Athletes: Get More Powerful With Magnesium | STACK

Become a Better Athlete. Sign Up for our FREE Newsletter.

Athletes: Get More Powerful With Magnesium

June 22, 2014

Must See Nutrition Videos

The foods we eat can change the way our bodies use energy, thereby affecting our athletic performance. Magnesium deficiency is one of the most common deficiencies in the United States. This mineral is found in every cell in the body; it supports over 300 enzymatic reactions, and it plays a significant role in how you produce energy.When we talk about "energy," we are really talking about adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a molecule our bodies produce. When we eat, our bodies metabolize the food, breaking it down and creating ATP. Our cells use ATP to keep us alive and moving around. For athletes, training helps their bodies produce ATP more efficiently, leading to improved work capacity and better endurance. Learn more about how ATP works.

In order for ATP to become usable, it must bind to a magnesium ion, which makes the mineral very important. Without adequate amounts of magnesium in our diets, our cells cannot produce the high amount of ATP molecules we need to maximize our athletic performance. As levels drop further, muscle spasms can occur and electrolyte balance can be disrupted. Magnesium also contributes to bone development, which can be adversely impacted if levels are too low.

Most people in the U.S. who eat lots of processed foods have subpar levels of magnesium. This hinders their energy production, but it's not low enough to show a deficiency in the blood during a blood test. As an athlete, you need to consume adequate amounts of magnesium to ensure your body is producing as much ATP as possible.

RELATED: How Junk Food Can Mess With Your Head

Men need about 420 mg and women need about 320 mg daily. Getting the mineral through food is the best option. You can purchase over-the-counter supplements, but they can cause diarrhea and their absorption rates vary from person to person. Foods high in fiber are typically good sources of magnesium. Options include almonds, spinach, kale, pumpkin seeds, black-eyed peas, brown rice, quinoa, mackerel and tuna.

Here are a few athlete friendly meals that are high in magnesium.

  • 2 tbsp. pumpkin seeds or slivered almonds over oatmeal at breakfast (136 mg)
  • ½ cup beans added to a salad or wrap for lunch (60 mg)
  • 1 cup of cooked spinach with ½ cup quinoa and 3 oz. tuna for dinner (300 mg)
Get more ideas for adding magnesium to your meals by checking out Five Non-Boring Ways To Make Fish.

Katie Moore
- Katie Moore is a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer. With degrees in both dietetics and exercise science and health promotion, Moore customizes well-rounded programs...
Katie Moore
- Katie Moore is a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer. With degrees in both dietetics and exercise science and health promotion, Moore customizes well-rounded programs...
More Cool Stuff You'll Like

Macronutrients, Part I: Carbohydrates

What Are Carbohydrates: What You Need to Know Macronutrients are nutrients that are required in large amounts for the body to function daily. This...

Bone Broth Breakdown: Should You Eat This 'Super' Soup'?

Building a Healthy Pizza: Tips and Recipes

What You Need to Know About Protein

How Fatty Is Your Thanksgiving?

Types of Yogurt: What's New and What's Best for Athletes

6 Ways to Power Up Your Oatmeal

8 Recovery Foods Recommended by Sport Dietitians

Pre-Game Nutrition: What to Eat Before You Compete

Russell Wilson Wants You to 'Eat the Ball'

We Tried Cricket Protein Bars. Should You?

3 Nutrition Hacks to Improve Your Sports Performance

The Nutrition That Powers Joe Thomas's Iron-Man Streak

What You Need to Know about Fats

How to Build a Meal Plan to Suit Your Body Type

How to Turn Nutrition Goals Into Actions

4 Common Nutrition Questions Answered

Low Workout Stamina? Your Diet May Be the Culprit

Why Can't I Stop Gaining Weight?

Do You Need Protein Immediately After Your Workout?

Simple Nutrition Tips for Faster Workout Gains

The 5 Foods That Will Rule 2015

Is All Sugar Bad for You?

How and Why to Eat Mindfully

Eat Like a Champion, Part 1: How to Build Muscle in the Kitchen

Eat Like a Champion, Part 2: How to Lose Fat Safely

Why Chicken Soup Strengthens Your Immune System

Coconut Sugar: What Is It, and Is It Good for You?

Game-Day Nutrition for Soccer Players

A Healthier Milk, Brought to You By Coca-Cola. Wait, What?

The 7 Best Nuts for Your Health and Performance

Avoid Pigging Out: How to Conquer Food Cravings

The Food Rules for Building Muscle

Cheerios With Quinoa: Coming Soon to a Grocery Store Near You

3 Tips to Eat Healthy on a Budget

7 Pro Athletes Who Succeed Despite Having Horrible Diets

6 Fruits and Veggies You Aren't Eating But Should Be

Study Ranks Paleo As Second-Worst Diet

Post-Holiday Chocolate Health Benefits