Magnesium for Athletes – What you need to know

Most of us know about magnesium supplements and may be taking them without really knowing why, how it can help or how to get the most out of your magnesium.

Magnesium is primarily depleted by exercise (especially high intensity), stress, sugar and alcohol consumption.

You may benefit from more magnesium if you fall into the above categories or experience:

  • generalised muscle tension
  • muscle cramps
  • restless leg syndrome
  • muscle twitches
  • muscle weakness and lethargy
  • fatigue
  • migraines
  • stress

Magnesium supplements help to support a healthy nervous system, energy production and adrenal activity and are therefore effective for athletes and active individuals and also during times of increased demand such as stress or periods of high amounts of physical activity.

We can get more magnesium in many ways - food, supplements, salts, or through the skin via baths, creams and oils. If gut health is poor then magnesium absorption from food and supplements may be low, therefore focusing on absorption through the skin becomes even more important, using oils, creams and soaks.

To get more magnesium:

Supplements - there are many magnesium supplements on the market, generally powders are more readily absorbed than pills and come with less fillers. There are different types of magnesium that do different things so for most of us who exercise, magnesium bisglycinate is my recommendation for the above issues, as it is so highly absorbable. There are different dosages and blends of magnesium products designed for specific purposes. For example combinations that support the energy system, or focus on stress and anxiety, some with a pain blocking effect etc. Magnesium washes out of the system quickly, which is why it is recommended to be taken twice per day...what isn't often mentioned is that we cannot absorb a lot at one time so I like to recommend having your prescribed dosage (often 250-350mg) in a drink bottle and drink it over a few hours. If the body is not absorbing the magnesium, it may cause loose stools, so either drop the dosage back (then slowly bring back up), pick up a different type or a different brand (read: quality).

Foods - Those high in magnesium include dark leafy greens (especially spinach, swiss chard and kale), fruit and veg (avocado, broccoli, apples, bananas - mostly in the skin), seeds (especially pumpkin and sesame seeds), nuts (especially brazil nuts and almonds), meat (especially mackerel), beans (especially white french beans) and quinoa. Get some of these foods in at each meal.

Cream and oils - Again, there are many on the market, just grab the cleanest one you can find and give it a try. If your skin stings when you apply it, then apply an oil (coconut, olive oil, Shae butter) on your skin just before you apply the magnesium to get more lipids (fats) into the skin and improve the absorption of the oil. In this case, magnesium cream may be a better option as it is already in an lipid rich base. Use daily, especially on any sore, tired feeling muscles.

Magnesium salt bath - using magnesium salts (magnesium chloride) is more effective for magnesium absorption than epsom salts (magnesium sulfate). Epsom salts are preferred if you need some detoxification effects. Both are great for kids. Use 1/2-1 cup of salts in a bath, 2-3/week.

Magnesium salt in water - use a food grade magnesium chloride (we use high quality Elektra from a local Gold Coast family run company) to give yourself a magnesium boost. Add a pinch (0.5g) to your drink bottle for 90mg in just 3 serves in the day, you will have covered 240mg of magnesium.

Read this article for more information about the differences between magnesium chloride and magnesium sulfate:

For more information please contact us, we would be pleased to help!


Written by Dr. Jess Harvey B.Sc. (Anat, Phys), B.Ap.Sci (Comp. Med.), Ma Osteo., Registered Osteopath and Director of Head 2 Toe Health, with multidisciplinary clinics in Brisbane and Gold Coast. We provide Osteopathy, Acupuncture, Massage, Life Coaching and Counselling. We aim to get you as well as possible, as fast as possible, permanently. We believe in a thorough approach to restoring and maintaining health and address many aspects of our lifestyles that can contribute to pain, stiffness, dis-ease and disease. For any further information, please contact us on or 07) 3208 8308.

This information is intended as a general guide only and is not specific for any particular condition or situation.  Please consult with your healthcare practitioner before starting a nutritional program.