The Importance of Magnesium and other Electrolytes

Most of us have heard of electrolytes, probably most prominently in Gatorade commercials talking about replacing them during intense workouts.  There’s some truth to their claims regarding the need to replenish your carbohydrates and electrolytes, and for athletes who are quickly losing significant amounts of water (and thus, Sodium, Magnesium, Potassium metabolites stored in the cells and intercellular space), sports drinks in moderate quantities can be useful in restoring electrolyte balance in the cells.  Many of us have heard of Magnesium as well, a metabolite that mineralizes our bones to make them more dense, balances blood pressure, is utilized in the heart for blood pressure regulation. Beyond those uses, it also takes part in muscular contraction and nerve impulse conduction as it plays a role in the active transport of calcium and potassium across cell membranes. These functions are essential to our daily function, and ensuring that we take in enough of this essential mineral will help us to reduce our chance for bone injury as well as cardiovascular disease.

  You can always find the daily recommended value of magnesium for our age group and gender on the NIH website, but for adults 19-30, men should take in 400mg, and women should take in 310mg.  RDA increases at 30 to 420mg/day for men and 320mg/day for women, and women who are pregnant should be increasing their intake to 360mg/day.  Magnesium isn’t hard to find if you know where to look, it can be found in fortified whole wheat and whole grain breads, as well as whole grains like quinoa, oats and buckwheat. Fatty fish, especially salmon, mackerel, and halibut, are high in magnesium, unsaturated omega fats and relatively moderate in calories, so they are particularly nutrient dense magnesium sources.  Leafy greens, like spinach, kale, collard greens and turnips, are particularly high in magnesium and combining these with a portion of fish and a portion of whole grains would be a great, balanced, whole-food meal to have for dinner! Those seeking a high protein/high fat but vegetarian option could find themselves looking to nuts like almonds, cashews or brazil nuts, which are calorie dense, rich in magnesium, protein and unsaturated fats.

As you can see, there are a lot of different ways to get your daily magnesium, no matter what type of diet you’re partial to.  The important thing is to find a balanced, diverse, primarily whole food diet that covers all major food groups, macronutrients, vitamins and minerals.  If we stay the course, log our intake and exercise routine, and make choices to bolster our fitness, we will have a much easier path to our fitness goals.


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