If you've ever experienced the sudden discomfort of a muscle cramp during a workout or competition, you're not alone. Many of us have been told that cramps are caused by dehydration, lack of potassium, or insufficient calcium. However, there's a lesser-known player in the field that might hold the key to preventing those pesky muscle cramps: magnesium. Yes, you read that right! Magnesium is essential for keeping our muscles, nerves, and brain functioning properly.
Magnesium often goes unnoticed in discussions about nutrition and health, largely because it's not as easily measured in blood tests as other minerals. Doctors, who often rely on these tests, might miss the magnesium puzzle piece. But don't let its low profile fool you.
Magnesium is like a muscle calming superhero. It helps muscles, including the heart, relax. When magnesium levels dip, these organs can get a little "twitchy." Add stress from intense workouts, sleep deprivation, or poor nutrition into the mix, and that twitchiness can escalate into full-blown spasms; the kind that make you curse the universe when you're trying to run that last mile.
So, how can you ensure your body is getting enough of magnesium?
Let's delve into some dietary tips to ensure you're getting enough magnesium without having to resort to supplements.
Be Mindful of Meat Preparation: Magnesium loves hanging out in meat, but if you're turning that succulent steak into a hot dog, you might be losing out on its magnesium content. When you cook meat, try to capture those savory drippings and incorporate them into sauces. If you're into making broth, don't toss it out – it's a great source of magnesium.
Embrace the Green: Magnesium is the star of the show in chlorophyll, that magical green pigment in plants that fuels photosynthesis, the life force of plants. The greener your veggies, the more magnesium they're likely to contain. Opt for steaming over boiling, and don't overcook your vegetables; aim for that "al dente" texture.
Munching on Magnesium: Incorporating magnesium-rich foods like pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, spinach, almonds, and edamame can also be a delicious and practical way to elevate your magnesium levels. For example, try making a stir-fry with edamame, or a homemade trail mix with pumpkin seeds, almonds, and a touch of dark chocolate. Pre-packaged small bags of pumpkin seeds, almonds, or chia seeds are also a convenient way to grab a healthy snack when you're on the go.
Magnesium-Rich Movement: If muscle cramps are a frequent annoyance, your body might be whispering that it's low on magnesium. A solution is to take slow-release magnesium citrate tablets daily. Now, you might be wondering why you should opt for slow-release magnesium citrate supplements. Well, the common magnesium oxide supplements (like Milk of Magnesia) can lead to unwanted gastrointestinal distress, while magnesium gluconate is a bit carb-heavy. These options might not deliver the magnesium punch you're hoping for.
Caution: Although these supplements pose minimal risks for most individuals, if you have severe kidney disease or have any other medical condition, please consult your doctor before getting started.
In conclusion: Remember, your muscles, nerves, and brain deserve the best, and magnesium might just be the secret weapon to keep them running smoothly. So go ahead and embrace this magnificent mineral – your muscles will thank you with cramp-free workouts and a healthier you!
The Art and Science of low carbohydrate performance By Jeff S. Volek, PhD, RD Stephen D. Phinney, MD, PhD, Year 2012