Magnesium For Cycling – Part 2

19 11 2008

Magnesium, the promised elixir?

Last week I asked Dr. Sipser about what all the hype was about Magnesium in all these sports drinks.  Will it make me faster?  Is this the magic pill I’ve been searching for?  Judging by its entertainment value it had in high school chemistry I just had to find out more about this.  See part 1 here.

The benefits we’ve discovered with using magnesium for cycling are immense and science is uncovering more all the time about how magnesium in concert with calcium cause proper muscle contraction and just as importantly-relaxation or ‘de-contraction’. In Lance Armstrong’s last Tour ride, the team Chiropractor Dr Jeff Spencer in conjunction with their team nutritionist used a magnesium salt solution in their drink bottles to minimise lactic acid build-up. The water tasted foul so they needed to find an alternate source and that is why and what i now use in practice for my patients. The second instalment of this topic is below.   Enjoy.

Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity of magnesium in humans

Another study looked at lung function and in particular whether dietary antioxidants might protect lung tissue against reactive oxygen species-induced injury, adverse respiratory effects and reduced pulmonary function. Healthy, non-smoking freshmen students who were lifetime residents in the Los Angeles or the San Francisco Bay areas of California completed comprehensive residential history, health history and food frequency questionnaires. Blood samples were also collected and forced expiratory volume (lung power) measurements were obtained. Using a statistical technique called multivariable regression, the researchers showed that the higher the intake of dietary magnesium, the more positive the lung function (indicating healthier more elastic lung tissue).

A third study published just a few months ago examined the effect of magnesium supplementation on inflammatory markers in patients with chronic heart disease. The study, conducted by Israeli researchers, compared the levels of the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein in patients given 300mg a day of magnesium citrate with a control group given no magnesium.

The result showed unequivocally that the extra magnesium produced a significant drop in C-reactive protein levels, indicating reduced inflammation, so much so that the researchers commented that ‘targeting the inflammatory cascade by magnesium administration might prove a useful tool for improving the prognosis in heart failure.’

Optimising dietary magnesium intake

Magnesium is well supplied in unrefined whole grains, such as wholemeal bread and whole grain cereals, and also in green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, peas, beans and lentils. Fruit, meat and fish supply poor levels, as do refined/sugary foods. Contrary to popular belief, milk and dairy products are not particularly rich sources of magnesium. Magnesium is a fairly soluble mineral, which is why boiling vegetables can result in significant losses; in cereals and grains, it tends to be concentrated in the germ and bran, which explains why white refined grains contain relatively little magnesium by comparison with their unrefined counterparts.

Implications for ‘Budding Lance’s’

The latest research on magnesium and lactate adds further weight to the evidence indicating that a healthy magnesium intake is vital for both endurance and anaerobic performance. In the longer term (and perhaps more surprisingly), it appears that an optimal magnesium intake may also be essential for antioxidant protection and for the correct regulation of inflammation, both of which are desirable for athletes, young and old. In my recently released book, 7 things your Doctor Fogot To Tell You  I cover more on this topic and how to fuel your body better.

For more information check out

Keep Churning.
Warm regards,
Dr Warren Sipser B.Sc.(App Sc.) B.App.Sc.(Chiro) MCAA MACC



Using Magnesium to Peak Your Performance

13 11 2008

In the last couple of years there’s been a number of sports drinks that have been marketing the benefits of Magnesium.  I’ve understood the basics of the more common electrolytes found in these drinks, but wanted to know what this new Magnesium craze was all about.  Well, I didn’t have to go much further than asking my good friend and Chiropractor, Dr. Warren Sipser.

As a keen cyclist and performance enhancing Chiropractor, I am always searching for improved ways to better my own scores as well as those of the athletes who seek my care. Chiropractic offers athletes and ‘weekend warriors’ the opportunity to function at their genetic maximum by removing any interferences affecting their nerve systems. It is the only profession that focuses on the delicate relationship between the performance of the nerve system and how the spine can interfere with normal function.

In my next article I will cover some ground breaking scientific studies about heart rate variability and why it is the brain and not the heart that will actually cause you to ride stronger and faster as well as recover more quickly.

Today we are going to begin a 3 article odyssey on the amazing benefits of magnesium and why the secret is now out.

While not all magnesium is created equal, a highly soluble, good quality form can aid enormously in not only your power and stamina, but also your recovery time. For more information about which types, feel free to contact me.

A key nutrient that we often overlook is magnesium. It is the agonist and antagonist to the much publicised calcium and both are needed for active muscle contractions and relaxations.The mineral magnesium is something of a ‘Cinderella’ nutrient. Most sportsmen and women know that it’s required for health, but few really appreciate its importance for sport performance.

Current studies show that we do not ingest enough magnesium in our diest and we have declined to less than a half of those recorded at the end of the 19th century and are still falling.

–  A study of male athletes supplemented with 390mg of magnesium per day for 25 days, which resulted in an increased peak oxygen uptake and total work output during work capacity tests
–  A sub-maximal work study, which showed that magnesium supplementation reduced heart rate, ventilation rate, oxygen uptake and carbon dioxide production for a given workload
–  A study on physically active students, which showed that supplementing with 8mg of magnesium per kilo of body weight per day produced significant increases in endurance performance and decreased oxygen consumption during sub-maximal exercise.

A magnesium shortfall also appears to reduce the efficiency of muscle relaxation, which accounts for an important fraction of total energy needs during exercise.
Very recent research has indicated that magnesium supplementation could enhance performance in a hitherto unrecognised way – by reducing the accumulation of fatiguing lactic acid during intense exercise.

The researchers concluded that ‘magnesium supplement may positively affect performance of sportsmen by decreasing their lactate levels’.

All of this sounds really important and the studies that I have summarised below from a great article on magnesium lends credence to it’s importance in overall physical, mental and emotional well-being.

What is magnesium and why does it matter?

Pure magnesium is the second most abundant mineral in cells after potassium, but the 2oz or so found in the typical human body is present not as metal but as magnesium ions (positively charged magnesium atoms found either in solution or complexed with other tissues such as bone). Roughly one-quarter of this magnesium is found in muscle tissue and three-fifths in bone; but less than 1% of it is found in blood serum, although blood magnesium is used as the commonest indicator of magnesium status. This blood serum magnesium can further be subdivided into free ionic, complex-bound and protein-bound portions, but it’s the ionic portion that’s considered most important in measuring magnesium status, because it is physiologically active.

The researchers concluded that not only did supplemental magnesium help suppress lactate production, but that it also somehow increased glucose availability and metabolism in the brain during exercise. This is important because scientists now believe that the brain and central nervous system play a large role in determining the degree of muscular fatigue we feel; higher brain glucose availability could in theory translate into lower levels of perceived fatigue.

OK, so now that we have covered the first step about it, keep posted for the 2nd and 3rd installments which will cover when to use it, how to use it and why it boosts recovery time.

For more information check out

Keep Churning.
Warm regards,
Dr Warren Sipser B.Sc.(App Sc.) B.App.Sc.(Chiro) MCAA MACC


Foods NOT To Eat On the Bike

24 10 2008

Last week I wrote about The Ultimate Cycling Snack. I experimented with a few of these foods while on a big ride last weekend.  I was most interested to try the Boiled potatoes which according to pro-team Garmin Chipotle’s nutrition tips, are supposed to be a cyclists wonderfood.

Let me tell you the problem I found with these “natural” foods. Foods like the potato crumbled very easily and pieces got lodged in my throat while breathing heavily. The other food I tried (from Garmin Chipotle again) was rice cakes. These were made from sushi rice, scrambled egg, and a bit of ham all mashed together into nice little cakes. Again, chewing these while trying to breath at 45km/hr was not an easy task. I happened to share these with my mates and we all ended up coughing up a lung trying to get these things down our throats.

Both of these snacks were excellent while riding slowly or taking a break but not in a hard riding situation. The thing I learned from this experiment is the best things to eat while on the bike are easily chewed foods that don’t flake or break apart. Stick to gels, powerbars or a ziplock bag of creamed rice (particularly good) when riding hard.

Okay, enough with the stupid experiments.

Top 10 Around The Bay Tips

20 10 2008

Yesterday was the annual Around the Bay in a Day ride in Melbourne.  It’s a spectacular thing to see over 30,000 cyclists take part in a ride that goes either 210km or 250km. There are few places in the world with this much enthusiasm and participation in cycling.

An event like this inevitably brings out all the “weekend warriors” and “once a yearers”.  The day provided heaps of cycling tips to share but here are the top 10 Around the Bay tips from yesterday’s ride.

10. The Fan – one cyclist pulled up to us while we had an echelon going and told us we should be riding one directly behind the other in a cross-headwind, to do “the fan”.  I have no idea what he was talking about and I don’t think he did either.  This is when we get our once a year ego boost and put the pace up to 50km/hr showing him our version of “the fan”.

9. To the above point, when riding in an echelon pull off into the wind!  People get this wrong more often than not.

8. Shoulder check before blindly swerving into the middle of the road. Unbelievable how many potential accidents were caused by lack of shoulder checking.

7. Don’t get too excited and pull too hard through your turns.  This really ruins a good pace line. Again, see Echelon in the Crosswinds.

6. Don’t come to a dead stop in the middle of the road for a rest. Yes, people actually do this!

5. When passing slower riders, don’t dodge them like it’s a slalom ski event (especially when there’s a group of 200 on your wheel!)

Not only punters make mistakes. Here are some of  the rookie mistakes that myself and my fellow riders made yesterday:

4. Only one bottle of water in 150km.  Bad idea….especially the first 150km.

3. Not checking the weather forecast and not bringing extra clothing.  Weather conditions are generally pretty mild here in Melbourne but 13 degrees and rain gets cold no matter where you are. If in any doubt, always bring arm warmers and a vest.

2. Don’t eat food that crumbs easily (rice cakes, potatoes, banana bread, etc). The crumbs and bits get stuck in the throat easily, making it difficult to eat.  The more uncomfortable it is to eat, the less you will eat.  I’ll write more about this one later…

1. 250km is a long way.  No need to have your heart up at 180bpm in the first 20km.  A wise coach once told me, “start a ride slow, finish fast”. I have yet to learn this…

Ultimate Cycling Snack?

16 10 2008

I haven’t tried this snack yet but I keep hearing about it so I thought I’d pass it on. Apparently this is pro Team Garmin-Chipotle’s secret on-bike snack that they put in their musettes. If it’s good enough for them, it’s probably good enough for me. I’ll try it out this weekend on a 250km ride that I have coming up and let you know. One of my experiments for the Warny this year is to eat whole foods made from scratch. No pre-packaged energy bars or gels.  I think this will help with my sustained energy and keep stomach problems to a minimum.

What is the ultimate cycling snack you ask? Potatoes – which are a great source of complex carbohydrates, potassium, sodium, and they break down into a sugar that you body can use extremely quickly. Potatoes have an extremely high GI for quick energy absorption. They are easy to digest and are pretty convenient to carry in a jersey. Here’s how Team Garmin-Chipotle has them prepared:

– Boil a handful of “new potatoes” for 10-15 minutes (“new potatoes” are a small type of potato).

– Let potatoes cool (while they are still hot you can skin them with your bare hands quite easily if you wish. The skin is high in fiber which is difficult to digest)

– Drizzle the potatoes with olive oil and add a pinch of salt.

– Grate Parmesan cheese onto the potatoes to taste.

– Wrap in foil. Packs of 2 potatoes work well.

To wrap your potatoes for easy eating, use Team Garmin-Chipotle’s folding technique, which gives easy access while keeping hands and jersey pockets clean.

– Cut a 20cm-wide strip of aluminum foil and place 2 of the potatoes in the center.

– Fold one long edge over, and then back again halfway.

– Repeat with other long edge, creating a seam.

– Tightly wrap the outer edges around the back, leaving the seam exposed.

– Store in a jersey pocket. When hunger strikes, you can easily rip half the foil off at the seam and take a bite.

Getting More Out Of Your Calories

10 10 2008

The amount of food you should aim to consume each hour of a really long ride should be determined by your carbohydrate choices.  Of course more carbs equals more fuel, however this equation only works if your absorption can keep up with your intake.  As I’ve said before, this fuel should come from a combination of energy drinks and some form of solid food.

Studies show that the maximum rate at which glucose can be absorbed, or oxidized, into your bloodstream is 1 gram per minute, which equals 60g per hour.  However, other studies indicate that if you consume a 2:1 ratio of glucose and fructose, your body increases the oxidization rate to 1.5g per hour.  This is a 50% increase!  It’s speculated that because the different sugars follow different pathways of absorption, your body is tricked into converting more than it normally would.

All of this is explained in greater detail by a qualified dietitian in the following article from bicycling magazine.

Why does this matter?  If it’s not already obvious, the more energy your body can absorb, the more energy you will have for riding.  This is particularly useful in long races.  In the Warny for instance, you’ll burn about 6500 calories (which equals ~1600g of carbs).  Replenishing these calories is not an easy thing to do while racing at 40-50km/hr (remember, some of those are stored from your pre-race carb loading ).  Pay very close attention to the TYPES of sugars you’re ingesting (2:1 glucose to fructose) as this will play a massive part in getting you to the end of the race feeling fresh and strong.  Most people are running on EMPTY at the end of big races.  Not you, because you’ve read this and now know better!

I will soon post a spreadsheet that tells you what my nutrition and eating strategy is before the Warny.  It takes into account where the feed stations are, how long it will take to get to each of them, what will be in my feed bag, and the mix of carbs in each of the choices.  I’m not saying it’s necessarily right for you, but it’ll give you an idea of the job ahead and you’ll see that drinking water and gels alone isn’t going to cut it for a long ride like the Warny.

Make Your Own Powerbars

7 10 2008

I wanted to wait until I tried these myself before I posted this recipe. This post comes from Jamie “Backcountry” Roberts and I can promise you won’t be disappointed. They’re nice and chewy and the crumbs won’t get caught in your throat while you’re eating and gasping for air at the same time. Each of these bars are about 200-300 calories (depending on how big you slice them). Perfect for the hungry cyclist. Thanks Jamie!

Round One: Cream together in a bowl or you can mix these in a pot on the stovetop too, a bit easier than mashing butter chunks, but you need to let the mixture cool before you add it to round 2 or else your chocolate chips will melt!

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups peanut butter
1 1/2 tbsp vanilla
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup honey

Round Two: Mix these together in a separate bowl and add round 1, mix together.

6 cups large flake oats
1 cup toasted coconut
1 cup toasted sunflower seeds
1/2 cup toasted flax seeds
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup raisins
1 tsp sea salt

– press mixture into a greased cookie sheet
– bake in a pre-heated oven at 350F for about 20 minutes or until golden brown on top
– allow to cool a bit, but cut into bars while they are still warm
– let cool completely before removing form pan
– wrap in aluminum foil or plastic wrap for easy access while riding