My muscles are currently burning, and it took me longer to get out of bed yesterday morning than I’d care to admit to – not surprising, considering over the past few days I tried crossfit for the first time, and ran a 4 mile mini marathon (plus the mile I had to run to the starting line due to a terrible combination of my embarrassingly bad sense of direction, with some poor timing). DOMS, or delayed onset muscle soreness is a familiar feeling (if not name, that’s what that gradually worsening pain 1-2days after exercise is called) for anyone who’s started a new fitness regime or pushed themselves in a new physical endeavour. And while yoga, stretching or foam-rolling can all help, there’s also a supplement that can encourage muscle relaxation – and bring some other benefits as well.
Triathletes, and all these other impressive serial exercisers, frequently profess the virtues of epsom salt baths…which are essentially magnesium. This mineral is commonly deficient, but excellent for promoting muscle relaxation and sleep – both of which obviously enough support tired muscles. But it’s not only this delayed onset muscle soreness that it can help, it can also:
- reduce teeth grinding or clenching (bruxism) and sometimes the associated neck pain, due to it’s action on the main muscles involved
- aid sleep – this study shows improvements in sleep time, sleep efficiency and an increase in melatonin levels in the body after 8 weeks of magnesium supplementation
- reduce stress – lower serum cortisol (the stress hormone) levels have also been noted, which can be further helped with some lifestyle changes
Getting enough magnesium can be a bit tricky, as not only do you have to have a diet quite high in magnesium to begin with (something fruit and veg grown in increasingly mineral-depleted soil may be lacking), but additionally, you need sufficient levels of vitamins B6 and D, and selenium for your body to absorb it. Oh, and excess fat, caffeine and stress hinder this process.
Yeah so not quite as easy to get sufficient magnesium by mistake, especially if you’re stressed and living on caffeine. But, taking a supplement in a form that is easily digested and absorbed by your body, at a separate time to your cup of jo, can make it a bit more straightforward. I find 150-300mg magnesium citrate (from a reputable brand like Solgar, Viridians or most types stocked in health food stores) taken in the evening, separate to food, works well for me and most of my patients. Most magnesium tablets are giant bullets, so the powdered form can be easier to take, or you can add it to a smoothie.
*** However, please note that magnesium can increase the effects of other muscle relaxant drugs (like Botox or Valium), so if you are on any medications, please check with your doctor before adding this supplement to your daily routine. ***
Have you ever tried magnesium supplementation?