The Magnesium Crisis
Up to 85% of Americans might be deficient in magnesium. It's probably even worse in athletes because sweating like a farm animal causes it to leech out of the body.
This is a big deal because the mineral plays a role in over 300 biochemical reactions in the human body. Among other things, magnesium is crucial to energy production, protein synthesis, and insulin metabolism. Without enough of it, you get undue lactic acid build-up, muscle cramping, poor recovery, and poor exercise performance in general. A deficiency also makes it harder to lose fat.
Taking magnesium supplements should remedy all those symptoms and side effects, but according to Turkish researchers, it might have another compelling effect. It seems that combining magnesium supplementation with intense exercise can increase testosterone levels by a stratospheric 25%.
What They Did
The scientists recruited 30 male students between the ages of 18 and 22. Ten of them sat on their butts most of the time (led a sedentary lifestyle) while the other 20 did intense taekwondo sessions for between 90 minutes and 120 minutes five times a week.
The sedentary group took 10 mg. of magnesium per kilogram every day for four weeks, as did half (10) of the taekwondo practitioners. The other 10 martial artists took nothing.
The researchers measured testosterone levels in all the participants before the study began, once at rest and then again after all the subjects ran at high intensity until they hit the endurance wall. After receiving magnesium for four weeks, the researchers again measured the subjects' testosterone levels at rest and after exertion.
What They Found
Magnesium intake increased the free and total testosterone levels of both the sedentary group and the athletic group. Most notably, however, magnesium increased free testosterone levels in the sedentary group by about 15% while increasing it by an impressive 24% in the magnesium-plus training group.
What This Means to You
Given that magnesium plays a role in so many biochemical reactions, it's not surprising that one or more of these reactions would play a role in testosterone synthesis. It's also possible that magnesium "frees up" more testosterone from binding proteins, thereby increasing levels of free (bioavailable) testosterone.
Either way, taking a magnesium supplement would be a good idea. General recommendations for health are 4 mg. of magnesium per kilogram per day, so a 200-pound guy would need about 363 mg. a day to meet minimum requirements.
However, that doesn't take in the presumably greater needs of athletes and it's a lot less than what's needed for the dramatic increase in testosterone seen in the study.
The dosage used by the Turks is about 10 mg. per kilogram, or about 907 mg. a day for that same 200-pound hypothetical guy, which is slightly less than a gram. That's not much at all.
You could go the whole food route. High-magnesium food choices include the following:
- Green leafy vegetables
- Swiss chard
However, not many of us are willing to eat the amounts of food it would take to get us to a gram of magnesium (e.g., about 10 cups of seaweed). Secondly, there's no way of guaranteeing the exact amount of magnesium you'd be getting from these foods since many otherwise nutrient-rich foods are actually nutrient poor because of variabilities in soil and growing methods.
To play it safe, go the supplement route and take at least a gram per day. ZMA® would be a good way to get started.
Related: More Info on ZMA®
- Cinar V, Polat Y, Baltaci AK, Mogulkoc R, "Effects of magnesium supplementation on testosterone levels of athletes and sedentary subjects at rest and after exhaustion," Biol Trace Elem Res. 2011 Apr;140(1):18-23.