Magnesium is a mineral that is often overlooked or not considered important, yet it is essential for over 300 chemical reactions and pathways in the body. Among others, these include metabolism of carbohydrates, protein and fats, the fatty acid pathway, DNA and RNA synthesis, activating B vitamins, secretion and action of various hormones, adrenaline production and overall adrenal gland function.
Bones, Muscles and Nervous System
Magnesium is especially important for runners, as its many roles involve metabolism and energy regulation, bone health and structure, maintaining muscle tone (blood vessels and muscles) and balancing the nervous system. Deficiency of this important mineral can lead to cramps, spasms, muscle twitches and weakness, osteoporosis and bone disorders, all of which are highly unfavourable for the seasoned runner.
It is often calcium that is considered to be the most important mineral for bone health, but magnesium is equally important, as it ensures calcium absorption into the bones, therefore, significantly reflecting on bone health.
Best Sources of Magnesium
Magnesium levels can be depleted in the body through exercise, so it is important to include magnesium-rich food sources in the diet, such as green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, seaweeds, and unprocessed grains such as oat and buckwheat. Drinking spring and mineral water helps to top up levels too!
Supplementing the Diet
I recommend supplementing the diet with a good magnesium supplement, especially if your diet includes processed food and sugar, and you are training a lot. Magnesium citrate powder is the best supplement to use, as it is magnesium in its purest form. Half a teaspoon in the morning mixed with water should be sufficient. Also, a nice relaxing bath with Epsom Salts (magnesium-rich salts) after a long run will absorb magnesium through the skin and help muscle tension and spasms.
As a runner, I use this supplement frequently, and have recently recommended to a friend suffering from restless leg syndrome (another ailment associated with magnesium deficiency). Her symptoms disappeared within hours.
Sophie's Top 10 Magnesium-rich Foods