Article by Jarah Breese
BAppSc (Ex&SpS) MSc High Performance Science
In the athlete performance and training space, it seems that new products are coming and going almost every week, with very little of them being backed by any evidence-based research. This is especially true when it comes to sports supplements. For athletes and trainers, it is crucial to be the best at the basics and I am blown away with how many of them continually miss this.
Athletes are more likely to go for the next wonder supplement than head to the doctor or dietitian and get some basic blood tests, nutritional analysis or even apply some of the fundamental research into athletic performance and key nutrients and minerals to make sure they are not deficient. Risking health, recovery, and performance.
One supplement which I can’t believe is overlooked by athletes is magnesium. Optimal magnesium levels play a significant role in muscular strength and cardiorespiratory function in athletes due to its roles in metabolism, transmembrane transport, muscle contraction, hydration, oxidative stress and even immune function and sleep. All of which need to be at optimal levels of performance for athletes to be at their best through high training loads and competition.
General population studies have shown magnesium deficiencies between 60 and 80% depending on the region and magnesium RDI for the country being studied. Studies have shown that athletes are not immune to the lack of magnesium with one study on gymnasts, footballers (soccer) and basketball players who only consumed around 70% of the RDI. Magnesium deficient athletes have also been associated with strength and power limitations affecting muscular performance risking training adaptation and competitive results.
Intense exercise increases magnesium demand and potential magnesium loss leading to deficiencies causing muscle weakness and dysfunction Improvements in athletic performance from the supplementation of magnesium has been shown to be beneficial for athletes. A study of elite level triathletes who were given a magnesium supplement for a period of 4 weeks before a simulated triathlete test noted favorable biomarker results as well as improved times on all swim, run and bike tests compared to the placebo group. This suggests athletes who supplement with magnesium will increase their performance especially if they are already magnesium deficient.
One way to improve magnesium levels is via a magnesium supplement. There are currently three options easily available, powder, tablet (various forms) and most recently in a dermal spray. In my own experience with my athletes and from other professionals working in the field of athlete performance I have found many struggles with digestive distress using the powder and tablet forms and some have questioned how bioavailable a magnesium supplement is.
A new novel approach of a transdermal spray has appeared to be a good option especially for athletes who have digestive side effects with the oral versions or worry about absorption. One study using a low dosage of a transdermal magnesium supplement showed a larger percentage rise in both serum and urinary magnesium markers after 14 days of use while two others have found that transdermal magnesium was immediately absorbed by the skin after spraying and uptake was up to 5 times faster when compared to oral magnesium intake.
Talking to many athletes I have found the most regular feedback to magnesium spray is sleep and decreased muscle soreness. The importance of sleep for an athlete has been well documented and the improved sleep will result in faster recovery and hopefully increase long-term athletic performance.
Given the lack of magnesium in many diets and the importance of magnesium to athletic performance, supplementation may be helpful to achieve optimal levels. Using a dermal magnesium spray is the best option and worth athletes trying given the relatively low cost, lack of side effects and ease of use.
Jarah Breese BAppSc (Ex&SpS) MSc High-Performance Science
BREESE HIGH PERFORMANCE