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Why is Magnesium essential to bone health?

As an athlete, you’re constantly pushing your body to the limits, always striving for peak performance. Athletes are also churning through key nutrients such as magnesium, sodium and iron. Whether you’re running marathons, cycling, swimming, lifting weights, or participating in team sports, your bones bear the brunt of your intense physical activity and constant training regime. While we all know the importance of calcium and vitamin D for bone health, there’s an unsung hero that often goes unnoticed – magnesium. In this blog, Kate explores how it’s crucial for bone health, particularly from the perspective of a holistic sports nutritionist.

The Magnesium-Bone Connection

Various investigations demonstrate 20% of individuals constantly consume lower quantities of magnesium than recommended.  So why is magnesium so essential for athletes when it comes to bone health? The answer lies in the intricate relationship between magnesium and various bone-related processes:

  • Mineralisation: Magnesium is a cofactor for the enzymes responsible for bone mineralisation. It helps convert vitamin D into its active form, which is crucial for calcium absorption, the primary mineral in bones. One study including mainly menopausal women showed that lower levels of magnesium are related to the presence of osteoporosis. This study suggested 30–40% of individuals are deficient in magnesium.
  • Bone Density: Athletes often put their bones under repetitive stress. Magnesium plays a vital role in maintaining healthy bone density and structural integrity. Low levels can result in decreased bone density, making athletes more susceptible to fractures.
  • Bone Turnover: Magnesium helps regulate the balance between bone formation and bone resorption. This is crucial for athletes as it ensures their bones can adapt to the demands of training without becoming brittle or porous.

For Athletes

Apart from its direct impact on bone health, magnesium offers several other benefits for athletes:

  • Muscle Function: Adequate levels are essential for proper muscle function. It helps muscles contract and relax, preventing cramps and promoting efficient performance.
  • Energy Metabolism: Magnesium is a co-factor for enzymes involved in ATP (adenosine triphosphate) production, which is the primary energy source for athletes during exercise.
  • Immune Support: Intense physical activity can temporarily weaken the immune system. Magnesium aids immune function, helping athletes recover from workouts and training stress.
  • Recovery and tightness: Magnesium helps with restless legs, tight muscles, headaches and insomnia.
  • Hormonal Balance: Magnesium helps reduce fluid retention, menstrual cramps, anxiety, mood swings and cravings related to the menstrual cycle

Meeting Your Needs

As an athlete, it’s crucial to meet your nutrition requirements to ensure optimal bone health and overall performance. Here are some dietary sources of magnesium to consider:

  • Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, peanuts, cashews and pumpkin seeds are excellent.
  • Dark Leafy Greens: Spinach and kale are a rich source to add to your diet.
  • Whole Grains: Choose whole grain options like brown rice and whole wheat bread for a magnesium boost.
  • Legumes: Beans and lentils are magnesium-packed additions to your diet.
  • Cocoa and brewer’s yeast also contain magnesium.

In cases where dietary intake may fall short, supplements can be considered, but it’s always advisable to consult with a healthcare professional or sports nutritionist before taking any supplements.

In conclusion, magnesium is an essential yet often overlooked mineral when it comes to bone health for athletes. From mineralisation to bone density and regulating bone turnover, magnesium plays a pivotal role in maintaining strong, resilient bones, making it a crucial element in an athlete’s nutrition regimen. So, next time you plan your meal, don’t forget to include magnesium-rich foods to keep your bones strong and support your overall athletic performance.

Sources:

Health Direct (2023). www.healthdirect.gov.au

Orchard TS, Larson JC, Alghothani N, Bout-Tabaku S, Cauley JA, Chen Z, LaCroix AZ, Wactawski-Wende J, Jackson RD.(2014). Magnesium intake, bone mineral density, and fractures: results from the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Apr;99(4):926-33

Rondanelli, M., Faliva, M. A., Tartara, A., Gasparri, C., Perna, S., Infantino, V., & Peroni, G. (2021). An update on magnesium and bone health. Biometals34(4), 715-736.

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About the Author: Kate Smyth is a Sports naturopath, nutritionist and female-centric running coach. She is the founder of the Athlete Sanctuary- a holistic healthcare clinic for athletes of all levels and sporting codes. Kate has a thirst for knowledge with two bachelor’s and a master’s degree under her belt. She has been involved in sports for many decades and competed for Australia in the Commonwealth Games and Olympic Games marathons with a personal best time of 2 hours 28 minutes.