Essential Magnesium for Supporting an Active Body

As one of the most important nutrients in the diet, magnesium offers several health enhancing benefits. The body uses magnesium for essential cellular functions such as producing energy, maintaining normal functioning of the nerves and muscles, heart rhythm, immunity and bone health. More than 300 biological processes occurring in the body require magnesium. Thankfully, magnesium is relatively easy to obtain through a healthful diet. However, for some people magnesium absorption may be impaired for a number of reasons such as depleted soils, having intestinal disorders like Crohn’s disease or colitis, and/or as a result of taking certain types of medications.

A deficiency in this valuable mineral will eventually cause health problems; correcting any underlying deficiency can also help to improve existing health conditions including headaches, chronic pain, osteoporosis, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and fibromyalgia. Numerous studies have reported improvements in the symptoms of these ailments when a person’s magnesium levels are restored to an optimal level. Magnesium is also extremely valuable for improving fitness performance and helping active individuals feel their best.

Magnesium for Improving Exercise Performance

Research demonstrates that having even a marginal magnesium deficiency is detrimental to achieving peak exercise performance, and a deficiency exacerbates the negative consequences of oxidative stress due to strenuous exercise. Exercise can also cause excessive magnesium loss through sweating and urination.1 Research has indicated that many people are deficient in magnesium due to low consumption.1 The recommended daily intake of magnesium for adult males is 420 mg/day and 320 mg/day for adult females.2 Athletes that are participating in sports that require weight control are particularly at risk for having magnesium deficiency and more recently, magnesium has been recognized as having a beneficial effect on athletic performance. Magnesium is able to improve metabolic efficiency, relax muscles and reduce soreness, and is necessary for proper bone development, sleep and mood balance, all of which are factors that not only affect general health but also physical fitness and performance.

Magnesium Research in Athletes

In one study, magnesium was shown to improve the physical performance of volleyball players.3 Twenty-five professional male volleyball players took part in a four week study and were randomly assigned to a control or experimental group. The men had normal baseline magnesium levels at the start of the study. After four weeks of taking additional magnesium oxide at 350 mg per day, the athletes all showed impressive improvements in their jump abilities, on average being able to jump 3 cm higher. These results are exciting, and future research in this area will likely explore how athletes performing in other sports are affected from supplemental magnesium. Another study conducted over a three month period investigated the effects of magnesium deficiency on exercise performance in women.4 Ten women took part in the study which investigated the effects of magnesium on cycling performance. In months 1 and 3, the women adhered to a magnesium-deficient diet of 112 mg per day and a magnesium supplement of 200 mg per day to reach the Recommended Dietary Allowance per day. In the second month, the women stopped taking the supplement to intentionally result in a magnesium-deficient diet. At the end of each month, the women were asked to cycle at increasing intensity until they reached 80% of their maximum heart rate, at which time they were subjected to a battery of tests. The results showed when magnesium was deficient at the time of the cycling test during the workout in month 2, their metabolic efficiency was reduced as both heart rate and oxygen intake increased, indicators that the body was working much harder to perform the same task. Animal studies have also demonstrated that magnesium enhances exercise performance. The results of a study using two different groups of mice investigated magnesium’s effect on fitness performance in mice given supplemental magnesium and mice with normal magnesium levels.5 Results indicated that the muscle, blood, and brain glucose levels immediately increased during exercise, and then gradually decreased to near basal levels in the recovery periods of each groups. These glucose levels were significantly enhanced to approximately two-fold in the magnesium group. Lactate levels in the muscle, blood, and brain significantly increased in both groups during exercise, and brain lactate levels in the magnesium group were further elevated than those in the control group during exercise. Lactate is metabolized by neurons in the brain as a source of fuel. Lactate levels significantly decreased after exercise in both groups. Overall, magnesium enhanced glucose availability in the muscles and in the central nervous system, and increased lactate clearance in the muscle during exercise. Lactate clearance from the muscles is important for preventing muscle pain.

Magnesium for Strong and Resilient Bones in Athletes

Having strong bones is important for athletes. It is well known that magnesium is essential for proper bone development and that physical activity is also crucial for bone mineralization. Accelerated bone mass loss has been observed in subjects with low magnesium intake. One study proved this point by studying eighteen elite swimmers and assessing their bone mass density (BMD), lean soft tissue, and nutrient intake. Statistical analysis demonstrated a significant association between lean soft tissue and BMD.6 When magnesium intake was included in the analysis, it was found to be a significant, independent predictor of BMD. When the analysis was adjusted for energy, vitamin D, calcium, and phosphorus intake, magnesium remained a significant predictor of BMD.

Choosing a Magnesium Form That Supports an Active Lifestyle

As with many minerals, supplemental magnesium is found in various forms. Calcium and magnesium may be combined with another stabilizing molecule to form what is called a chelate. The molecules that are formed from these combinations have a significant impact on how well magnesium is absorbed and utilized in the body. The following forms of magnesium may be most suitable for athletes and active individuals.

Magnesium Aspartate: This form has higher bioavailability compared to oxide and citrate. There were some promising clinical trials conducted in the 1960s that found a combination of magnesium and potassium aspartates had a positive effect on fatigue, and they reduced muscle hyperexcitability.7 Physiologically this makes sense since both magnesium and aspartic acid are critical players in cellular energy production which is important for everyone whether an athlete or not. This form is not as commonly used but has been used for chronic fatigue syndrome.

Magnesium Glycinate: Glycine is a well-known calming amino acid. This combination has good bioavailability and does not have a laxative effect since glycine is actively transported through the intestinal wall. Due to the calming and relaxing effect of both glycine and magnesium, this combination has been used successfully for chronic pain and muscle hypertonicity.8 Easing muscle tension is important for athletes that rely on their muscle power for optimal performance. Muscle hypertonicity can also occur as a result of stress from emotional or physical origin. Whether muscular hypertonicity arises from physical or emotional causes, the result is the same: lactic acid build-up and joint compression, both of which can impede physical performance and cause muscle pain.

Magnesium Malate: This less well-known combination has been studied for use in fibromyalgia. Since malate is a substrate in the cellular energy cycle, it can help improve ATP production. There is some preliminary evidence that it may reduce muscle pain and tender points in fibromyalgia patients.9 This form of magnesium may help to reduce muscle pain as a result of muscle taxation during athletic activity.

Magnesium Orotate: This is another relatively unknown chelate combination containing orotic acid. This form has good bioavailability and has been studied specifically for heart health. Orotates can penetrate cell membranes, enabling the effective delivery of the magnesium ion to the innermost layers of the cellular mitochondria and nucleus. Orotates themselves increase the formation of RNA and DNA which can help heart cells repair and therefore improve function. This combination has been shown to improve heart failure, symptoms of angina and exercise performance in clinical trials.10,11

In a double-blind randomized study, 23 competitive triathletes competing in an event consisting of a 500-meter swim, a 20-km bicycle race, and a 5-km run were studied after 4-week supplementation with placebo or 17 mmol/day of magnesium orotate. Results of the study demonstrated that the swimming, cycling, and running times decreased in the magnesium orotate group compared with the controls. Serum glucose concentration increased 87% during the test in the control group and 118% in the magnesium orotate group, while serum insulin increased 39% in the controls and decreased 65% in the magnesium-orotate group. The magnesium orotate group had a higher venous oxygen pressure than the control group and lower blood leukocyte counts and cortisol levels. Magnesium orotate was able to boost athletic performance and decrease stress in the triathletes.12

Other Forms of Magnesium

Magnesium L-threonate: This form of magnesium has recently been studied to improve memory, brain function and ease mental stress. One preliminary study in animals found that it significantly enhanced both short-term and long-term memory, boosting scores by 15% for short-term memory and 54% for long-term memory compared to magnesium citrate.13

Based on this preliminary study, it appears that magnesium L-threonate is a highly absorbable form of magnesium that may potentially improve brain function, which is important for athletes under mental stress.

Magnesium Oxide: Often used in milk of magnesia products since this form has a strong laxative effect. Even though this combination contains a large proportion of magnesium compared to the oxide molecule, it has poor bioavailability and readily causes loose stools; therefore it is considered the least optimal form to use as a supplement.

Magnesium Sulfate: This form is often used as an intravenous preparation but it is not used in oral formulations. Since it does have some absorbability through the skin, it is also found in Epsom bath salts.

Magnesium Citrate: A commonly used form that has good bioavailability compared to oxide. It is also very rapidly absorbed in the digestive tract but does have a stool loosening effect.14 This form is found in many supplements and remains a solid option for delivering magnesium into the body.

Magnesium Taurate: Both magnesium and the amino acid taurine share the ability to improve cardiac function; each has a potentiating effect on insulin sensitivity and also a calming effect on neuromuscular excitability. The actions of both have striking similarities when it comes to cardiovascular health. They both have blood pressure reducing effects, stabilize nerve cells, improve the contraction of the heart muscle and have an antithrombotic effect.15 Additionally, low levels of vitamin B6 have been shown to further deplete both magnesium and taurine. Magnesium Pidolate (or picolinate): This form of magnesium has generated interest because it is very inexpensive and can easily be made into a liquid supplement. There really have not been any substantial research trials supporting its specific health benefits. The down side of this form is that the pidolate molecule does not have any additional health benefits.

Magnesium Ascorbate: Magnesium ascorbate is a buffered (non-acidic) form of vitamin C that will not contribute to gastric irritation in acid-sensitive persons. Magnesium ascorbate is synthesized from a combination of ascorbic acid and magnesium to form magnesium ascorbate. Magnesium ascorbate delivers antioxidant protection since it provides magnesium in combination with vitamin C.

Concluding Thoughts on Magnesium

Magnesium is essential for the body in order to maintain good health and is certainly beneficial for athletes. In supplement form it is known to have an excellent safety profile and can be very beneficial for improving certain health conditions. It is important to understand which form of magnesium will be best suited to address your health needs. A combination product such as AOR’s Advanced Magnesium Complex combines 4 valuable forms of magnesium to meet your body’s magnesium needs. This formula has been formulated with the optimal dosages and forms of magnesium (including magnesium aspartate, magnesium ascorbate, magnesium malate and magnesium glycinate) to ensure maximum effectiveness.

What You Need to Know

Magnesium is an essential ingredient in your diet and helps your body to perform numerous functions from nerve control to detoxification to muscle relaxation. Those who take part in exercise and strenuous physical activities will require more magnesium than a sedentary person. Magnesium supplements are available in several different forms. Depending upon your own personal health needs and digestive ability, one form may be better than another and offer specific benefits. A combination magnesium product such as AOR’s Advanced Magnesium Complex will cover all of your bases and ensure you are obtaining the many benefits that a magnesium supplement can provide to your body.


  1. Elin RJ. Magnesium: the fifth but forgotten electrolyte. Am J Clin Pathol. 1994 Nov;102(5):616-22.
  2. Health Canada Website: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/reference/table/ref_elements_tbl-eng.php, accessed March, 2014.
  • Setaro L et al. Magnesium status and the physical performance of volleyball players: effects of magnesium supplementation. J Sports Sci. 2013 Sep 9.
  • Henry C. Lukaski and Forrest H. Nielsen. Dietary Magnesium Depletion Affects Metabolic Responses during Submaximal Exercise in Postmenopausal Women1,2 J Nutr 132:930-935 (2002).
  • Chen HY et al. Magnesium enhances exercise performance via increasing glucose availability in the blood, muscle, and brain during exercise. 2014 Jan 20;9(1):e85486.
  • Matias CN et al. Magnesium intake mediates the association between bone mineral density and lean soft tissue in elite swimmers. Magnes Res. 2012 Jul-Sep;25(3):120-5.
  • Nagle FJ et al. The mitigation of physical fatigue with “Spartase”. FAA Office of Aviation Medicine Reports. Rep Civ Aeromed Res Inst US. 1963 Jul;26:1-10.
  • Lamontagne C et al. (2012) Rapid Resolution of Chronic Back Pain with Magnesium Glycinate in a Pediatric Patient. J Pain Relief 1:101.
  • Abraham GE, Flechas JD. Management of Fibromyalgia: Rationale for the Use of Magnesium and Malic Acid.
  • Stepura OB et al. Orotic acid as a metabolic agent. Vestn Ross Akad Med Nauk. 2002; (2): 39-41.
  • Geiss KR et al. Effects of magnesium orotate on exercise tolerance in patients with coronary heart disease. Cardiovasc Drugs Ther. 1998 Sep; 12 Suppl 2:153-6.
  • Golf SW et al.On the significance of magnesium in extreme physical stress. Cardiovasc Drugs Ther. 1998 Sep;12 Suppl 2:197-202.
  1. Coudray C et al: Study of magnesium bioavailability from ten organic and inorganic Mg salts in Mg- depleted rats using a stable isotope approach. Magnes Res 2005;18:215–223.
  2. Slutsky I et al. Enhancement of learning and memory by elevating brain magnesium. Neuron. 2010 Jan 28;65(2):165-77.
  3. McCarty MF. Complementary Vascular-Protective Actions of Magnesium and Taurine: A Rationale for Magnesium Taurate. Medical

Hypotheses (1996) 46. 89-100.

Additional Sources

Chen HY et al. Magnes Res. 2012 Jul-Sep;25(3):120-5. doi: 10.1684/mrh.2012.0317. Magnesium Enhances Exercise Performance via Increasing Glucose Availability in the Blood, Muscle, and Brain during Exercise.Abraham GE and Flechas JD. Management of Fibromyalgia: Rationale for the Use of Magnesium and Malic Acid. Journal of Nutritional Medicine (1992) 3, 49-59 r

About The Author

You might also like to read