John Davis

Written by John Davis

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Will Magnesium Improve Recovery and Increase Strength?

Runners are always interested in one of two topics; injuries or how to get faster.

If you are struggling with some kind of niggling pain, or even worse, you have been forced to take time off, you spend a lot of your day searching for answers on the internet.

(Although we hope you can stop searching after reading our ultimate injury guides – we put a lot of time and energy into them to make sure they give you all the answers you need.)

If you have been able to stay healthy, and keep those negative thoughts at bay, your mind is likely filled with how to get faster.

This is the area we have been diving deeper into recently.

As runners we need every little boost we can get to reach that next big goal. A few seconds could be the difference between a Boston Qualifier or having to wait another year.

A few weeks ago, we looked at how doing high-intensity strength circuits can naturally boost your testosterone and growth hormone levels, leading to better strength and recovery. Today, we’ll look at another side of the hormone equation: nutrition.

Your intake of vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients is critical to your success as a runner, but the interplay between all of these is very complex. We’re going to examine just one relationship: the link between magnesium in your diet and testosterone levels in your blood.

There are so many foods we need to include in our diet, but what makes Magnesium so special? Interesting findings about why we all need more to run better and how it can improve our long term health in many ways.

How Does Magnesium Affect Testosterone Levels?

Testosterone, of course, is the “male hormone”—it’s an anabolic hormone, meaning it’s responsible for increases in muscular strength, size, and recovery.

Higher testosterone levels are beneficial for a runner in training, which is why testosterone and its precursors are some of the most commonly-abused doping agents in professional running.

While testosterone creams and injections are bad news, naturally boosting your testosterone levels could be a big help if you’re struggling to recover from your training.

Does it matter if my magnesium levels are low?

Scientific research has uncovered evidence that low magnesium levels, especially in older men, may be connected to lower testosterone levels. A 2011 study by researchers at the University of Parma in Italy demonstrated a strong correlation between magnesium levels and testosterone levels among almost 400 men age 65 or older.1

Here’s the deal:

The higher the concentration of magnesium in a man’s blood, the more testosterone he had.

The authors investigated this from a public health perspective, since low testosterone levels are also linked to higher mortality rates and longer hospital stays in the elderly.

Good to know, right?

Another study published by Vedat Cinar and colleagues in the journal Biological Trace Element Research examined whether increasing magnesium levels with a supplement had any effect on testosterone levels in martial arts athletes training for 90-120 minutes per day.2

Over the course of four weeks, the martial artists took either a magnesium supplement providing about 150% of their recommended daily intake, or a placebo pill. Testosterone levels were measured at the beginning and the end of the study. Both groups were also compared to a control group that did not do any exercise.

Cinar et al. found that both groups of exercising martial artists experienced increases in testosterone levels compared to the sedentary controls, but the magnesium supplement group experienced a larger increase.

Beyond this, the research is fairly limited—the connection between magnesium and testosterone is a relatively new discovery, so there are not a lot of large, high-quality studies.

To date, no other studies have attempted to replicate Cinar et al.’s results. Partly because magnesium is used in so many integral parts of your body’s biochemical inner workings, it’s not entirely clear why magnesium levels should be connected to testosterone levels either.

Just as we would expect:

In a 1995 review article, Henry Lukaski of the USDA Agricultural Research Service argues that, although some studies indicate inadequate intake of micronutrients like magnesium can impair performance, it’s better to strive to eat foods that are rich in magnesium, not take a supplement.3

What kinds of foods are these?

Conveniently, it’s a lot of the healthy foods you should be eating anyways.

Many fruits, vegetables, and dairy products are fairly high in magnesium, as are include spinach, black beans, and soy milk.4

Increasing the Magnesium in your diet could make you recover faster and a stronger runner! Click To Tweet

Does Magnesium Have Any Other Health Benefits?

With all the nutrition information that is swirling around, it can be hard to know which minerals are good for our long term health, and which are a priority. Magnesium has a lot more to offer a runner than just improving recovery:

  • Reduces your risk of a heart attack and improves heart health to prevent hypertension
  • Works with Calcium and Vitamin D to support your bone health
  • Lowers your risk of Type II diabetes by helping with the regulation of glucose in your system
  • Reduces PMS and menopause symptoms
  • Prevents migraines, constipation, and kidney stones
  • Relives asthma symptoms
  • Help with depression

It get’s better:

Magnesium has even been used to treat sleep disorders.

Although the link between testosterone levels and dietary intake of magnesium is still tentative, it’s just another reason to start eating more magnesium-rich foods, especially if you’re a male masters athlete.

If you consistently keep your dietary intake of magnesium high by eating a lot of nuts, green leafy vegetables, oatmeal, and other magnesium-rich foods, you might notice a boost in your strength and your recovery capabilities thanks to an increase in testosterone levels.

Another reason to include more Magnesium in your diet! Click To Tweet

How Do I Add Magnesium to My Diet?

Okay, we have you convinced. It is time to add magnesium to your diet, but what is the best way to go about it? And what do we need to keep in mind when adding magnesium.

Don’t worry, we have you covered.

What is the clinically effective dose of magnesium to take per day?

The recommended dosage for non runners is 300 to 450 mg per day (women should fall on the lower end, and men on the upper end).

Research has found that runners can safely consume up to 800mg per day, but some experts recommend even higher dosages.

If you are willing to give the higher magnesium a try, 1000mg per day is the highest dosage we would recommend.

That being said, it would be safe to slowly increase your consumption of magnesium, to allow your body to get used to the increase. We would recommend starting at the average consumption per day, and building it up to the 800-1000mg maximum over the course of a few months.

How much magnesium is 800-1000mg?

Its all very well us recommending this dosage, but what does that really mean?

Most of us do not have mg of various supplements memorized, but to give you more of an idea, the average Magnesium Supplement contains a tablet or gel of around 400mg each, so you would start with one per day, and build up to two over the course of a few months.

Now:

As we know, consuming the mineral in our diet is always preferable, so how would we get that kind of volume of magnesium in the food that we eat?

Here are some of the best magnesium rich foods, with their dosage per serving:

  • 2 cups raw spinach- 50mg
  • 1 cup cooked spinach- 155mg
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds- 325mg
  • 3oz fillet of Mackerel- 82mg
  • 1 cup cooked edamame- 148mg
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice- 86mg
  • 1 avocado- 58mg
  • 1 medium banana- 32mg
  • 100g dark chocolate- 327mg

The best way to increase your dosage would be to add these foods into your diet, as they will have other health benefits in addition to what we talked about earlier, but we realize that can be tricky to get 800-1000mg into one day, so the best solution would be to take one supplement, and try to add in a few of these foods each day.

What do I need to avoid when taking magnesium?

It has been well documented that some vitamins and minerals affect the absorption of one another. Magnesium is no exception to this.

Ideally, magnesium supplements should be taken separately to other supplements, but as we talked about in our iron and calcium supplement podcast episode with expert Pam Hinton, that can be almost impossible to take all the supplements on their own.

There has been some discussion as to whether magnesium and calcium should be taken together, but there is no real research to support this.

Some studies have found magnesium can have a calming effect on muscles, which may help with sleep. It is best to take with food, possibly with your evening meal, but just before bed can also be effective.

One thing to consider:

Magnesium can reduce the effectiveness of antibiotics, so be careful if you are taking them for other health issues. Keep this in mind if you are going to make magnesium a part of your daily routine.

Finally, magnesium overdose, also known as hypermagnesemia is possible, but rare. As always, we would recommend talking to your doctor before increasing your magnesium dosage to the higher end of the recommended spectrum. If you have had kidney problems in the past, this is especially important.

All about Magnesium from @Runners_Connect. Very helpful post! Click To Tweet

 

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References

Maggio, M.; Ceda, G. P.; Lauretani, F.; Cattabiani, C.; Avantaggiato, E.; Morganti, S.; Ablondi, F.; Bandinelli, S.; Dominguez, L. J.; Barbagallo, M.; Paolisso, G.; Semba, R. D.; Ferrucci, L., Magnesium and anabolic hormones in older men. International Journal of Andrology 2011, 34 (6pt2), e594-e600.
Cinar, V.; Polay, Y.; Baltaci, A. K.; Mogulkoc, R., Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Testosterone Levels of Athletes and Sedentary Subjects at Rest and after Exhaustion. Biological Trace Element Research 2011, 140 (1), 18-23.
Lukaski, H. C., Micronutrients (Magnesium, Zinc, and Copper): Are mineral supplements needed for athletes. International Journal of Sport Nutrition 1995, 5, S74-S83.
Magnesium: Fact sheet for health professionals. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/#h3.

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