We must begin to include micronutrients into nutrition discussions – rather than just macronutrients (i.e. fats, proteins, carbohydrates, and fiber) – as a key step towards longevity and enhanced athletic performance. A perfect starting point is magnesium!
Micronutrients, as opposed to macronutrients, are required by the body only in small amounts and include vitamins and minerals. Though they are required in very small amounts (typically expressed in micro- and milligrams), they are just as, if not more, important than macronutrients.
It is much easier and thus more prevalent to become deficient in micronutrients vs. macronutrients. This deficiency increases the risk of many dangerous and potentially life-threatening conditions/diseases including, but not limited to, obesity, birth defects, cancer, osteoporosis, and heart disease.1
Magnesium is an extremely important mineral (micronutrient) that we will be examining here.
What’s with all the hype about magnesium?
You may have only heard of magnesium in passing before or you may have even studied it. Regardless, magnesium is a necessary starting point because of its versatility as a mineral in the human body.
This becomes important when you realize that research is showing a consistent consumption of magnesium in the US that is below what is required for optimal functioning.2 Almost every disease under the sun has an increased chance of being expressed as a result of this “hypomagnesemia” – i.e. high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, sudden cardiac death, asthma, colon cancer, etc.
Magnesium is a necessary component in more than 300 reactions within the body, including muscle and nerve function, protein production, blood sugar and pressure control, bone development, normal heart rhythm, and DNA production.3 This nutrient is not talked about enough in the basketball world as it has extensive scientific research supporting its necessity in the athletic realm.
Your performance on the court (and recovery off the court) may be significantly enhanced by getting your magnesium levels in check. Knowledge is power.
Magnesium and athletics
Testosterone is considered an anabolic hormone that plays a key role in increasing fat-free mass, muscle size, and strength – all of which serve as a benefit in most sports.4 This hormone, though it has been the topic of much controversy over the years in the field of athletics, is nonetheless an important marker of a healthy athlete.
Magnesium appears to have a positive influence on “anabolic hormonal status”, which includes testosterone, and it may be used (as a supplement or from food, or both) to offset the decrease in testosterone that accompanies overtraining and aging (older individuals commonly have suboptimal magnesium levels).5
Oxygen uptake, energy production, and electrolyte balance are all needed in order to have skeletal muscles function properly. Magnesium is involved in all of these processes.6 You cannot expect to have success on the court if your muscles’ needs are not being addressed. This is when injuries begin to surface.
Magnesium also enhances the availability of glucose (major energy source in cells) in the blood, muscle, and brain during exercise and improves the uptake of glucose by these tissues.7 It literally ensures that there is enough fuel available in the bloodstream and then assists in driving that fuel into the working muscular and brain cells during physical activity. Magnesium also appears to delay the accumulation of lactate in muscle during exercise, which may therefore delay the onset of muscle soreness and fatigue, thereby prolonging performance.8
How much magnesium do we need?
This will vary based on individual circumstances, however, as a general “ballpark” value based on dietary surveys and human experiments, male athletes should be above 260 mg/day and female athletes above 220 mg/day.9 The benefits of magnesium during exercise become evident specifically in those individuals who are deficient. It is not one of those things where more must be better.
These values of 260 and 220 differ from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) values of approximately 400 mg/day for males and approximately 300 mg/day for females.10
It is important for you to schedule an appointment with your physician and have your micronutrient values tested rather than rely on subjective sources that don’t take your specific situation into account!
How do we get our magnesium?
Ideally, from foods. The picture above covers the bases. As a general rule of thumb though, green leafy vegetables, unrefined whole grains, white potatoes, nuts/seeds, and legumes are all great sources of magnesium.11, 12 However, given the fact that the soil in which our food is grown in today is depleted of key nutrients (magnesium included), magnesium supplementation may be indicated, in which case you will speak to your physician for further suggestions.
If you want to dominate on the court, fatigue later than everybody else, and recover faster, then you must gain an interest in micronutrients. Magnesium is only one of many essential micronutrients that each play an ample role in athletics. Magnesium is like the LeBron James of micronutrients – it’s all over the place and has its hand in everything.
Continue following my posts for nutritional information to learn how specific nutrients will benefit you as a basketball player and begin to elevate your game – starting on the cellular level!
For questions/comments: firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/hoopshealth
- Calton, JB. Prevalence of micronutrient deficiency in popular diet plans. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2010 June 10; 7:24
- Rosanoff A, Weaver CM, Rude RK. Suboptimal magnesium status in the United States: are the health consequences underestimated? Nutrition Reviews. 2012 Mar; 70(3):153-64. Epub 2012 Feb 15.
3, 10, 11. Magnesium Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. 2016 Feb
- Bhasin S, Woodhouse L, Storer TW. Hormones and sport: Proof of the effect of testosterone on skeletal muscle. Journal of Endocrinology. 2001; 170, 27-38.
- Maggio M, De Vita F, Lauretani F, et al. The Interplay between Magnesium and Testosterone in Modulating Physical Function in Men. International Journal of Endocrinology. 2014 Mar 3.
6, 9. Neilsen FH, Lukaski HC. Update on the relationship between magnesium and exercise. Magnesium Research. 2006 Sep; 19(3):180-9.
7, 8. Chen HY, Cheng FC, Pan HC, et al. Magnesium Enhances Exercise Performance via Increasing Glucose Availability in the Blood, Muscle, and Brain during Exercise. PLoS ONE. 2014 Jan 14; 9(1).
12. Volpe SL. Magnesium in disease prevention and overall health. Advances in nutrition. 2013 May 1; 4(3):378S-83S.