Nutrition: The Importance of Zinc and Magnesium

Zinc and magnesium are two minerals that are vital to our day-to-day health, and also critical to endurance performance. Zinc plays a significant role in regulating healthy hormone levels within our blood stream. Magnesium is vital to the synthesis of protein, and to other reactions within the body's metabolic system, which ultimately provide energy to your muscles.

A deficiency in either of the minerals could cause health issues and sub-optimal performance. In this blog post, I thought I'd talk through a few reasons why it might be useful to monitor, and perhaps supplement, your zinc and magnesium intake.


Zinc – Vital to maintain normal testosterone levels 

Zinc is found in every cell within your body, and after iron, it is probably the most important mineral. It is vital to your immune function, as well as your thyroid function and the maintenance of healthy hormone levels.

After recent blood tests demonstrated that I showed some concerning deficiencies in Serum-T and Free-T, I was keen to ensure that my own Zinc levels were topped up, to help boost testosterone levels.

Zinc is widely available in protein rich foods, including: lean beef, poultry, beans and nuts, and dairy products. Most people won't need to supplement their intake; but if you display symptoms of zinc deficiency, such as low testosterone levels or poor immune function, then it may be worth considering, particularly if you're a male.


Magnesium – Required for enzymatic reactions, quality sleep and recovery 

Magnesium is an electrolyte, which again can be found in many food sources. However, unlike zinc, recent research suggests that the majority of people don't actually get their recommended daily intake of the mineral.

Magnesium plays a key role in fighting fatigue. Signs of magnesium deficiency include loss of muscle strength, muscle inflammation, lower energy levels, tiredness, irritability, insomnia and elevated heart rates. Whilst these might just sound like symptoms that occur after a block of endurance training, if they persist, they could be related to low magnesium levels. Indeed, it's been found that endurance athletes are particularly susceptible to magnesium deficiency; most likely because magnesium is required for enzymatic reactions, which convert food to energy, for fuel.

Low levels of magnesium in your blood can have a serious effect on performance. The body can only really store magnesium within your bones, so if you're deficient in your blood supply, your body is forced to extract the mineral from the bone. The extraction from bone is a slow process, and hence if you're asking your body to do it during exercise (so that magnesium can help in energy conversion), then it will likely result in a feeling of lethargy and a lack of power. Ultimately, you won't be able to perform at your best; similar to if you had low blood sugar levels.

Magnesium is found in many food sources, including seeds, greens, nuts (cashews and peanuts in particular), brown rice and quinoa. Despite this, it can be difficult to get enough in your diet. If you suspect deficiency, then magnesium supplementation may be wise, especially as excess magnesium is simply passed from your body in your urine. Taking a supplement before bedtime could be particularly beneficial, as low levels of magnesium in your blood can contribute to insomnia.


Supplementation

Over the last few months, I've been using MaxiNutrition's MAX ZMA: a combined zinc, magnesium and vitamin B6 supplement (vitamin B6 supports protein synthesis). As mentioned earlier in this post, the motivation for doing so came largely from some recent blood test results.

Two weeks ago, I had a second blood test. The results unfortunately revealed that despite a number of changes in my diet, training and lifestyle, my T-levels hadn't dramatically increased. It suggests that there is a more deep-seated problem that may be causing the deficiency. However, the supplementation with the MAX ZMA, was at least a reassurance that I was getting sufficient zinc within my diet, and that this wasn't the cause of the low T-levels in my blood.

Much like my opinion on multi-vitamin supplements, supplementing ZMA can be seen a bit like an insurance policy. It is a reassurance that if your diet does slip for a time, then at least you are still getting enough of these two vital minerals.

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