Why Is Magnesium Important to a Female Athlete?

You often hear of minerals like sodium, potassium, and calcium that are essential to your health. What about magnesium? Magnesium is also an essential mineral that plays a role in over 300 processes in our bodies! While magnesium supplements are becoming more popular, it is possible to for you as a female athlete to get enough of this mineral through food.

What Does Magnesium Do?

Magnesium directs the flow of other electrolytes, such as calcium and potassium, into and out of cells. Electrolyte balance is key in supporting muscle, heart, and brain function! Calcium aids in muscle contraction, but magnesium works against calcium by helping your muscles relax. The heart, which is composed of specialized muscle cells, also needs magnesium to help regulate your heartbeat. Calcium and magnesium also act as competitors in the brain: calcium results in increased nerve signal transmission, while magnesium blocks it. This means that magnesium prevents excessive nerve stimulation in the brain, making it useful in the management of migraines. Magnesium is also important in many other processes, such as building muscle, producing energy, and supporting bone health. Some studies have also shown magnesium to be beneficial in managing sleep or stress.

Magnesium plays many important roles in the body!

How Much Magnesium Do I Need?

As you can see, magnesium is essential to many key processes in our bodies!

But how much of it should you be eating? As a female athlete, you should aim to eat at least 310mg of magnesium per day. 

What Happens If I Don’t Eat Enough?

Magnesium is found in many foods, so it should be easy to meet your magnesium goals… right?

Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be the case. Magnesium is mostly found in whole-food sources, but current diets are typically higher in refined grains, added sugars, and saturated fats. Over half of the population is not eating enough magnesium. One study showed that female D3 athletes are not consuming enough magnesium, calories, carbohydrates, fiber, potassium, nor vitamin D

Not meeting your magnesium requirements could lead to problems like abnormal heart rhythm, muscle twitching and cramps, numbness, mood changes, fatigue, and reduced bone health. The negative impact of magnesium deficiency may then hurt your performance. It’s important to be consuming enough of this mineral to support your body both on and off the field!

Okay, I’m Hooked… How Can I Eat More Magnesium?!

Now that you know how important magnesium is for you as a female athlete, how can you eat more of it? Whole-foods such as nuts, seeds, leafy greens, and legumes are some of the best sources of magnesium.

Magnesium-Rich Meals

Here are a few recipe ideas to help you start incorporating magnesium-rich meals into your fueling plan!

Breakfast: Apple Cinnamon Overnight Oats

Old fashioned oats are a great source of magnesium. Substituting soy milk for unsweetened almond milk could also provide extra magnesium, protein, and other vitamins and minerals! Additionally, you could top your oats with walnuts since they also contain magnesium as well as omega-3 fats. One serving of apple cinnamon overnight oats topped with a handful of walnuts brings this meal to a whopping 198mg of magnesium!

Lunch: Greens and Grains Bowl

Greens and grains bowls are great! You can experiment with different flavor profiles depending on the seasonings you add. For example, you can get 120mg of magnesium from this Mediterranean-inspired bowl:

  • ½ cup of brown rice
  • ½ cup of sauteed spinach
  • 4oz of chicken seasoned with cumin, paprika, garlic powder, and red chili flakes
  • toppings like hummus, tzatziki sauce, tomatoes, olives, and feta cheese

Dinner: Sweet Potato Turkey Chili

Beans and avocados also contain this magic mineral! You can make 8 servings of this recipe to last you throughout the week. Each serving packs 50mg of magnesium. 

Pre-Training Fuel: Cookie Dough Protein Bites

Who doesn’t love a sweet pre-training fuel? Adding in dark chocolate chips to these cookie dough protein bites could bump up your magnesium intake and add a flavorful punch. One serving of this delicious pre-training snack provides 144mg of magnesium!

Post-Training Fuel: Banana Peanut Butter Green Smoothie

A strong fueling foundation also needs a great post-training meal. This smoothie is a great source of carbohydrates, protein, and magnesium! One banana peanut butter green smoothie gives you 142mg of magnesium.

Incorporating a few of these meals throughout the week could put you well on your way to meeting your magnesium goals!

Do I Need to Take Magnesium Supplements?

A well-rounded fueling plan that includes whole-foods supplies you with more than enough magnesium, so supplementation might not be necessary. However, some conditions or diseases may still lead to reduced absorption of this important mineral. In that case, it might be best to work with a doctor to determine whether you are deficient and may benefit from taking a supplement. 

What Supplements Are Out There?

There are many types of magnesium supplements. They often come in “salts,” meaning that they are combined with other chemical compounds. These salts react differently in your body and thus provide a wide range of functions. If you are worried about magnesium deficiency, be sure to consult a doctor to see if a magnesium supplement may benefit you as a female athlete.

There are three common types of magnesium supplements, and their functions and side effects are listed below. 

Magnesium CitrateMagnesium OxalateMagnesium Glycinate
FunctionsLaxativeTreat magnesium deficiency
Aid in sleep
Support brain, heart, and muscle health
Aid in sleep
Side-EffectsStomach upset: nausea, abdominal pain
Dependence to keep up regular bowel movements
Stomach upset: nausea, abdominal pain
Dependence to keep up regular bowel movements
Does not have many side effects
Other NotesUsually recommended by a doctor to manage bowel issuesOne of the most common salts found in supplement aislesWell absorbed by the body

Magnesium is a mineral that maintains the health of every cell in your body. A fueling plan rich in whole foods like the one above is not only delicious, but it is going to help you meet your magnesium requirement and boost your performance in the long run! 


Magnesium is an important mineral that plays a role in over 300 processes in the body! It aids in energy production, muscle contraction, and regulation of your heartbeat, among other things. It’s important for you as an athlete to get 310 mg of magnesium each day to support these functions and help your recovery. While it may seem like you need to supplement to get this amount of magnesium, it is possible to get in enough magnesium using a balanced fueling plan. Eating a handful of walnuts, some dark chocolate, or a bowl of green leafy vegetables are a great way for you to eat magnesium throughout the day. Not only will these foods provide you with magnesium, they will provide you with an abundance of other vitamins and minerals!

Make sure to reach out to your sports dietitian if you ever have questions about taking magnesium supplements. Otherwise, enjoy some delicious, magnesium-rich cookie dough protein bites and green smoothies!

Supplementation and micronutrient intake are important aspects of fueling. Having a sports dietitian give you the proper information and guidance can help make sure you are doing the right things with your nutrition. If this sounds like something you need, join the Performance Fueling Club! You will receive professional-level nutrition that applies to athletes of all levels to optimize your performance.


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