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.
If you're starting to ramp up your running and are training for a half marathon, marathon, or even ultra marathon, it's important to know that your nutrition strategy is key to success. We give you all the information you need on how to fuel for long runs.
What is the best thing to eat before a long run?
When running long distance, what you eat before your run is just as important as how you fuel throughout. When training for an event on a specific date, it's important to steadily increase your carbohydrate intake in the week leading up to the event so that you can get your body used to storing more energy. But beware, don't fall into the trap of 'carb loading' the night before the race by eating a load of pasta and then going to bed! You need to build up gradually over several days, rather than just eating more than usual the day before.
For your regular training runs, there are a few different things that will fuel you well before you head out. Eating a good breakfast will set you up well whether your run is morning, afternoon, or evening. Opt for something carb-rich but also high in protein, such as eggs on toast or oatmeal with fruit. This should be eaten around 2 hours before your run so that it has time to digest and won't sit heavy in your stomach. Around 30-60 minutes before you run, eat something with simple sugars such as a banana to give you one last boost.
What to eat 2 hours before a run
- Oatmeal with fruit and nuts/seeds
- Eggs on toast
- Protein pancakes
- Ham and cheese sandwich
- Peanut butter on toast
- Chicken, rice, vegetables
What to eat 30-60 minutes before a run
- Protein shake
- Some crackers
- Apple sauce
Mid run fuel
When it comes to mid run fuel for long runs, different things will work for different people. The ultimate debate is whether to eat real food or not. By this, we mean the difference between a peanut butter sandwich and an energy gel. Some people are happy to fuel solely with sugary gels and drinks, but this doesn't work so well for others.
In order to find out what works for you, it's best to go with the trial and error method in your training runs. Remember, nothing new on race day! Try different foods and gels and see which make you feel the best. It could be that a combination of both works for you.
Foods which are great for mid run fuel:
- Protein balls
- Peanut butter sandwiches
- Pretzels (good for sodium but can be very dry, especially if you’re dehydrated)
- Pickles and pickle juice (great for cramps)
- Dried or fresh fruit
- Sugar cubes
- Energy gels
- Sports/electrolyte drink
You also need to remember that whatever you decide to fuel with, you need to be able to comfortably hold or carry with you while you run. Some people don't mind holding a bottle in their hand while they run, but others may find that to be uncomfortable. Work out what you like best and practice running with a hydration bag, bottle, and snacks in various pockets.
It's also important to remember that being as self-sufficient as possible is best for racing as you never know what kind of fuel and hydration will be available to you on the day. There's nothing worse than gasping for a drink and running along waiting for the next water station only for it never to arrive.
Running fuel for sensitive stomachs
If you have a sensitive stomach or you find that certain foods or energy gels give you gastric problems during your run, you need to be extra careful. Here are some top tips for finding running fuel for sensitive stomachs:
- Avoid caffeine
- Stick with bland carbs like toast, bagels, and oatmeal
- Avoid spicy foods
- Avoid eating too much fibre
- Seek out energy/protein bars with minimal ingredients
Homemade running fuel
If you don't like the idea of eating something full of chemicals or constantly buying expensive energy bars and gels, you can make your own homemade running fuel. There are lots of options, from homemade trail mix to even make your own energy gels! Read more in our article below.
The rise of millions of fitness accounts on social media has led to the exponential growth and spread of misinformation when it comes to health, exercise, and weight loss. We tackle some of the most common health myths and explain why they could be sabotaging your weight loss efforts.
1. Myth: Healthy food is expensive
You've probably seen the above image in one format or another, especially if you frequent fitness pages on social media. The truth is, it's a complete myth that eating healthy is more expensive than eating junk food.
Have you ever tallied up exactly how much money you spend on food in a month? It's probably a lot more than you realise. Raw fruit and vegetables from the supermarket can cost as little as 50p and healthy canned goods such as kidney beans, chopped tomatoes, and chickpeas can be even less, only 30p per can at some supermarkets.
The myth that healthy food is more expensive than junk food derives from the fact that many prepared salads and fruit boxes are indeed expensive. However, this is because you are paying for the convenience, not the healthy food. If you cook all of your meals from scratch, you will save heaps of money and you will soon find that eating healthy is actually less expensive than junk food! A homemade salad could easily cost as little as £1 to make.
When have you ever only spent 99p at McDonald's? Yes, there are a couple of items on the menu that cost less than £1, but you'd be left feeling very hungry if that's all you ate. You have to be honest with yourself and really keep an eye on the money you are spending on food. It won't be what you expect.
2. Myth: You need to eat more to lose weight
One of the latest trends on social media is to tell women they are not losing weight because they are not eating enough. There's a heavy pressure on women to lift heavy weights and do zero cardio in order to 'tone up' and lose weight. Sadly, this is a myth. If you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight.
If you eat 2300 calories a day, have a BMR of 1500 calories (the calories your body burns just to stay alive), and burn zero calories through exercise because you're not doing any cardio and live a sedentary lifestyle, you will gain weight because you are in a 800 calorie-a-day surplus.
This myth is propagated by the theory that you need to eat a calorie surplus in order to build muscle. While this is true to an extent, most of the general public live a sedentary lifestyle, sitting at a desk all day, and only exercise maybe 1 hour each evening. The average lifestyle does not allow you to eat 2300 calories a day because you won't be burning them off. You would have to lift a lot of weights and live a much more active lifestyle in order for this calorie surplus to be used to build muscle instead of being stored as fat.
It's important to remember that these Instagram fitness gurus do not live a sedentary lifestyle and therefore what works for them will not work for you.
3. Myth: Your friend is losing more weight than you/is naturally slim because their metabolism is faster
If you've been beating yourself up because you can't lose weight while your friend is sailing through their weight loss journey, don't worry, it's not what it seems. While it is scientifically possible to have a slightly faster or slower metabolism than someone else, it would not be enough of a difference to mean you are 10lbs heavier than your friend even if you eat the same.
People who are 'naturally' slim are this way because they eat less and do more activity. If you were to pay very close attention to what your slim friend eats in a day, it is a guarantee that it will be less than what you eat, even if they claim they eat a lot.
Everyone has a BMR which is a Basal Metabolic Rate and this indicates how many calories your body burns just by being alive. This is affected by your age, your gender, and your current weight. Everyone also has a TDEE which is your Total Daily Energy Expenditure. This figure takes into account your daily activity, as someone who does a very manual job and moves a lot will burn more calories on a daily basis than someone who sits at a desk all day.
Everyone's BMR and TDEE will be different and therefore the amount of calories you need to eat will be completely different to that of your friend. It won't be because they have 'good genes' or are 'naturally slim', it'll be because their TDEE is higher than yours, meaning they burn more calories on a daily basis than you.
4. Myth: A juice cleanse/detox is a quick way to lose weight
You may have heard by now that doing a 'detox' is not really a thing, as your body naturally detoxifies itself daily anyway. If your body was full of toxins, you'd be incredibly ill and you'd certainly need more than a juice cleanse to help you.
The way juice cleanses or detoxes work is that your daily calories plummet and you lose water out of your muscles. You become very dehydrated and the number on the scale goes down. You may well lose some fat too as you are consuming so few calories, but it can't possibly last.
Not only this, fruit juice is full of sugar which could make you moody, spotty, and generally just a bit cranky. You won't be getting enough protein so you'll feel very tired and fatigued, and you'll be missing out on vital nutrients.
5. Myth: Everyone should lift heavy and eat more protein
You will have seen a lot of images on Instagram that propose lifting weights is superior to doing cardio and that everyone should be eating copious amounts of protein in the form of 'protein bread', 'protein oats', and now even 'protein yogurt'.
The truth is, it depends entirely on your personal goals and daily activity. If you are training for a marathon or triathlon, these are both entirely cardio-based activities. Of course you'll need to do cardio! Cycling is also a very cardio-heavy activity, but professional cyclists are far from skinny and unhealthy.
Most people do not need a sky-high amount of protein in their daily diet because they live a sedentary lifestyle and their body won't utilise it. Unless you live a truly active lifestyle and lift heavy weights or do strenuous sports 6 times a week, you don't need a ton of protein in your diet.
This new myth comes from a shift in attitudes towards body types and the new obsession with 'booty gains'. These days, being slim is seen as bad and everyone wants to look like the Instagram fitness gurus. However, there is absolutely nothing wrong with cardio, and you probably do it more than you think. In fact, doing regular cardiovascular activity is vital for keeping a healthy immune system, lung function, and heart health.
According to research, half of all women are on a diet at any one time. Chances are you've tried to lose weight at one time in your life, but we are only now receiving sound advice on how to do it the healthy way. Follow these 5 important tips so that you can lose weight in a healthy way that will be sustainable for the rest of your life.
1. Accommodate for lost water weight
As with the common stereotype to say "I'm just big boned!" when justifying being on the heavier side, it's also common to blame it on "water weight". Well, you'll be pleased to hear that this is a real phenomenon! As you diet and follow a calorie deficit, your fat cells fill with water. You may hit a plateau for a while, but if you stay true to your healthy lifestyle, your fat cells will suddenly rid themselves of the water and you will see a drop on the scale and look noticeably leaner. While this may be fantastic news for all you dieters out there, it does mean you might be taken by surprise at how dehydrated you become. Make sure you drink lots of water to flush out your fat cells and all of the other toxins that have been held in your body and stay hydrated as much as possible.
2. Adjust your calories as you go
A common mistake that dieters make is they do not adjust their calories as they progress through their weight loss journey. If you start your weight loss journey at a high weight, you'll need to lower your daily calories as you lose weight because your daily calorie needs will reduce.
In order to calculate how many calories your body needs each day, you need to calculate your BMR. This is your Basal Metabolic Rate and indicates how many calories your individual body will burn just at rest on an average day, not taking into account your daily activity level. As your body weight and body fat level drops, make sure you adjust your diet and reduce your intake.
3. Find your comfortable maintenance weight and do not continue dieting
Dieting has to end sometime, as living in a calorie deficit is not sustainable long-term. Perhaps you're trying to lose weight for a specific sports event or for a big event like a wedding. If and when you reach your goal weight, make sure you then adjust your diet to become a maintenance lifestyle and no longer live in a deficit. Continue with the healthy habits that you have picked up throughout your weight loss journey, perhaps drinking less and cooking from scratch more, and this should be a breeze. It will prevent you from gaining back the weight you've lost and will also prevent you from losing too much.
What this does mean is you may need to increase your calories. If you've been living in a daily calorie deficit of 500 calories, make sure you start eating those calories so that you don't continue losing weight and instead enter maintenance mode. However, it's important that those calories are from nutrient-rich foods and not junk!
4. Take care of your body composition
It's common knowledge that it's bad to lose weight too fast. This is for a number of reasons, but one that is less thought about is the fact you will be at risk of being left with saggy skin and an unattractive body composition. Dependant on your goals and personal preferences, you may wish to look lean, muscular, athletic, or just skinny. This is entirely up to you. However, if you lose the weight too quickly, you will be left with sagging skin, cellulite dimples, and other less-desirable qualities.
As you lose the weight, make sure you are not being too extreme or losing the weight too fast, and do plenty of exercise - both cardio and weight training - to tone your muscles and leave you with a good and healthy physique that you will be happy with.
We all know how easy it is to bulk out during the winter and emerge in spring a few pounds heavier. Follow our tips for advice on how to shed the excess weight in a healthy way ready for summer.
1. Get out of the baggy clothes
One of the worst feelings is not realising how much weight you've gained over winter due to wearing big baggy clothes, only to find you don't feel comfortable in vests and shorts for summer. Get out of the habit of layering up well before summer by getting out of the baggy clothes now and getting used to showing a little more skin.This will work by making you more aware of your body and any weight you might be gaining. It'll also reduce the likelihood of lounging on the sofa eating comfort food as you'll be more conscious of your body.
2. Stop eating winter comfort food
Warming yourself with pasta, curries, and pies over the winter is an easy trap to fall into, but try to get out of that habit as soon as possible. Start incorporating more light salads and fruits into your diet now so that come summer, you'll feel happier and healthier all round. Be mindful of how you eat by chewing your food more before you swallow and try eating smaller portions.
3. Brave the weather and exercise outdoors
There are many benefits to exercising outside such as breathing in the fresh air and saving money on gym memberships, but facing the brutal cold of winter can be a tough one. Go for it and start exercising outdoors, even if it's just a run or bike ride, as you'll feel much better for it and it'll be a great way to slim down in time for summer.
4. Get support from family and friends
Losing weight alone can be very tough, so seek the help and advice of those close to you. Tell them about your plans to slim down and you never know, they might want to join you on your journey! If you feel like you're going to slip up, they can help you stay focused and they can also help you stay motivated by working out with you and reminding you why you're doing this.
5. Try a beach body workout
There are lots of great workouts that you can do in order to slim down for summer. If you're pushed for time, try our 5 minute punchbag workout or 10 minute tabata workout. We also have an outdoor summer workout for when the weather has warmed up, as well as a resistance band workout and flat stomach abs workout so that you can feel confident in your summer beach body!