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.
As a first time author, this month was supposed to be a very exciting one. My book, "5 Simple Steps to Releasing the Real You", was published on March 24th and a book launch by my publisher had been scheduled for that evening in Central London. A more local book launch was planned for Monday 30th in North London. And then boom, Coronavirus hit the UK hard. Events got cancelled right, left and centre. What should have been a very exciting time was suddenly totally in limbo.
My publisher cancelled the central London event, while I decided to still host mine, but move it online. Many people learned how to use video conferencing tools they never used before. The reason why I decided to push on with my book launch, in its new format, is that if we learned anything from this pandemic, being healthy is a lifesaver.
So far, on top of the elderly and those with an autoimmune disease, those suffering from high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes are as much at risk as the elderly. Except for type-1 diabetes, the other ones are lifestyle related, hence totally in our hands. I myself struggled with my health and weight for many years while working in the corporate world. I didn’t know how to juggle a healthy lifestyle and a very demanding job, while adding some social events in the little spare time I had.
I was always told that I just had to eat less and better and move more. Unfortunately, as much as I knew that was the answer, I had no idea of how to implement it for long term results. Yes, I always loved healthy food. And I’ve always been sporty. But when you are traveling a lot for work, entertain clients a lot, and come home too tired to cook and move, it’s not easy, or at least I didn’t find it easy, and I didn’t find anyone that understood my lifestyle and issues and could help me change. All I got was the all or nothing approach. And that didn’t work.
After tearing the ligaments in the knee and doing rehab, I found a personal trainer course that I could combine with work. Studying on the train and plane was ideal. Ten years ago, I made a massive career change and became a personal trainer. Somehow, I thought that if I got my clients to workout well, they’ll want to eat better as well. Even after adding nutrition to my qualifications, most clients were still not compliant with what I suggested. So I had to dig further, and realised that unless we also work on our mindset, our habits and behaviours, sleep enough and reduce stress levels, "eat less, move more" won’t work.
It’s only when you set up your environment both mental and physical to support your efforts that you will achieve long term results. By being stuck at home, and being forced to slow down, we now have an incredible opportunity to review both our mental and physical environment. Working through "5 Simple Steps to Releasing the Real You", the reader will be asked many questions that will help them recognise their downfalls and their barriers, while finding ways to surmount them and build a new and healthy plan around the 5 steps of Mindset, Habits & Behaviour, Nutrition, Exercise & Movement, Sleep & Stress.
Are you ready to make a change? Join the online book launch on Monday March 30th at 7pm UK time, and get a signed copy of the book. Buy your ticket on https://anneiarchy.com/book-launch
If you can’t make it, then buy your signed copy on my website https://anneiarchy.com/book or your kindle edition on Amazon.
Having your world turned upside down can affect your mental and physical wellbeing in a number of ways. Follow these 5 daily habits to make sure you stay healthy both mentally and physically during these testing times.
1. Stick to a routine
Humans are creatures of habit and there is nothing we love more than a daily routine. Now that we're not going into work every day or taking the kids to school, it can be hard to know what to do. By creating a new daily routine and sticking to it, you will soon find your brain has time to calm down and settle, which will take a lot of pressure off other areas.
When we follow a daily routine, it allows us to do things on autopilot which eases the workload for our brains. Once your new routine is in place, you will find it easier to focus on other tasks and chores. By doing things at the same time each day such as getting up, eating meals, doing certain activities, and exercising, you will ease a lot of stress and brain power.
2. Get up early (and go to bed early)
For a lot of people, not having to get up early to go to work or school is a dream come true and the temptation will be to snooze until midday then lounge around until bed time. This is not a healthy habit and after doing this for a few days you will soon find yourself feeling lethargic both mentally and physically.
Give your day purpose by getting up early and doing something productive, whether this be household chores or your daily exercise. Enjoy some downtime in the afternoon and go to bed at a sensible time (before 10pm if possible!)
3. Eat healthily
A lot of people are finding that by spending all day indoors, it's far too easy to snack constantly as the kitchen is always open. Feasting on a diet of sugar will inevitably lead to mood swings and fatigue, so stick to a healthy diet to make sure you feel at your best. Plan your meals in advance to take the guess work out of it and to prevent mindless snacking. You could even get the kids involved in planning a weekly menu to make things more fun.
Avoid keeping unhealthy snacks in the house and instead stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables during your shopping trips. This will mean you can snack on fruit instead of junk food which will help you to feel healthier and keep your mind clearer.
4. Exercise daily
The government have identified that being able to go outside for fresh air and exercise is imperative for both our mental and physical wellbeing, which is a huge benefit for everyone. Make the most of your exercise allowance by going for a walk, cycle or jog outdoors. Don't push yourself too hard as you want to keep your immune system fighting fit, but a one-hour walk, jog, or cycle will do wonders for both your mental and physical wellbeing.
Allow your mind to focus on other things while you are exercising and enjoy the stress-relieving benefits of the endorphins and runner's high. If you're someone who usually has to squeeze a workout in after work in the dark, make the most of the day light and Vitamin D from the sun by going at lunchtime instead.
5. Keep your mind active
Staying at home all day will inveitably lead to boredom for a lot of people and inside the same four walls there can be a lack of stimuli for our brains. Keep your mind active by doing crosswords, puzzles, quizzes, and stay connected with friends and family.
Thanks to modern technology, you could even organise a nightly 'pub quiz' with friends and family via video chat or play games together. Just be wary of getting out that dusty game of Monopoly as we all know how that often ends!
There are a lot of myths surrounding the infamous metabolism, but what is true and what's not? We take a look at whether you can really speed up your metabolism and how to utilise the metabolism in weight loss.
Can you change the speed of your metabolism?
The metabolism is the chemical reaction in the body that keeps us alive. The metabolism is controlled by hormones and the nervous system and this process breaks down the food you eat and turns it into energy. Your metabolism is measured as BMR, basal metabolic rate. Your BMR is the amount of calories (energy) your body burns just by being alive.
You inherit your metabolism and so your BMR is mostly controlled by your genetics, however there are external factors such as physical activity and diet which can speed up the metabolism.
How do you increase your metabolism?
There are different lifestyle factors which affect your metabolism and it gradually decreases as we age. If you want to increase your metabolism, try some of the following tricks.
Eat regular, small meals throughout the day
Your blood sugar peaks and troughs naturally throughout the day, but too many spikes and dips can lead to mood swings, irritability, and cravings. By eating small meals regularly throughout the day, you will help to keep your blood sugar levels more stable and therefore keep your metabolism ticking over too.
Eat more, don't be restrictive
A very common motto in the fitness industry these days it that you need to eat more to lose weight. Gone are the days of magazines recommending we eat less than 1,000 calories per day and people mindlessly following fad diets like the baby food diet. We have now realised that to boost the metabolism and stay healthy, we actually need to eat plenty of food to fuel ourselves, so long as it's whole, unprocessed food and that we are also following a good exercise regime.
By doing high intensity interval training like a Tabata workout, we create what is called the EPOC effect. The EPOC effect means your body continues to burn calories even once you've finished the workout. Tabata training is also proven to increase the BMR, which means your body will burn more calories at rest.
Do strength training to build muscle
It has been proven that the more muscle you have, the more fat your body burns. Having a high lean muscle mass will increase your metabolism and so you will burn more calories at rest.
Metabolism boosting foods and drinks
As well as the physical activity you do, there are ways to speed up your metabolism through your diet. The following foods and drinks are proven to increase your metabolism.
Studies have shown that spicy foods can (temporarily) increase your metabolism by up to 8 percent. By adding chilli and other spices to your food, you will be speeding up your metabolism, but only slightly.
Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, and as we've already seen, it's the central nervous system that controls the metabolism. By drinking coffee, you will be boosting your energy levels and stimulating your BMR. But remember, caffeine can be addictive and can potentially have negative affects on your sleep.
Eating plenty of protein is good for you as it builds muscle and helps to maintain healthy body and tissue function. Protein is also proven to make you feel fuller for longer, so you will end up eating less in the long run.
Green tea contains antioxidants called catechins which are proven to boost your metabolism. If you're not a huge fan of drinking green tea, try adding matcha green tea powder to smoothies, which is ten times more powerful than a regular cup of green tea.
If you're trying to lose weight or are training for a race or fitness event next year, Christmas can feel like a daunting time. Lots of indulgent food around the house, meals and drinks out with family and friends, and less time to train can all add up. We're here with our 5 top tips to help you stay on track and avoid over-indulging this festive season.
1. Tell your family and friends about your goals
One of the things that makes it so difficult to stick to being healthy at this time of year is pressure from family, friends, and social occasions. If everyone is eating, drinking and being merry, you don't want to be the party-pooper with your salad in a Tupperware container.
Make sure you tell your family and friends about your intentions and your goals so that they can support you. They'll be more understanding and hopefully won't try to pressure you into eating more unhealthy food if you're open with them about what you're trying to achieve.
2. Make sure there's healthy food in the house
It can be all too tempting to eat cake for breakfast and graze on biscuits and sweets throughout the day if they are littering the house and there aren't any healthy options.
Make sure you've still got normal, healthy food in your house so that you can eat proper meals and then enjoy the occasional treat as well. Trying to stick to a normal eating routine will be key to success and not falling into a food coma after lunch.
3. Plan your meals ahead of time
Another reason why it's very tempting to eat the unhealthy food in the house is because it's quick and easily accessible. If you're stuck deciding what to have for dinner, chances are your family's suggestion of getting a takeaway will sound very appealing.
Make sure you plan your meals for the week ahead of time so that you know exactly what you're going to have and can make sure you have all the ingredients you need. There are plenty of healthy recipes that can be made quickly such as stir fry, grilled chicken, or wraps.
4. Stick to a training plan
Find a professionally-written training plan that fits around your schedule and try to stick to it as much as possible. Instead of making it up as you go and training ad-hoc, sticking to a proper training plan will make sure your training makes sense and that you don't over- or under-train.
However, it's also important to make sure your plans are flexible. If a friend invites you out but you have a long run planned for that day, try to compromise and arrange with your friend for another day. Referring back to point number 1, if you've already told your family and friends about your goals, they should understand and support you.
5. Don't be overly restrictive
It's almost impossible to sit at a table with a salad while everyone else eats delicious festive food. Allow yourself to have fun and enjoy yourself as that is the spirit of the season. If you've eaten a wholesome breakfast and healthy lunch, eating something a little less nutritious but a whole lot more tasty at dinner time shouldn't be too much of a problem. It's only when you're eating unhealthy snacks all day long as well as huge carb-rich meals that things go wrong this time of year.