Do you avoid nuts and nut butters because they're too high in fat? Wheat germ because other cereals taste better? One hundred
percent whole-wheat bread because it's not as soft and moist as white bread? Or tofu because "Who eats tofu?" Most people do
pass when it comes to these foods. You should be aware, however, that you're taking a pass on magnesium as well.
Why do athletes and bodybuilders need magnesium? For two simple reasons: energy and muscle contraction. As stated in a 1987 article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, The fact that magnesium is indispensable to the metabolism of ATP means that it is essential in a great many metabolic processes, such as glucose utilization; synthesis of fat, protein and nucleic acids; muscle contraction and some membrane transport systems. Overall, magnesium is important for greater than 300 different enzyme systems."
What's more, Ronald J. Elm, M.D. and Ph.D., in his 1988 book Magnesium Metabolism in Health and Disease wrote, A large segment of the U.S. population may have an inadequate intake of magnesium. Only 25 percent of those surveyed in a study involving more than 37,000 people] had a magnesium intake at or greater than the RDA."
For most people magnesium intake increases as calorie intake increases. Thus, if you're limiting your calories to lose weight or cut up prior to a contest, you're probably not consuming the recommended 350 milligrams of magnesium a day. Even if you're eating 2,000 to 3,000 calories, if most of them come from fat, sugar and/or alcohol, you're still going to be magnesium deficient.
In addition, if you tend to choose overly refined foods, that also depresses magnesium intake. For example, when the wheat kernel is robbed of its bran component and germ, which occurs when it's processed into white flour, it's also robbed of more than 80 percent of its magnesium.
Thus, white bread, bagels, English muffins dinner rolls, hamburger and hot dog buns and saltine crackers are all magnesium depleted. In addition, you're fooling yourself if you think that loaf of cracked wheat, wheat nugget, oatmeal, oat bran, rye, seven-grain or pumpernickel bread is healthy. Most examples of those varieties contain 60 to 90 percent white flour, with approximately one-fourth to one-half cup of actual whole grain per loaf. This adds up to very little magnesium. Refined, or white, sugar has lost all its magnesium as well, and processing rice from whole-grain kernel to white rice also results in a significant loss of the mineral.
Heat, too, can deplete the magnesium content of food. Simply boiling your vegetables destroys more than half the magnesium, and the same thing happens with food prepared ahead of time and placed under heat lamps or in warmers. Steam your vegetables or eat them raw.
Since physical activity decreases magnesium stores, bodybuilders, who perform hours of hard, physical labor in the gym may be more deficient in magnesium than people who are less active. In one study involving men who exercised regularly for prolonged periods at high intensity, the subjects showed a drop in magnesium levels of approximately 15 percent. That kind of change may decrease energy levels as well as muscle contractibility.
In another study, in which subjects performed concentrated physical conditioning in preparation for all sports, including weightlifting, extra magnesium resulted in greater oxygen consumption and greater oxygen delivery to the working muscles. That's precisely what bodybuilders require for greater gains.
To get maximum magnesium from your food, include the following in your diet: nuts, nut butters, tofu, wheat germ, 100 percent whole-wheat bread, seafood, legumes and vegetables. Here are some specific recommendations for the various stages of a bodybuilder's training year.
Precontest When you're keeping your fat and calories low but trying to maintain high energy levels, eat more seafood and vegetables to increase your magnesium intake.
Mass building When your goal is increasing muscular bodyweight, peanuts, almonds and peanut or almond butter will give you magnesium for energy and muscle contractions and concentrated calories and protein for adding mass. While nuts do have high fat contents, most of the fat is the beneficial monounsaturated variety, as opposed to the harmful saturated form.
Off-season Incorporate all the magnesium foods into a balanced diet. Nuts should be dry roasted and unsalted. Nut butters should be the natural, old-fashioned type, rather than the commercial, processed type, which contains hydrogenated-that is, vegetable-oil. Cook your seafood, legumes and vegetables without added fat, and steam them instead of boiling them whenever possible.
You can add tofu to a number of foods and sprinkle wheat germ over salads and soups and add it to hot and told cereals. As for breads, understand that they're only whole wheat if the label in fact says, "100 percent whole-wheat bread."
So for optimal energy and muscle contraction, make sure you include plenty of high- magnesium foods in your meal plan year-round. If you're not able to do that, try a magnesium supplement-your multiple vitamin, which supplies only about one-fourth of the RDA, isn't enough. While magnesium citrate is absorbed better, magnesium oxide seems to be more commonly available. However you do it, though, start working more of this mighty mineral into your diet today.