Is The Lack of Magnesium Killing Your Gains?

Written by Andy Mobbs
Reviewed by Lamia A Kader, MD
research shows that magnesium improves strength training

New research is showing that magnesium is essential for our physical performance. In other words if you are magnesium deficient, it will negatively impact your strength training and overall endurance.

The research shows that even a marginal deficiency in magnesium can hit peak performance. ATP (The Adenosine triphosphate molecule, in charge of intracellular energy transfer), needs to be attached to a magnesium ion to become biologically active.

Magnesium keeps your heart pumping, boosts your immune system, and balances the neurotransmitters in your brain. Magnesium affects your sleep, mood, and improves your brainpower. In fact, it’s involved in over 600 biochemical reactions in your body (1). Simply put, it’s vital for life.

On top of that, we need magnesium for oxygen uptake and maintaining the balance of our electrolytes. Even the smallest magnesium deficiencies can negatively affect our muscles and the results of our strength training. The lack of magnesium can cause oxidative stress (aka inflammation), which has an impact on all areas of our health, including negatively affecting our performance and recovery (2).

Why Do We All Have Magnesium Deficiency?

The problem is that around 80% of us are deficient in magnesium (3). Even when we try to eat as well as possible, the vast majority of us still just don’t get enough.

Traditionally high magnesium foods such as fruit and veggies have much less magnesium in them today than even 30 years ago. The reason behind this is the drive for higher-yielding crops. Therefore, fruits and vegetables have less time in the ground, ergo less time to absorb vitamins and nutrients. That means that they have lower magnesium levels and are generally less nutritious (often with higher sugar levels) (4).

Magnesium is also taken out of our drinking water, and out of our salt. The stress and pollution of the modern world leach magnesium from our bodies, and hit our guts hard, meaning less of the magnesium we eat is absorbed.

If you are training hard, you actually need more magnesium than people who don’t because, during exercise, our magnesium requirements go up by 20% (2). If you’re doing strength training, you will need more magnesium too. All of this means it’s tough for athletes to get adequate levels of magnesium. It’s also difficult to accurately measure if you have a deficiency. The test is done with a standard blood test, and only 1% – 2% of body magnesium is in our blood (67% is in our bones and 31% in our cells)

The research shows that even a marginal deficiency in magnesium can hit peak performance

So What Can You Do About Magnesium Deficiency?

An effective way to make sure that you’re getting plenty of magnesium is to supplement with a high-quality, high absorbability brand. Research shows that regular supplementation with high-quality forms of magnesium can improve performance in the elderly, people suffering from heart disease, and already highly trained athletes (5,6,7,8,9).

The improvements in performance cover both increased endurance capacity and increased power. Magnesium also improves recreational strength training. For example, competitive triathletes found improved times in the swim, bike, and run after following 4 weeks of supplementation with magnesium compared to a control group. Also, importantly, the supplementation group also had lower insulin and cortisol levels, which means less inflammation, too (8).

In another study on professional volleyball players, also lasting 4 weeks, the researchers found that the magnesium supplementation group were able to achieve significant increases of over 3 cm in their jump heights over the control group (9).

Magnesium is also very safe to take and can benefit many other areas of your life as well.



(1) Magnesium in man: implications for health and disease. de Baaij JH, Hoenderop JG, Bindels RJ. Physiol Rev. 2015 Jan;95(1):1-46.

(2) Update on the relationship between magnesium and exercise. Nielsen FH, Lukaski HC. Magnes Res. 2006 Sep;19(3):180-9.

(3) The Magnesium Miracle, Carolyn Dean

(4) Declining Fruit and Vegetable Nutrient Composition: What Is the Evidence? Donald R. Davis HortScience February 2009 vol. 44 no. 1 15-19

(5) The effect of acute magnesium loading on the maximal exercise performance of stable chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients. Amaral AF, Gallo L Jr, Vannucchi H, Crescêncio JC, Vianna EO, Martinez JA. Clinics (Sao Paulo). 2012;67(6):615-22.

(6) Oral magnesium therapy, exercise heart rate, exercise tolerance, and myocardial function in coronary artery disease patients. Pokan R, Hofmann P, von Duvillard SP, Smekal G, Wonisch M, Lettner K, Schmid P, Shechter M, Silver B, Bachl N. Br J Sports Med. 2006 Sep;40(9):773-8.

(7) Effect of oral magnesium supplementation on physical performance in healthy elderly women involved in a weekly exercise program: a randomized controlled trial. Veronese N, Berton L, Carraro S, Bolzetta F, De Rui M, Perissinotto E, Toffanello ED, Bano G, Pizzato S, Miotto F, Coin A, Manzato E, Sergi G. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Sep;100(3):974-81.

(8) On the significance of magnesium in extreme physical stress. Golf SW, Bender S, Grüttner J. Cardiovasc Drugs Ther. 1998 Sep;12 Suppl 2:197-202.

(9) Magnesium status and the physical performance of volleyball players: effects of magnesium supplementation. Setaro L1, Santos-Silva PR, Nakano EY, Sales CH, Nunes N, Greve JM, Colli C. J Sports Sci. 2014;32(5):438-45.