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Is Magnesium Good as a Pre-workout? According to a Dietitian

Connor Sellers
Published by Connor Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED

Having trained hundreds of clients, I’ve noticed that quite a few of them took magnesium right before their training sessions.

I’ve never personally used magnesium as a fitness supplement, so I wanted to check if it could have some substance as a pre-workout. For this reason, I collaborated with a team of dietitians to establish the role of magnesium as a pre-workout, and I used it over the course of 4 months.

In the guide below, I’ll share my results.

Quick Summary

  • Athletes and other physical fitness enthusiasts may experience magnesium losses of up to 20% during training or competition.
  • Deficiency in magnesium increases the risk of muscle damage and may impair recovery and performance.
  • It’s easy to top up magnesium intake levels through a proper and balanced diet and supplementation.

4 Reasons Why Magnesium Is Important for Exercise

Top view of different food

Magnesium is important for exercise because it greatly affects muscle contraction and relaxation. The mineral is also associated with muscle strength [1].

Understand that when you train, your body goes through your magnesium pretty quickly, especially during moments of intense training [2].

It’s because magnesium is needed to sustain muscle movement, oxygen delivery, and elimination of lactic acids from the muscles.

The mineral is also crucial for muscle recovery because it impacts protein synthesis and eliminates muscle cell inflammation [3].

Now, here’re four major reasons you need to consider magnesium supplementation for your physical fitness.

1. Magnesium Boosts Energy Levels

The most fundamental benefit of magnesium intake is the provision of energy.

The presence of magnesium activates enzymes in producing ATP, the "energy currency” of the body [4].

When ATP breaks down, it releases energy for all the muscle contraction. Understand that the turnover is quite high when working out tirelessly, so ATP needs to be synthesized quickly.

The synthesis of ATP requires magnesium-dependent enzymes, which are needed for efficient hydration.

Without an adequate supply of magnesium, your body can't generate energy stores fast enough to meet the demands of muscle contractions.

A shortfall limits energy production, resulting in lethargy, fatigue, and muscle cramps.

From my experience, I've felt more re-energized after taking the magnesium supplements. Almost instantly.

The electrolytes make a big difference in my energy production reserves, and I no longer feel fatigued or have chronic tiredness.

In short, magnesium enhances exercise performance and maintains high energy levels.

2. Reduces Post-Workouts Aches and Pains

Man having a pain in gym

Before I began magnesium supplementation, my muscles would get sore and stiff to the point that I'd avoid exercising for days to a week.

I had tried everything I could think of, from self-massage, hot yoga, and ice to warm bath, but nothing seemed to work.

But magnesium has been a real game-changer, and I hardly get DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) [5].

And it makes sense because workouts usually lead to the build-up of lactic acid, which results in soreness.

While a bit of soreness is nice knowing you've done a good workout, too much of it can lead to problems moving the next day.

But magnesium helps with better muscle relaxation, eliminating cramping and twitching. The mineral regulates muscle contractions while increasing glucose availability.

It also binds or blocks calcium, a key element in preventing muscle pain [6].

3. Magnesium Supplements Help with Sleep

Magnesium may improve your sleep by regulating the neurotransmitters that are directly related to sleep [7].

The neurotransmitters play a crucial role in your nervous system, helping your body activate mechanisms that relax and calm you.

I take magnesium supplementation for sleep and haven’t experienced any sleeping problems.

Before, I would wake up in the middle of the night and not be able to go get back to sleep. And yes, it was related to exercise because it would only happen on days I was working out.

Taking magnesium has virtually eliminated the issue, and quality sleep has benefited my physical performance.

4. Magnesium Helps with Stress Management

A relaxed woman in yoga mat

Magnesium has a profoundly calming effect on nerves and is a muscle relaxer.

It allows the contracted muscles to relax and eliminates the irritability, anxiety, and periodic confusion you may feel post-workout.

Taking muscle supplements makes you feel more relaxed, allows better sleep, and provides more energy [8].

What are the Signs of Magnesium Deficiency?

A person who lost their appetite

The signs of magnesium deficiency include loss of appetite, low energy levels, fatigue, muscle weakness, and nausea.

As the symptoms worsen, numbness, irregular muscle contractions (spasm), and abnormal heart rate rhythm can occur.

Other signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency include:

  •  Marginal magnesium deficiency imparts the workout muscle performance and will amplify the negative consequences of intense physical exercise.

For example, without sufficient magnesium levels, your body switches to anaerobic metabolism.

This allows the build-up of lactic acid, which is usually associated with muscle soreness and spasms [9]:

  •  A magnesium deficiency can also lead to muscle and nerve cramps and shin splints, especially after the workouts. It impedes the recovery period and makes you susceptible to injuries.
  •  Chronic deficiencies in magnesium are also implicated in reduced bone health. Remember, nearly half of the body's magnesium is stored in the bone and is essential for bone health.
  •  Inadequate intake is associated with bone disorders such as osteoporosis, anemia, and bone loss.

Generally, the effects of magnesium deficiency are more pronounced in athletes because of increased sweat and urine production during training and competition.

Depending on the intensity of the exercises, athletes may experience losses of up to 20% [10].

Athletes who are particularly at a greater risk for magnesium deficiency are those practicing restrictive dieting or those who cut calories for weight loss.

What’s the Best Way to Top Up Your Magnesium?

Close up image of a cereal

The best way to top up your magnesium is by consuming unrefined whole grain cereals such as whole meal bread and pumpkin seeds.

But that’s not the only source of magnesium. Generally, magnesium is distributed in plant and animal foods.

Some other sources of magnesium include Green leafy veggies, nuts, peas, seeds, and lentils.

  • The green leafy vegetables such as spinach, cabbage, and broccoli.
  • Foods containing dietary fiber such as dark chocolates, tofu, seeds, and whole grains.
  • Tap, bottled, and mineral water. The level of magnesium may vary depending on the source and brand.

However, contrary to popular belief, milk and dairy products aren't rich sources of magnesium.

Also, magnesium is a fairly soluble mineral, which is why boiling veggies can result in significant mineral losses.

In cereals and grains, the mineral is concentrated in the germ and bran, which is why white refined grains have low magnesium content compared to unrefined cereals.

FAQs

Is It Good To Take Magnesium Before A Workout?

Yes, it’s good to take magnesium before a workout, especially if you’ll be performing high-intensity workouts. Magnesium is necessary for pre-workout because it improves muscle function and exercise performance in the long term.

Is Magnesium Good For Building Muscle?

Magnesium is good for building muscles because it's used in just about everything in your body for an effective exercise and muscle build-up.

What Happens When You Start Taking Magnesium?

When you start taking magnesium, you'll notice an improvement in several health markers such as blood pressure and blood sugar. Continual magnesium usage will reduce certain health conditions such as migraines, depression, and disease.

Does Magnesium Help With Weight Lifting?

Yes, magnesium helps with weight lifting by contributing to the body's flexibility and preventing injuries by loosening the tight muscles. Without sufficient magnesium levels in your body, the muscles won't relax and may lead to muscle cramps when weight lifting.

Should I Take Calcium With Magnesium?

Yes, you can take calcium with magnesium supplements, but it’s important to maintain a healthy ratio to keep your body functioning at its best. I'd recommend you seek guidance from your healthcare provider as both can interfere with one another's absorption.

Can Magnesium Enhance Exercise Performance?

Magnesium can improve exercise performance and muscle function when used as a pre-workout supplement. A sufficient amount of magnesium in the body helps the muscles to relax and reduces muscle cramps.

The good thing about this mineral is that it is cheap and available in everyday food or as an individual supplement.

Still, high-intensity workouts require a selection of ingredients that one mineral alone can’t deliver. For this reason, try adding some of the following pre-workouts to your exercise routine:

Having tested these products for six months, our team successfully reaped the maximum benefits these pre-workouts provide, including fatigue reduction, improved focus, and decreased muscle soreness.


References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2669297/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK236242/
  3. https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/abstract/9000/effects_of_magnesium_supplementation_on_muscle.94212.aspx
  4. https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/molecule-of-the-week/archive/a/adenosine-triphosphate.html
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12617692/
  6. https://febs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1432-1033.1994.tb18836.x
  7. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/magnesium
  8. https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.20851/j.ctt1t3055m.23
  9. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/anaerobic-metabolism
  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17172008/
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