Magnesium is an essential mineral that is needed for over 300 body functions. These essential functions include protein and fat synthesis, muscle contractions, the creation of testosterone, calcium absorption, blood pressure maintenance, activity in the heart and a healthy nervous system. Many individuals are totally unaware that they are deficient in magnesium because their diets lack foods such as leafy green vegetables, nuts, legumes and whole grains. Instead they are consuming foods that are high in fats and sugars which lack sufficient magnesium content.
Magnesium has a vital role in muscle function and many bodybuilders are unaware that they are deficient in it. Fundamentally is needed in the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) which is the major component for energy and this has a high turn-over when training. Let’s discuss this a little further.
When ATP is used as energy to sustain muscle contractions; the turnover of magnesium is increased especially when working at higher intensities. Hence, adenosine triphosphate production has to be increased so that supply can match the demand of the training regime. If magnesium is absent then fatigue kicks in quicker due to limited energy production. Fatigue has many other contributing factors attached to it but some research has indicated that athletes who have low levels of magnesium are prone to:
- Muscle cramps during and post exercise
- Poor immune function and increased likelihood of certain diseases
- Irregular heartbeats because of its key role in heart maintenance
- Poor sleeping patterns and this can lead to increased cortisol levels. High cortisol levels have been associated with an increase in abdominal body fat.
- It can lead to mental disorders such as depression and anxiety because of its major role in a healthy central nervous system
- There is evidence to suggest that low levels of magnesium in women can lead to osteoporosis and anaemia.
Magnesium intake is imperative to bodybuilders and athletes because it reduces your lactic acid levels in the skeletal muscle. Increased lactic acid levels in the skeletal muscle can lead to fatigue especially when training hard at higher intensities and for longer durations. Magnesium counteracts this and thus enables you to trainer harder because you are in a reduced state of fatigue. It also has a pivotal role in decreasing cortisol levels which are further increased during and after a hard-core training. Cortisol is a stress hormone that is a catalyst for the body to start cannibalising its own muscle protein to create energy. A huge amount of magnesium is lost when we sweat and if you are combining high intensity interval training with weights; then adding some additional magnesium into to your nutrition plan is crucial.
Supplementing with magnesium has two vital benefits when you have strength and muscle gains as your training goals. The primary benefit is that magnesium can increase your testosterone levels and this anabolic hormone is essential for building muscle mass. Secondly, magnesium increases protein synthesis within the muscle cells and again this is crucial for building mass and strength.
In terms of dosages of magnesium; supplement with around 350 mgs for a female and 450 mgs for a male. You are training at higher intensities more than 3 times per week then add an additional 100 mgs on top of the RDA.
Zinc is a mineral located in most cells within the human body and is made of over three hundred enzymes. It is a very important mineral which is neglected by many individuals. A lack of zinc in your diet can lead to a variety of issues and illness such as a reduced immune system function, problems with your skin, poor wound dealing and fatigue. Zinc plays a vital role in cell division, a healthy endocrine system, maintains a healthy hormone balance within the body, helps to build muscle and it regulates insulin function. The regulation of insulin by zinc occurs by as follows:
- It bonds to the insulin and allows it to be stored within the pancreas
- It makes an enzyme that is needed for the insulin to bind with the cells, so the glucose can be utilised as a fuel source. This process is called ‘insulin sensitivity’ and inadequate control of insulin can lead to many metabolic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, obesity and even adrenal fatigue.
- It scavenges any inflammatory cells and this is a great boost to your insulin sensitivity.
Having the correct amounts of insulin in your bloodstream is vital especially when you are resistance training. Some current research has indicated that having the right amounts of insulin can help you to train at higher intensities for longer, helps with the growth of muscle tissue, decreases the storage of body fat and thwarts fatigue. When supplementing with zinc there is evidence to suggest that it can it can boost your testosterone, human growth hormone and IGF-1 levels which are key muscle building and fat burning hormones. Hence, if you are lacking in zinc in your diet then you will not be reaching your muscle building potential and all of the hard work at the gym may be in vain.
Zinc’s role in immune function
As mentioned previously, zinc has a vital role in your immune function and metabolism. It assists the body in the regulation of T cells and when raised these cell can combat many viruses, bacteria and some major diseases. Interestingly after a session of high intensity exercise your immune system is temporally depleted and is extremely vulnerable to an attack from either viruses and/or bacteria. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that you try to counteract this threat during this window of opportunity from both viruses/bacteria post exercise by supplementing with zinc.
Supplementing with zinc is essential for general health, revving up your metabolism, combating disease and decreasing fatigue. It also plays a role in improving insulin sensitivity and enables you to train at higher intensities for longer periods of time, which will enhance your strength and muscle mass gains. Zinc will reduce your fatigue levels but fatigue is multi-factorial in nature and the jury is out whether it will eradicate it completely!
For general health and well being, we also recommend drinking red wine. Check out this great article on the Health Benefits of Red Wine.