Oct 30

Athletic Performance and Magnesium Deficiency

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Magnesium, an abundant mineral in the body, is naturally present in many foods. It is a co-factor in more than 300 enzyme systems that regulate diverse biochemical reactions in the body, including protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, and blood pressure regulation.

This mineral is required for energy production, oxidative phosphorylation, and glycolysis. It contributes to the structural development of bone and is needed for the synthesis of DNA, RNA, and antioxidant glutathione. It also plays a role in the active transport of calcium and potassium ions across cell membranes, a process that is important for nerve impulse conduction, muscle contraction, and normal heart rhythm.

Magnesium is important for bone formation as it helps with the assimilation of calcium into bone and plays a role in activating vitamin D in the kidneys (vitamin D is also essential for healthy bones).

An adult body contains approximately 25g magnesium, with 50% to 60% present in the bones and most of the rest in soft tissues. Less than 1% of total magnesium is in the blood serum, and these levels are kept under tight control. Magnesium homeostasis is largely controlled by the kidney, which typically excretes about 120mg of the mineral into the urine each day. Urinary excretion is reduced when magnesium status is low, and it is difficult to assess the status because most magnesium is inside cells or in bone.

Athletes frequently suffer ‘muscle cramping’, which is usually due to a deficiency in Magnesium. Although the symptoms may be vast and subtle, they can lead to serious health problems. Athletes may not even be aware of such deficiency as other health issues may be blamed, or symptoms remain unexplained because medical personnel could overlook the deficiency. If not enough nutrients are consumed or are absorbed adequately in the body a shortage occurs. Also, certain medication and consuming too much alcohol can add to the depletion.

Since this mineral is so important, it is best to become aware of particular warning signs:

1. Fatigue

Magnesium helps to produce and transport energy, and an insufficient level leads to fatigue (feeling tired and lethargic). Since most of us feel tired at some point, it is easy to blame stress, a busy schedule, not sleeping well, or lack of sleep. However, this could also be due to various factors such as diabetes and can be difficult to diagnose because the deficiency may not be the first question the family doctor may be asking.

2. Muscle Spasms and Cramping

‘Muscle spasms and cramping’ are not only uncomfortable but can be quite painful. They’re uncontrollable, unpredictable, and not something one can simply ignore. Athletes often suffer from these symptoms due to inadequate stretching, dehydration, over-exertion, and lack of proper nutrition. It may be difficult to figure out the real reason for this occurrence and to seek ways to prevent such pain. Athletes may get short-term relief by stretching and massaging the affected muscles, and consuming the recommended daily intake of Vitamins D, E and B complex, which plays a role in preventing muscle cramps.

3. Arrhythmia

The mineral plays a vital role in the overall health of the heart and the proper muscle contraction. Arrhythmia is an irregular heartbeat, and magnesium helps to maintain the normal heart rhythm, and may even prevent some heart problems, diseases, according to research.

4. Dizziness

Dizziness can strike when standing up too fast, but it typically disappears quickly. Magnesium deficiency, however, can cause dizziness that may last all day without relief. It can be difficult to be diagnosed correctly because of many other factors (such as diabetes). As a result, the deficiency is often overlooked. However, low levels cannot only produce dizziness, but also similar feelings of vertigo resulting in being completely off balance. As the deficiency worsens, so do the symptoms. One could experience light and manageable dizziness in the beginning, which then can transform one’s life as a person becomes unable to perform regular day-to-day activities or attend school, work, or training.

5. Nausea and Vomiting

Similar to vertigo, low levels may result in nausea and even vomiting – although these symptoms are considered an early, but not necessarily severe symptom, of deficiency. Constantly feeling nauseous and vomiting is quite simply unpleasant – even if not severe – but can greatly impact daily routines. Like many other symptoms, there could be a variety of causes, and the deficiency may also be overlooked. Interestingly, levels that are too high can likewise cause nausea and vomiting. Be aware that taking other supplements and certain types of medication may ‘spike’ levels of magnesium.

6. Numbness

Since magnesium impacts the nervous system, tingling and numbness can be a warning sign of deficiency, particularly if it worsens. Insufficient levels tend to impede body, nerve, and muscle functions, preventing the body from sending proper signals, and resulting in numbness and tingling, commonly experienced in the face, feet, and hands. Although severe symptoms of numbness are rare, the experience can be quite frightening. Numbness should not be taken lightly because a number of other reasons could be the cause (diabetes).

7. Personality Changes

It might seem bizarre but personality changes may indicate a sign of deficiency. Significant changes, including abnormal amounts of confusion and irritability, may unexpectedly appear, and simple tasks may seem overwhelming. One may notice such change but is unsure of the real cause and ways to remedy it. Personality changes and periodical mood swings, lack of sleep as discussed earlier can cause such mood changes. If this happens often, it ultimately affects both personal and professional relationships. Since sleep is vital for mental, physical and emotional health, magnesium deficiency can contribute to lack of sleep.  

8. Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Just about everyone experiences a bout of anxiety or panic once in a while. If this occurs more frequently, it could be due to magnesium deficiency. One may be quick to blame such anxiety on everyday stress, pressure to balance personal and professional life, and a busy schedule. If one is not typically prone to such symptoms, this could be attributed to magnesium deficiency. In addition, anxiety and stress can dwindle the levels thereby creating a vicious cycle as low levels cause anxiety and deplete magnesium reserves during the attack.

There are different symptoms of a panic attack such as difficulty breathing, racing heart, chest pains, intense rush of fear or dread, tingling in the limbs and trembling, among other uncomfortable feelings. Although they typically only last a few minutes, it can feel like a ‘lifetime’, leaving one to feel completely emotionally ‘drained.’

9. Insomnia

Magnesium deficiency can cause insomnia in several ways. Since the body needs a sufficient amount of magnesium in order to control electrical conduction in the neurons in the muscles, the process leads to a prolonged opening of calcium channels, increasing muscular activity. This can result in conditions such as restless leg syndrome whereby legs move involuntarily during the night, keeping the individual awake.

10. High Blood Pressure

In a study published in the American Journal of Hypertension, the correlation between the level of blood pressure and levels of magnesium intake were analyzed. The results show that individuals with the healthiest blood pressure had the highest levels of magnesium while those with low levels of magnesium had high blood pressure.

Researchers also concluded in a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that eating magnesium-rich foods, approximately 100mg a daily could decrease the risk of a stroke by 8 percent.

11. Type II Diabetes

Researchers in a study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine found that magnesium plays a significant role in metabolizing sugar. Since Type II diabetes is based on an individual’s diet, lack of magnesium could play an important role in the development of the condition. It should be noted that low levels of magnesium are found in pre-existing diabetic conditions, but low levels of magnesium are 10 times higher in individuals that are newly diagnosed with Type II diabetes. Adhering to a magnesium-rich diet consisting of nuts, whole grains, leafy vegetables, and beans is said to prevent potential risks of type II diabetes.



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