Whether you’re an avid runner, a recreational lifter, or a lifelong tennis player, you know that what you eat is key both for optimal performance as well as recovery. However, some people are so enthusiastic about fuelling their workouts with the right ingredients that they neglect the equally important role of their recovery. After all, this is when all of your muscle growth happens and the effects of your training take place to help you advance.
In addition to your macros, which are always vital for your health and well-being, taking care of your micro-nutrient intake will help you recuperate faster and restore your energy more efficiently. One mineral in particular deserves more attention for improving your post-workout healing – magnesium!
Magnesium’s main roles
Just like every other essential micro-nutrient, magnesium is a meddler – it plays many vital roles in numerous metabolic processes in the body. This minuscule mineral takes part in over 300 biochemical reactions, from how your body generates energy, how it utilises other micro-nutrients you eat in your food, all the way to protecting your very DNA.
Your vital organs such as you brain and heart heavily depend on your magnesium supplies to function properly every day. However, it’s also the building block of your bones, just like calcium, and it balances your cholesterol levels, allowing your muscles to relax and recover from physical strain. Even with just these several functions, it’s already clear how crucial magnesium is for everyone who leads an active life, since your energy and performance are based in magnesium availability, as much as any other essential macro and micro-nutrient.
Deciding on your needs
The general guidelines when it comes to this handy mineral state that an average man requires approximately 400 to 420mg of magnesium per day, while women need slightly less, in the realm of 310 to 320mg per day. However, these numbers fluctuate depending on your lifestyle, any pre-existing conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure, how active you are every day, what your diet consists of, and whether you are pregnant.
Then again, athletes – and endurance athletes in particular – may need more magnesium to help their bodies cope with muscle soreness and cramps as well as arduous routines. You don’t necessarily need to be a competitive athlete to find yourself depleted of magnesium, since you may need a higher dosage than someone who exercises significantly less in terms of both intensity and frequency – which is where your doctor should step in and check if you should up your intake.
Sources of magnesium
This crucial mineral is as hard to come by as it is essential to your well-being, making it one of those elusive dietary requirements that is hard to meet, especially through diet alone. Nuts and seeds such as almonds, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, and dairy as well as dark greens such as spinach and broccoli have high amounts of magnesium, although its bio-availability may vary. Typically, your body will absorb as little as 30-40% of the eaten magnesium, which often leads athletes to rethink their diets.
For those who exercise vigorously, it’s often recommended to take magnesium supplements in order to improve their energy levels and recover faster. They are designed to be absorbed more easily without causing any harm to your digestive tract, increasing your daily intake without increasing your calories through magnesium-packed foods.
Symptoms of a deficiency
Although some of the following symptoms are very commonly associated with other health issues and they can be seen as mere reactions to a stressful situation, it’s important to listen to your body and notice if these symptoms persist:
- General fatigue
- Muscle spasms and cramps
- Trouble sleeping
- Carb cravings
- Numbness in your hands and feet
- Irregular heartbeat
If you feel that your workouts are becoming increasingly difficult even though you’re resting properly and not increasing the intensity of your workouts, chances are that you are starting to experience a magnesium deficiency. It’s best to talk to your physician and do a few tests to confirm if you have this particular issue in order to find the best solution – your body will thank you later!
Key perks to expect
Finally, as difficult as it may be for some to believe that this one micro-nutrient is so priceless for your muscles, bones, and energy, you can begin by getting a deeper insight into how you’ll feel when you actually provide your body with enough of this mineral.
- Improved muscle gains – Since magnesium is one of those vital ingredients in the process called muscle protein synthesis, which occurs well after you finish your workout, it stimulates your muscles to repair and build new tissue. Without it, your muscles cannot repair and recover properly, making it very difficult to advance in terms of improving your physique with lean muscle.
- Better carb and fat metabolism – Yes, this little rascal also plays a key role in how your body uses carbs to generate energy, and how efficient you are at burning fat. So, if your goal is to improve your body composition and replace those love handles with lean muscle, magnesium is your body’s best friend.
- Quality sleep – As the third pillar of a healthy lifestyle, right next to diet and exercise, sleep is connected to your magnesium levels. Enough of this mineral helps your body relax after training, reduces inflammation in your body, replenishes energy stores, and soothes your entire central nervous system to sleep.
There can be no muscle protein synthesis, or restored energy without sleep, so magnesium is the ingredient that closes this recovery cycle and turns it into a powerful bodily process you need to advance in your athletic endeavors and stay healthy.
About the author: Luke is a fitness and health blogger at Ripped.me and a great fan of the gym and a healthy diet. He follows the trends in fitness, gym and healthy life and loves to share his knowledge through useful and informative articles.
Dean is a runner who has undertaken some incredible challenges. From running on a homemade hamster wheel for 24 hours straight to running 10 marathons in 8 days, all of his challenges are done for a good cause. Sundried got the chance to catch up with Dean after his most recent challenge and find out more about this amazing athlete.
Some of the challenges you have done are truly superhuman. But have you always been sporty and into running? Or is it something you've had to train hard at?
I've always been into sports of some kind, mostly skateboarding and BMX cycling as a kid. I also spent 20 years training in karate and also dance - ballet and tap - so I guess most of my fitness, core strength, and flexibility come from this, as well as the discipline which is needed to train for these endurance events. I started running again properly in my late 20s when I started to find snowboarding was getting tougher.
What's been the toughest challenge you've ever set yourself and why?
The Rickshaw Challenge was possibly my all round toughest, with the psychological aspect of the stop/start format really causing me problems when I got tired. I'm not sure I've ever been that low, and so close to finding a dark corner and hiding away until everyone left.
Another one was that I used to be afraid of heights, so a few years back I started doing some mountain runs and ran the 10 Peaks in the Lake District with a tricky climb and descent up and down Lords Rake, which was the defining moment in overcoming that fear. The challenge of getting through that is one of my toughest and proudest.
Please tell us about your recent Rickshaw Challenge and the cause?
All of my fundraising in recent years has been for Southend Hospital and their various appeals, but most personal is the Dementia care services they provide and improving this for sufferers and their family. The Rickshaw Challenge was borne off the back of what I learned at my two previous big challenges, and trying to encompass the community spirit with good local fundraising and something quirky to get people's attention.
I had run solo, in public and with a crowd, so building something to pull people along with the opportunity for others to join me seemed the logical step. I can't say it was perfect, and there's always aspects which I'd change in hindsight, but no one as far as I know has done what I'm doing, so I have nothing to follow. And it's given me ideas for the next challenge, and has raised the money I'd set as a target, so it was successful.
What are some of the other most notable challenges you've done?
Apart from 10 Marathons in 8 days, and the 24 Hour Hamster Wheel? These are pretty well documented, but in my off-years I try to do a few events that I keep under the radar. My first point-to-point 100 mile was notable for me, as it took me to a place I'd not ventured before and I came out the other side relishing repeating that feeling. I enjoy some of the quieter events in locations I've not been to before, experiencing new scenery and people without having to travel half-way around the world.
Surely what you've done can't be topped! What new challenges do you have on the horizon?
Everything can always be improved upon in some way. I'll spend the next 12 months toying with some ideas, training in different ways/places and trying to build on what I've learned so far. The focus is to raise money and awareness for Southend Hospital, and there's a formula for what makes this work in the local community and hopefully some wider publicity, but you can guarantee that it'll be more than just a guy running long distance!
What does a typical week of training look like for you?
There's no such thing as a typical week for me. I follow no training plan or schedule, even when I have a specific event coming up. I run to how I feel, which could be two to three speed sessions in a week or some hilly miles in Hadleigh Park. Even though I coach and write the occasional training plan for people, my ethos has always been to listen to your body and mind, and enjoy your running, not make it something that has to be done. Sure, you need to train, but do it with a smile.
Do you follow a specific nutrition plan? If so, what/when do you eat?
I'm vegetarian. My only plan is to eat well, with a good combination of everything that I enjoy, including chocolate.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
The people I see out everyday who put their heart and soul in to what they are doing. From the first time 5k-er, those trying to improve their health, and those who are doing something for the better of others.
What has been your biggest obstacle and how did you overcome it?
My own self-doubt. I'm not sure I've overcome it yet, but I can manage it effectively enough.
What advice would you give to other people thinking of doing similarly extreme challenges?
Ooh, that's tough one! I don't want to be any more clichéd than I have already, so all I'll say it this: whatever challenge you set yourself to do, there's moments during and after which should be cherished forever.
If you're lucky enough to be in a position as to create these memories, don't be blasé and shrug them off, embrace the good and the not-so-good, and use them to better yourself. One of my best memories is my son putting his hand on my back after one such challenge. A simple gesture that expressed more than the action itself.
You can find out more about Dean's challenges at https://www.facebook.com/
rickshawrunner/ or sponsor him at https://www.justgiving.com/ fundraising/therickshaw100
It is no secret that many sports are still very male-dominated and that getting into sport as a woman can be intimidating and down right hard work. We bring you three of the world's most inspiring female athletes from all different sports to show you how women can excel in sport and that we are just as talented as the guys!
Katrin Davidsdottir - CrossFit
CrossFit is one of the rare sports in which men and women compete side by side, instead of in separate leagues. Katrin Davidsdottir is an Icelandic athlete who won the title of Fittest Woman On Earth two years running in 2015 and 2016 at the CrossFit Games. At only 24 years old, she shows a grit and determination that is truly inspiring and her strength and speed are impressive to say the least. With a clean and jerk PB of almost 100kg, she can out-lift most men and proves that women can be just as strong and powerful as men.
Dame Kelly Holmes - Athletics
Dame Kelly Holmes has set British records in numerous events and still holds the records in the 600m, 800m, and 1000m distances. She has served in the British Army and won double gold at the Olympics in Athens in 2004. She has run a 4:28 mile which is quicker than most men, and in 2009 was appointed president of Commonwealth Games England, a post previously held by a man for 15 years. Since her retirement from professional athletics in 2005, she has done a lot of charity work and is very outspoken about mental health issues. She continues to be a major role model for women everywhere.
Lucy Charles - Triathlon
Lucy Charles has gone from strength to strength in her triathlon career, reaching its pinnacle so far with her incredible win at Ironman Lanzarote in May 2017 and second place victory at the Ironman World Championships in Kona, very close behind Swiss Daniela Ryf. Triathlon is a hugely male-dominated sport and Lucy continues to show how women should be inspired and motivated to take part. Having never even ridden a road bike before 2014, it's incredible that her Ironman World Champ time of 08:59:38 placed her 38th overall out of 2,455 athletes, meaning she beat literally thousands of men in this male-dominated sport.
Vanrisch is a top level triathlete who started out with mountain biking before making the transition to triathlon. He now competes in Ironman races and even met his fiancee when she was training for one so it's definitely a lifestyle!
Have you always been into sport?
That’s an easy one…yes! Apparently it started as early as my first year of school, doing laps of the school playground. Running has always been a constant in my life. Over the years I’ve tried my hand at all sorts, from rugby in school to national level kickboxing, snowboarding (I’m a qualified instructor), cross country and downhill mountain biking and then more recently triathlon.
What made you decide to enter triathlon?
I had a couple of big accidents whilst downhill mountain biking about five years ago. I was unable to mountain bike for nearly a year, but my doctor said I could ride a road bike. I used it as a way to stay fit and see new places by travelling further and further afield each week and from there my love for road cycling just grew and grew. I then moved to London which makes mountain biking difficult and so I concentrated on cycling and running both commuting and in my free time. From there it was a natural progression for me to start competing in multisport events. Plus, I met my fiancée around this time and she was training for her first Ironman, I may have been trying to impress!
What’s been your best race to date?
Hmmm, I had two really good races last season. The first was the European Olympic Distance Championships in Lisbon, Portugal. I went there with the intention of just doing the race as part of a build up for some races later in the season and therefore I had low expectations. I think the course suited me well and I had one of those rare races where things just go right from start to finish. I ended up coming 4th in my AG and 21st overall which was a surprise to say the least! The second was Challenge Peguera, Mallorca 70.3 in October 2016. I’d had a long season already when I turned up in Mallorca plus this was a rough sea swim followed by a hilly bike course in hot weather. Not exactly ideal for me. I had a pretty bad swim which left me with a lot of work to do on the bike and run. I didn’t panic, got my head down and executed my plan as intended. There were a few moments on the run where I wanted to find a dark corner to hide in but I stuck at it and finished strongly. I won this race for my AG and came 22nd overall. I think I even took a few pro scalps too!
And your proudest achievement?
I’m not someone who shouts about my races too much, I hope, but my close friends and family help me to see things clearly sometimes. I’m told I should be really proud of my swimming as two years ago I couldn’t swim (a single stroke) and I swam 30 minutes for a 1900m middle distance swim last season. Personally, I’m really happy that I managed to qualify for GB Age Group in my first ever Olympic Distance triathlon at the Little Beaver Triathlon in 2015. I was so inexperienced that day but I gave it my all, just like I do every race.
Have you ever had any racing disasters / your toughest race yet?
My toughest race to date was actually the last one I did, the Ballbuster Duathlon in November 2016. This race involves doing a run lap around and up Box Hill in Surrey (part of the 2012 Olympic road race course), followed by three laps on the bike and another lap running. The weather was dreadful that day with low temperatures and driving rain. I sped off from the gun racing against one of my club mates which led to my implosion on the first lap of the bike. I wasn’t dressed properly for the weather and as tiredness set in so did the cold. By lap three I was shivering so hard I could hardly hold onto the handle bars! The final run lap was more of a crawl, I was so fatigued. Climbing Box Hill was the worst 10 minutes of my year. I was helped off the finish line by a really nice volunteer as I couldn’t walk anymore. It took me until January to recover, that race truly lived up to its name.
How do you overcome setbacks?
One step at a time. I try to remain objective, look long term and create a realistic plan. I have a great support network around me who are always willing to tell me the truth, without them I’d be lost.
What is the best bit of advice you wish someone had told you before you started competing?
Long term planning and consistent hard work will pay dividends.
What are your goals for 2017?
This season I’ll be racing almost entirely the 70.3 distance starting with Ironman 70.3 St. Polten in Austria in May. I’m not yet sure how competitive I can be at this distance so it’s difficult to say. I’m going to set out my goals based on this race but come the end of the season, as long as I’m still improving, getting faster in the water and I’ve still got a smile on my face then it’s all good! Oh, and I’d like to run a sub-1:15 half marathon off the bike too!
Who do you take your inspiration from?
My inspiration in sport has always been former 200m & 400m world record holder Michael Johnson. As a kid growing up in the 90’s I had dreams of being a world-class runner. My mum bought me his autobiography “Slaying the Dragon” from a discount bookshop, which can only be described as a combination of the story of Michael’s life and a self-help book. The dos and don’ts of being successful in sport, in business and in your personal life. He would talk about how his achievements came through research, structured planning and good old hard work. He was always an unbelievably gifted athlete but he never rested on his laurels, he studied hard at school to prepare solid foundations for his future. This all resonated with me.
What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of our kit?
As I have grown older, I’ve gained a greater appreciation for the natural environment and the ever increasing impact we have on it. To protect the future of our planet, we all need to start finding news ways of living that reduce the damage we are causing to it. I love working with Sundried because they are a forward-thinking, producing great technical apparel in a sustainable, conscientious, low carbon way. They are really trying to make a difference, not to mention their apparel is great quality, fashionable and is incredibly comfortable to wear.
Heather is a personal trainer who also competes in the sport of triathlon. She talks to Sundried about how she got into the sport and her top tips to stay motivated.
Please tell us about sporting events you have taken part in or have coming up.
I tried my first duathlon on a hybrid bike because I enjoyed running and cycling occasionally, from that race I got the bug for racing. I then bought a road bike and at my second full duathlon (10k run, 40k cycle, 5k run) I qualified to compete for my age group at the European Standard Duathlon Championships. I then had a great year (apart from getting hypothermia at Europeans!) with my highlights winning third place at the British Championships and winning second place at Nationals. I also qualified for the World Championships in Adelaide, but with more bad luck I stress fractured my femur just before the race so could hardly run during that race which was a bit of a disaster. After nearly a year of injury, I am now back and with new goals. The A race this year is a half ironman - Weymouth 70.3, (now that I've learnt to swim) and a few triathlons to get race ready. I am also participating in the Maratona des Dolomites in July and have been working hard on my biking.
Tell us about your journey to fitness? Where did it all start?
I got into fitness during university where I studied Equine and Human Sports Science, I discovered a love for sports (rather than horses) and after graduating, qualified as a personal trainer and started working as a fitness instructor and spin instructor. This is when I started running, and teaching spin started my love for cycling. I then joined a cycle and running club and from there Duathlons and Triathlons started.
What are your training goals now?
My main goal is to stay injury free and complete Weymouth 70.3 in a decent time. I also have specific cycling goals and run times I want to hit by the end of the summer.
Tell us one unusual fact we wouldn’t know about you:
I love peanut butter!
What would future you, tell yourself when you were starting out?
Rest and recovery is just as important as training.
Do you follow a specific nutrition plan? If so, what/when do you eat?
I eat healthily but still have treats after hard training. I don't stick to a diet but monitor my macros to ensure I get enough carbs and protein in my diet to fuel my training and help me get the best results.
What do you do to keep your clients motivated? Do you have any top tips to keep motivated?
I always make sure each client has a short term and long term goal. I recommend you always measure your progress to stay motivated. I also believe all training should be fun, if you don't enjoy a sport or type of training find one you do enjoy, that will keep you motivated.
Talk us through your training regime.
I normally train 10-12 hours a week, sometimes more on harder weeks and less on recovery weeks. I always have 1-2 Strength sessions a week to reduce the risk of injury, I incorporate two runs (normally an interval session and a long run) two turbo sessions on the bike, two swim sets, one long bike ride with a club (this is fun and social which is important) . Plus a spin class I teach and a HIIT class I teach. 3 days a week I train twice a day so I always make sure I have an easier day in there.
How do you keep your fitness knowledge up to date?
I read a lot of sports science articles and attend at least 1-2 courses a year.
What are your top 3 trainer tips?
- Quality over quantity.
- Always enjoy training.
- Have a goal.
If you could only do one workout for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Running intervals, I find them the toughest and want to be sick but always feel amazing afterwards!
Why work with Sundried?
I love the idea of ethical clothing and the work ethics and intentions of the company, I also think the clothes are very well made, great quality, stylish and super comfortable. The bib shorts are my favourite item on a long ride.
Favourite fitness quote:
Life is like a bicycle: to keep your balance you must keep moving.