brown rice
  • pine nuts
  • sunflower seeds

Conclusion: Magnesium before or after sports?

In summary, magnesium can be taken both before and after exercise, as both offer benefits. Due to its ability to intervene in metabolic functions, magnesium is a nutrient that should not be missing from the diet of athletes.
Endurance athletes are supported by a magnesium supply during training, for example in the form of energy bars. An adequate magnesium supply maintains good muscle health and prevents performance problems.
The mineral also supports recovery processes, strengthens the immune system and prevents injuries and illnesses. In general, it is important to take in sufficient magnesium, whether through the diet or with the help of dietary supplements.
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