Magnesium and other trace minerals are essential but commonly deficient, why?

Trace minerals are often deficient, the reason, mineral depletion in the soil and hence foods we eat.

Magnesium – the Essential Mineral for Recovery

Magnesium is needed for over 300 different enzyme reactions in the body. These include reactions that synthesize and use ATP – the body’s energy molecule. In other words, without magnesium your body couldn’t make or use energy!

Here are some of the other reasons why getting enough magnesium is essential for optimal sports performance and recovery.

  • Magnesium supports normal muscle and nerve function, in balance with calcium. Magnesium is an electrolyte mineral, so it allows nerve signals to travel around the body, including to and from the muscles; and it’s needed for the muscles to contract and relax as they should. About a quarter of the body’s magnesium is stored in the muscles.[1]
  • It’s needed for protein synthesis.This means it helps to convert the amino acids and peptides from the protein we eat into new proteins to build and repair muscle (as well as make the many other proteins the body needs).
  • Magnesium has a role in cell division.This means it’s necessary for all processes of growth and repair.
  • Magnesium may help to regulate glucose metabolism [2]. This means helping the cells to take up glucose efficiently where it’s needed – vital for optimal glycogen replenishment after exercise, as well as for performance.
  • Magnesium is needed for glutathione production[1]. Glutathione is a vitally important antioxidant that plays a key role in protecting our cells and tissues against oxidative damage (such as that induced by exercise).
  • Magnesium may be beneficial for sleeptoo. It’s thought to stimulate production of inhibitory (i.e. calming) neurotransmitters such as GABA. Having adequate levels of magnesium may also be necessary for proper function of the pineal gland, which secretes melatonin that helps us to feel sleepy at night. [3]
  • Magnesium supplementation has been found to increase free and total testosterone levelsin the blood [4]. Testosterone is of course an anabolichormone that supports muscle building and strength gain. 

Athletes are often low in magnesium

Physical exercise depletes magnesium.It’s used up more quickly by the body during exercise, but also lost in sweat and urine. In addition, athletes’ intakes of magnesium are often below recommended levels [5]. This means that athletes can be particularly prone to magnesium deficiency. This can be the case especially in athletes who are also controlling their weight [6], and in female athletes. 
We have certainly found this to be the case in athletes we work with. For example, when we run tests on players in the middle or towards the end of the season, their magnesium levels are much lower, and many require supplementation to support optimal performance and recovery. 

How can you make sure you’re getting enough?

A good start is to make sure you’re eating a good variety of plant foods, which are good natural sources of magnesium. Green leafy vegetables, seeds and nuts, and beans and pulses are among the best sources. 

Supplementation may also helpful for many individuals – not only mid-season football players! In fact, studies often find that a significant percentage of the general population (e.g. 35% of adults in one Dutch study [7]) don’t take in enough magnesium in their diet. And remember that ‘enough’ in these studies only refers to the minimum quota for the average person, not an individual who is very physically active and who is likely to need more.

When it comes to magnesium supplements, we often recommend a dose of 200 to 400 mg in the form of magnesium glycinate or magnesium citrate, preferably taken in the evening before bed (to support relaxation and sleep as well as recovery). It can be safely taken every day.

R5 Aminos contains 200mg of magnesium in citrate form per serving, in addition to a range of amino acids, vitamins, minerals and botanical extracts to support recovery, growth hormone release and sleep. 


Epsom salt baths – soak it in!

Magnesium can be absorbed through the skin too. For this reason, we often recommend regular Epsom salt baths for athletes. Again, it’s best if you do this in the evening to support sleep and relaxation. Pour 400g of Epsom salts or magnesium flakes into a hot bath and soak for 20-40 minutes. Repeat twice each week.

I get my Epsom salts from

1., (2013). Magnesium | Linus Pauling Institute | Oregon State University. [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 Dec. 2015]. (This link leads to a website provided by the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University.  Perform and Function is not affiliated or endorsed by the Linus Pauling Institute or Oregon State University.)
2. Santos DA et al. Magnesium intake is associated with strength performance in elite basketball, handball and volleyball players. Magnes Res. 2011 Dec;24(4):215-9. 
3. Nielsen FH, Lukaski HC. Update on the relationship between magnesium and exercise. Magnes Res. 2006 Sep;19(3):180-9.
4. Volpe SL. Magnesium and the Athlete. Curr Sports Med Rep. 2015 Jul-Aug;14(4):279-83. 
5. Barker, J. Insomnia options; natural medicine choices.  Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients.  April 2004
6. Cinar V et al. Effects of magnesium supplementation on testosterone levels of athletes and sedentary subjects at rest and after exhaustion. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2011 Apr;140(1):18-23. 
7. Natura Foundation. MAGNESIUM. Available: Last accessed 26th March 2015.