Magnesium: The Forgotten Electrolyte



It’s definitely starting to feel like summer in Oklahoma. This is about the time where I start carrying water on short runs and my hair will require extra washes throughout the week (not cool). With the hotter weather it’s important to be extra diligent and replace electrolytes lost during those heavy sweat sessions! Most runners know that sodium, chloride, potassium, and calcium are all lost in sweat, and we eat salty foods, bananas, and dairy foods to compensate for those minerals lost, but what about magnesium?


Magnesium is also an important electrolyte lost in sweat that tends to get overlooked. It’s crucial during exercise: it allows muscles to contract and relax; helps produce ATP (energy); it’s required for the synthesis of protein, lipid, and carbohydrates; and helps regulate blood pressure. It’s lost in higher amounts when you’re exercising in hot and humid environments. So if you’re training 5-6 days a week, and losing a lot of fluid through sweat, then you could possibly benefit from some extra magnesium in your diet. At the very least, it’s important to make sure you are consuming enough magnesium to meet the daily recommended amount!


Severe magnesium deficiencies aren’t very common; it would manifest as muscle weakness or severe cramps. But even a marginal magnesium deficiency can affect your performance and increase oxidative stress on your body. More stress means a longer recovery time and more damage to your cells (no thanks!). If your diet is high in processed foods, meat, and refined carbs, and low in high-magnesium containing foods like green leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, and legumes, then you could be at risk for a slight magnesium deficiency.


The recommended daily amount of magnesium is 320 mg for women, and 420 mg for men. Here are some of the highest magnesium containing foods (my favorite food in the world–peanut butter–is on the list):


Best Magnesium Containing Foods
Food Milligrams (mg) magnesium per serving
Almonds 1 oz  80
Cashews 1 oz  74
Lentils (1 cup, cooked)  71
Soymilk (1 cup)  61
Black beans (1/2 cup, cooked)  60
Quinoa (1/2 cup, cooked) 59
Oatmeal (1/2 cup, dry) 56
Edamame (1/2 cup, cooked) 50
Peanut butter (2 tbsp) 49
Spinach (2 cups, raw) 47
Whole wheat bread (2 slices) 46
Banana, large 37
Chicken (3 oz, roasted) 22

So if you want to maximize your magnesium intake, you could eat oatmeal and a banana for breakfast, almonds for a snack, have a spinach salad topped with edamame for lunch, and chicken and quinoa for dinner!

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