Magnesium for exercise recovery: Scientifically-proven benefits

Why magnesium aids recovery and how you can experience its scientifically-proven benefits

When it comes to boosting physical performance, never underestimate the importance of exercise recovery. Getting this aspect of your training in check will lead to better results, and there’s a lot more to it than a post-gym protein shake.

If you don’t know about the link between magnesium and exercise recovery, that might be because it’s not quite as Instagrammable as gym selfies or rainbow-coloured veg bowls – but don’t let that fool you. The humble mineral packs a huge punch that could take your traning performance to the next level. But first...

Why is exercise recovery important?

‘Putting in the work’, ‘hustle’ and ‘grind’ are all terms associated with going hard at the gym. And more effort during your workout leads to better results, right? Well, kind of... your habits outside of the gym are equally important. That’s because exercise puts stress on your body that it needs to fully recover from in order to reap maximum benefits from each session.

Some movements even cause micro-tears in your muscles. Sounds painful, but this is the process by which your muscles grow and is what makes us get stronger over time. This vital process takes place while your body is recovering from exercise. If you’ve ever ached after a workout, that’s the cause.

Aside from the obvious ways you can recover such as rest days and active recovery sessions, nutrition plays a key role – giving your body the tools it needs for optimum recovery - while good quality sleep is where most of the magic happens. A little extra attention paid to these areas will not only get you back in the gym quicker, but will also ensure that you’re making the most of your time spent training. After all, if you’re putting in the hours, you may as well make them count.

Magnesium and sleep

Magnesium can help with exercise recovery in a very simple way: by improving sleep – where much of the recovery process takes place. It does this by enabling relaxation in both the muscles and the brain by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the part of your nervous system that functions while you rest.

In fact, research (1) finds magnesium has such a great impact on your sleep that a deficiency in the mineral can lead to sleep problems and insomnia. Such sleep problems can lead to negative impacts on exercise performance, stamina and muscle growth because your body has not had adequate recovery following or leading up to a training session.

Magnesium and exercise recovery

During exercise, lactic acid builds up in the muscles and can lead to fatigue, tightness and soreness. To keep your performance at the gym optimal it’s crucial that you aim to keep your lactic acid levels in check. A study (2) on the effect of magnesium supplementation on lactate levels of athletes and sedentary subjects found that magnesium help decrease lactate levels within the muscles.

Low magnesium intake has also been linked to chronic inflammation, while one study (3) found people with the lowest blood magnesium levels have the highest levels of the inflammatory marker CRP (proteins that dictate the human body’s inflammatory response).

To throw an extra spanner in the works, you actually lose magnesium during exercise through sweat – just another reason why upping your magnesium intake can be so crucial for performance, with low levels of the mineral potentially leading to cramping and muscle soreness.

How to increase your magnesium intake

Magnesium is found in many foods you probably already consume, so actively upping your intake of these foods could be your best bet when it comes to exercise recovery. Almonds, flaxseeds and salmon are three examples of everyday foods that boast a high level of magnesium. The nutritional powerhouse leafy green, spinach, also rates highly, too.

Focusing on whole foods to get your magnesium fix is of course ideal, but if you’re looking for additional ways to top up those levels, then supplementation could be the solution. Just remember: not all supplements are created equally.

Magnesium and exercise recovery: Summary

Every cell and organ in your body requires magnesium to function. It helps with training recovery by improving sleep and reducing inflammation and lactic acid build-up during and post-exercise, while also playing a hugely beneficial part in other aspects of your health, such as lowering blood pressure, and boosting bone health. Try to include magnesium-rich foods in your diet (you can’t go wrong with a pre-workout banana) and consider supplementation if you regularly train. 

References

(1) The Magic of Magnesium. International Journal of Pharmaceutical Compounding. Jul-Aug 2008;12(4):306-9. Diane Boomsman.

(2) The Effect of Magnesium Supplementation on Lactate Levels of Sportsmen and Sedanter.Acta Physiologica Hugarica. 2006 Jun;93(2-3):137-44.  doi: 10.1556/APhysiol.93.2006.2-3.4. V Cinar, M Nizamlioğlu, R Moğulkoc.

(3) The Conversion of eIF-2.GDP to eIF-2.GTP by eIF-2B Requires Met-tRNA(fMet). Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications. 1991 Dec 31;181(3):1500-7. M Gross, M S Rubino, S M Hessefort.

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