Magnesium and its superpowers in muscle recovery

November 25, 2018



I often cite the benefits of magnesium for muscles and joints to clients, especially those competing in events and or training intensely who need all the recovery they can muster, in addition to foam rolling, massage ball trigger pointing, seeing us for sports massage and regular stretching (plus de stressing mentally!!). So, I thought I’d write a blog breaking down the benefits and regular questions I get asked on the best way to take it.

Overall, magnesium is a mineral that serves many crucial functions in the human body such as: 

  • regulating blood pressure

  • maintaining heart health

  • energy production

  • nerve function

  • protein synthesis – important for muscle repair!

  • healthy bone formation

  • blood sugar control

  • regulating sleep cycles

So you can see, it’s really important for overall health. 



Why is magnesium often mentioned for Muscle recovery?


If you are training for a sport or activity or exercising a lot you will be depleting your body of essential minerals and nutrients, such as Magnesium. Therefore, you will need to supplement these vitamins and minerals to give your body back these crucial nutrients allowing your muscles, nervous system and other systems to recover. 


Here are some way Magnesium can help with recovery:


  • Assistance with muscle cramping


Although research studies effects on muscle cramping have been mixed, a study has shown participants who received 300mg of daily magnesium for 6 weeks had less muscle cramps than placebo group. Similarly, a study on pregnant women showed the same effect on leg cramping. 


So, whether the results are psychosomatic, placebo, or supported (further scientific research is needed), taking magnesium daily has been shown to decrease symptoms of muscle cramps. It acts as a calcium blocker, helping muscles relax after contracting.[1]


  • Aids with sleeping (which helps with overall recovery)

As magnesium can aid with muscle relaxation and have positive effects on the nervous system, it can help people relax and thus improve sleep quality. Animal studies have shown it can help regulate production of melatonin, which guides the sleep-wake cycle.[2]


  • Can boost exercise performance


With less cramping, regulation of muscle contractions, better recovery and sleep – magnesium has shown in some studies to boost overall exercise performance. There have been a few studies including one of triathlon athletes who supplemented with magnesium for 4 weeks and experienced faster running cycling and swimming times, complemented with lower insulin and stress levels.[3]


What can happen if I lack magnesium in my body?


  • Weakness in muscles

  • Cramping

  • Anxiety

  • Poor circulation

  • Muscle pain in neck/ shoulders


How can I take magnesium?


Magnesium can be taking orally through foods or supplements as well as through the skins through oils or baths. 




While there is a plethora of supplements on the market adorning the shelves of pharmacies and supermarkets – magnesium can be found naturally in below food:

  • pumpkin seeds

  • nuts such as almonds and cashews

  • peanuts – great for fans of peanut butter!

  • wheat cereal / bread

  • Brown rice

  • Soymilk

  • Spinach, kale and green leafy vegetables

  • Vegetables eg. Broccoli 

  • Black beans

  • bananas

  • Coconut water – a natural electrolyte drink, without the sugar that sports drinks and things like endura have in them. 

  • Dark chocolate – good news for chocolate fiends!

  • Chia seeds

Overall, food that is high in fibre such as nuts, leafy greens, legumes, and whole grains are your best bet magnesium sources. 


Extra-dermally – via the skin


While there are no reliable scientific case studies touting the recommendation of topically applied magnesium sprays, oils or baths – some clients especially athletes have reported better recovery from these including floatation tanks with dead sea salts (magnesium chloride).



Magnesium / Epsom salts baths


A lot of people don’t realise that Epsom salts are made of Magnesium. They are actually made of Magnesium sulphate. The benefits of Epsom salts baths come from the chemical structure breaking down into magnesium and sulphate, which is argued to be absorbed through the skin to help muscle and joint pain. You could also argue that the warm bath alone can help by relaxing the muscles and the mind.


How much do I add to the bath?


Usually 2 cups is enough for an average bath, but you can add more for your preference provided the water can dissolve it.


What temperature?


A heat to dissolve the Epsom salts but also be comfortable for your preference, just check it as you fill it up and before you get in so you don’t burn yourself. 

Does it matter where I get the Epsom salts?


Not really. Depends how much you want to spend. Some fancy ones have essential oils in them such as lavender which can also help with relaxation. But standard Epsom salts are fine. You can usually get them from any good chemist, grocery or wholefoods store, online or some clinics. 


Which magnesium is best for bathing in? 


You can also get Magnesium chloride (or flakes – like those of the dead sea) which is best for absorption compared to Epsom salts which break down into magnesium and sulfate. However they may not be as readily available as Epsom salts.


How long should I bathe for?


15-30 minutes is recommended, at very least 12 minutes for the time poor amongst us! However 20 minutes is probably best for your muscles and brain to relax!


When is best to take magnesium?


Magnesium baths are best before bed so you can relax (or at least not working after it!), for supplements it depends on your objectives, if it is to aid sleep, then 1-2 hours prior to sleep, if its to help with headaches/migraines, then at the first signs of those. Otherwise, the Mayo clinic advises consumption alongside meals. [4]



Float tanks

Float tanks may be another way to get Magnesium into your body. Float tanks are sensory deprivation tanks that you get into and are enclosed. There is little to no sound, it is completely dark and you are literally floating, so you feel completely relaxed.


The core benefit of float tanks for musculoskeletal recovery is the incredible concentration of Epsom salts in there (350 kg usually) which allows you to float. That’s enough to rival the buoyancy of the dead sea and give you a sting if you have a cut you didn’t cover up! 


The vast volume of Epsom salts means its like an Epsom salt bath multiplied by a million (ok I haven’t done my maths, but you get what I mean) which aims to aid muscle and joint stiffness, fatigue, pain and tension. In addition to that it’s very relaxing and meditative, so if you are feeling stressed, have neck and jaw pain or tension headaches or just let go mentally and physically float tanks could be of benefit. 



What are the types of Magnesium supplements and which is the best one for your needs?