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Running & Magnesium Depletion

By Christine Wheatley

The fourth most plentiful mineral in the human body, magnesium is vital to maintaining your health. And if you’re a regular runner, you need magnesium even more than the average person. You can easily become depleted of this mineral if you’re not careful, resulting in negative consequences such as leg cramps and muscle spasms. It’s important for every runner to understand this mineral and its effect on the human body.

Importance of Magnesium

Your body needs magnesium for more than 300 biochemical reactions. Some functions of magnesium include maintaining nerve function, keeping bones strong, keeping your immune system healthy and maintaining a normal blood pressure. Of particular importance to runners is magnesium’s affect on muscle function. The mineral affects processes such as electrolyte balance, oxygen uptake and energy production, which are all involved in muscle function.

Running and Magnesium

The Nutritional Magnesium Association website states that strenuous exercise such as running increases your magnesium need by as much as 10 to 20 percent. Since strenuous exercise increases your sweat and urinary losses, your magnesium stores become depleted. Once you’re deficient of this mineral your running performance may be impaired; the negative aspects of strenuous exercise, such as oxidative damage, may also be amplified. Some common signs of magnesium depletion include muscle cramps and spasms, heart palpitations, nausea, fatigue, weakness, appetite loss and vomiting.


If your levels are low, stock up on foods that are rich in magnesium. Some examples of foods you should eat are spinach, nuts, seeds, peas, beans, whole unrefined grains, oatmeal, potatoes and halibut. You can also choose take a magnesium supplement in pill form. Check the label of your magnesium supplement, however, to ensure the main ingredient is magnesium oxide, the form of magnesium that is best absorbed by the body. The National Institute of Health recommends no more than 350 milligrams of magnesium per day for adults.


If you suspect you are magnesium deficient, it’s important to have a doctor evaluate your condition to determine levels before you take any action. Taking supplements when they aren’t necessary may cause your magnesium levels to be too high. Signs of too much magnesium include diarrhea, abdominal cramping, extremely low blood pressure, irregular heartbeat and difficulty breathing. If you experience any of these symptoms, see a doctor right away. Besides strenuous exercise, other factors can figure into magnesium depletion. Conditions such as Crohn’s disease, which affects nutrient absorption in the body, or medications including diuretics, antibiotics and anti-cancer drugs can all deplete magnesium levels.

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