How to use magnesium to improve your running

Boost your energy levels, reduce muscle aches and improve your recovery sleep with magnesium for runners.

Magnesium is an important mineral for your overall health. For runners it holds the key to improved performance, faster post-run muscle recovery, reduced muscle cramps and better sleep. It’s estimated that 60% of the adult population do not achieve the recommended daily amount of magnesium. This is likely to be higher in runners as the more activity you do, the more magnesium you need, especially as the mineral is lost through sweating.

To understand why a magnesium supplement for runners is important, let’s start with understanding what magnesium is and what it does exactly.

What is magnesium?

Magnesium plays a role in over 300 enzyme reactions in the human body. It’s crucial for bone health with 2013 research linking adequate magnesium intake with higher bone density, as well as muscle recovery. In fact, 2023 research considers magnesium to be irreplaceable in processes directly impacting muscle health, stating that it plays a pivotal role in maintaining skeletal muscle integrity. Magnesium is also fundamental to maintaining energy levels and keeping your heart healthy and strong (including reducing blood pressure), with evidence also indicating an association between magnesium status and sleep quality.

Where do you find magnesium?

Magnesium is naturally contained in leafy foods, legumes, nuts, seeds and dark chocolate. Some of the highest sources of magnesium per 1oz/28g serving are:

  • pumpkin (156 mg)
  • chia seeds (111 mg)
  • almonds (80 mg)
  • cashews (74 mg)
  • spinach (78 mg)

However, food processing and intensive farming has reduced magnesium content. In fact, the magnesium content in fruits and vegetables has dropped considerably in the last fifty years.

All of this increases the need for a magnesium supplement.

What are the signs of magnesium deficiency in runners?

Some of the typical signs you may be deficient in magnesium are some of the following:

  1. Fatigue
  2. Muscle weakness
  3. Muscle cramps
  4. Nausea
  5. Leg stiffness
  6. Poor sleep

What are the different types of magnesium?

Magnesium in food is one of those nutrients that always comes bonded to another molecule. It’s not possible to get 100% pure magnesium without adding another molecule, and this other molecule is important as it can have an effect on your body, or the magnesium. It’s also important because the molecule can be different sizes meaning that you can get more or less magnesium per gram.

Magnesium in supplements commonly comes from magnesium-bearing rocks and minerals with all the associated environmental damage. Less common is to concentrate magnesium from sea water. This is more sustainable and the type we have used in POWER UP.

 

Are all forms of magnesium easily absorbed?

To ensure it’s easily absorbed by the body, the magnesium is bonded with another compound that helps to ferry it across the lining of the gut. Magnesium citrate for example is magnesium bonded with citric acid, and magnesium malate has been bonded with malic acid. The various forms include magnesium citrate, malate, aspartate, lactate, chloride, oxide, sulfate, carbonate, gluconate, threonate, chelate and glycinate. The key difference is that some are more absorbable than others with magnesium carbonate, magnesium chloride, magnesium gluconate, and magnesium oxide being the least absorbable and so should be avoided (unless prescribed). Citrate is considered to be one of the most bioavailable forms.

How much magnesium should runners take?

The recommended daily intake of magnesium in the U.K. is 300mg for men and 270mg for women (aged 19-64 years). But the magnesium requirements for runners (and those who perform strenuous exercise) increase by 10-20% . This is partly because magnesium is secreted when you sweat.

It’s best to take a magnesium supplement about 30 minutes before bedtime to support a more restful sleep, but don’t take too much (e.g. over 400mg) as this could cause stomach problems.

Magnesium benefits for runners

If you’re a runner you should seriously consider supplementing with magnesium as the more active you are, the more magnesium you need. Indications are that intense physical exercise such as marathons and triathlons can cause a significant loss of magnesium from all body compartments.

Plus, studies show that a magnesium intake of less than 260 mg/day for male and 220 mg/day for female athletes may result in a magnesium-deficient status, impairing performance and recovery.

Therefore, magnesium should be taken to boost energy levels and improve running performance, with research finding that even marginal magnesium deficiency impairs exercise performance and amplifies the negative consequences of strenuous exercise, such as oxidative stress.

Incredibly, just one week of magnesium supplementation is enough to noticeably improve running performance. And there’s evidence that magnesium supplementation may enhance athletic performance in individuals of all ages, and help to delay age-related decline in performance.

Increased muscle power to make you a better runner is also linked to adequate amounts of magnesium, with a study of 2,570 women linking a higher magnesium intake with increased muscle mass and power.

Plus, magnesium speeds-up muscle recovery and significantly reduces muscle soreness with a study finding that just one week of magnesium supplementation reduced muscle soreness in response to downhill running. Lactic acid build-up is also reduced when you have adequate magnesium as it helps move blood sugar into your muscles and dispose of lactate, which can build up during exercise and cause fatigue.

And its potential sleep benefits, supporting a deeper night’s sleep, should also be considered when looking at the benefits of magnesium for runners. After all, sleep is key to recovery and repair. As it stands, the research on the link between improved sleep and magnesium is thin, however there is a significant number of in-use examples showing a positive association.

What’s the best magnesium supplement for runners?

With so much choice, which magnesium supplement is best for runners? Here are some tips on what to look out for:

  • High bioavailability – Not all supplements will absorb easily into your body. Magnesium oxide, for example, is ‘inorganic magnesium’ and so absorbs very poorly. Look for a supplement that has high bioavailability such as magnesium citrate.
  • A magnesium powder – Although magnesium can come in tablet form, it absorbs into your body more quickly when in dissolvable powder form and so gets to work faster. The better the quality of the powder, the easier it will mix with no clumping.
  • A single not combined supplement – taking just one tablet that contains several vitamins and minerals may sound good on paper but it may not be as effective as you’d think. It’s not always advisable to take magnesium, zinc, and calcium together, for example, as the level of absorption of each mineral can be reduced, especially when taken in large doses. It’s better to take each of these minerals at intervals during the day.
  • No unnecessary additives – Take a look at the ingredients and are there pointless fillers and bulking agents? If so, avoid as you’re paying for needless additives.
  • The right dose – You don’t want to be taking a magnesium supplement with a dose of 400mg or above. More is not better when it comes to magnesium as you’ll experience side effects such as diarrhoea.
  • Added health benefits from the magnesium – As well as enjoying the benefits of the magnesium, does the supplement naturally contain any other trace minerals to support your overall health? If the magnesium has been distilled from the sea, it could include a long list of naturally occurring trace minerals.

Our recommendation: Power Up – The runner’s choice

Power Up is a magnesium citrate for runners – the ideal powdered supplement to support your everyday health and your running performance. Distilled from the Irish Sea and with 72 trace minerals it’s highly bioavailable and is a great choice of magnesium for runners looking to improve energy levels, recover faster, reduce muscle soreness and ‘fizzy legs’, and avoid both lactic acid build-up and cramping. Best taken in the evening for a more restful sleep, Power Up is easy to take and contains pure magnesium citrate, trace minerals and nothing else.

Are you feeling ready to Power Up your running performance?

Buy Power Up here