The importance of minerals as an aid to sport recovery

22 March 2021

The physical demands of intense training can impact the body in a number of challenging ways, which is why targeted nutrition is a vital part of post-exercise recovery. We explore some of the key concerns and the potential benefits of using Aquamin to enhance recovery and optimise subsequent performance.   

Electrolytes and exercise

Ensuring a sufficient intake of electrolytes during training has long been recognised as a key component of sport recovery. These essential minerals are lost as the body sweats during training, so replacing them is essential for key biological functions as well as sustained athletic performance. This is particularly important when it comes to hydration, with both calcium and magnesium known to help prevent muscle soreness and cramping. However, minerals also play a role in reducing the symptoms of certain conditions that result from high level training.  

As a natural, highly-bioavailable, marine multi-mineral complex, Aquamin is well placed to meet these needs. Supported by a strong body of evidence, it has been shown to have a beneficial impact on some of common effects of intense physical exercise – and so aid recovery over the short and longer term.

Exercise induced inflammation

Acute inflammation is the body’s normal immune response to high-intensity exercise. It is a transitory and beneficial state that helps to prevent, limit and repair damage. However, a persistent inflammatory response (chronic inflammation) to a sports-related injury can impact the entire body; not only leading to fatigue, muscle damage and soreness, but also limiting muscle growth and training progression. 

The goal, therefore, is to regulate the immune response by reducing levels of known pro-inflammatory factors in the blood, such as the cytokines TNF-alpha, IL-1beta and NF-kB. In this context, studies suggest that supplementation with Aquamin may provide important benefits1. For example:

  • Several of the trace elements in Aquamin, such as magnesium, copper, zinc, manganese and selenium, are recognised as important regulators of inflammation2,3
  • Many of the antioxidant related marine minerals in Aquamin may be anti-inflammatory in nature and so help to inhibit the NF-kB signalling pathway4
  • Aquamin has been shown to significantly reduce serum levels of TNF-alpha and demonstrate a trend towards significance5.
  • Data also indicates that supplementation with Aquamin helps to improve pain, stiffness and activity scores in osteoarthritis patients; suggesting it may have a similar mode of action on other inflammatory conditions and merits further research.  

In addition, Aquamin may have an important role as an effective, natural alternative to NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications). Although these medicines are widely used to relieve pain and reduce inflammation, their long-term use can lead to unwanted side effects such as stomach upsets, kidney problems, hypertension and the risk of internal bleeding. Preliminary studies5.6 indicate a positive treatment effect for Aquamin and possible reduction in the need for NSAIDs to manage the symptoms of osteoarthritis. An encouraging outcome, which suggests that Aquamin could have a similar welcome effect in the context of sports-related inflammation, although further investigation is needed. 

Digestive discomfort

Gastrointestinal (GI) problems, such as nausea, abdominal cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea, are among the most common complaints for athletes – especially endurance runners. Impaired blood flow to the GI tract, as well as the mechanical action of running are two of the main causes of these symptoms.  

Increased levels of adrenaline associated with physical activity can interfere with the GI tract, while chronic stress can directly affect IBS and increase discomfort. Dehydration is equally concerning because it decreases blood flow to the GI tract and consequently causes damage to cells of its inner lining; meaning more acute gastro symptoms can be experienced in high heat conditions.

Running at high intensity is also known to compromise gut health by increasing intestinal permeability. During long distances, the protective barrier to the GI tract can fail, which allows bacteria to enter the blood, causing an immune reaction and inflammation. 

Although GI complaints vary in severity, the fact that they are one of the most frequent causes of under performance and subsequent recovery makes optimising gut health a priority. In this area, Aquamin has been shown7 to deliver a number of important benefits including:

  • Anti-inflammatory activity in the GI tract.
  • Enhanced barrier integrity in the digestive tract; preventing ‘leakage’ of undigested foods, bacteria, toxins and viruses into the blood stream.
  • Maintenance of the impermeable membrane and a healthier stomach wall

Stress and immunity

Prolonged exercise exposes athletes to stress factors that have the potential to depress the immune function and increase infection risk. Elevated levels of naturally-released hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, are known to have a detrimental impact.  

Although generally recognised as a temporary effect, this loss of immune integrity can become chronic if insufficient time is allowed for recovery post-exercise. Upper respiratory tract infections, for example, are common among endurance athletes.

Given that magnesium helps to maintain a healthy immune system – and that the body requires higher levels during times of stress – supplementation may be beneficial in sports recovery. This biologically essential mineral is known to contribute to the signalling pathways; helping to regulate immune cell development and homeostasis. 

In this context, Aquamin – which contains a highly bioavailable source of magnesium – has been shown to deliver important benefits. Studies demonstrate it helps to regulate the inflammatory response by modulating the NF-kB signalling pathways4.

Extra cellular buffering

During periods of vigorous exercise, anaerobic glycolysis becomes the primary energy production pathway and this leads to the production of lactate (lactic acid) and hydrogen ions – often in excess of the intracellular buffering capacity.

As a result, muscle pH can be reduced from a resting value of 7.1 to a low of 6.4 at point of exhaustion; a drop which has been shown to interfere with a number of metabolic processes and consequently limit performance. For example, depending on the extent of metabolic acidosis, it may disturb the creatine-phosphagen equilibrium, limit the resynthesis of phosphagen, and inhibit glycolysis as well as the muscle contraction process. All of which contributes to muscle fatigue.

Although β-alanine and sodium citrate or bicarbonate are used in supplements to try to maintain pH homeostasis during endurance exercise, this approach has potential side effects due to individual tolerance and product variability. Sodium citrate and bicarbonate, for example, are known to cause significant gastrointestinal upset. For this reason, sodium bicarbonate has been removed from the 2020 Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) recommended list of dietary performance supplements8.

Aquamin, on the other hand, is a natural, long-term, safe alternative that can be used in supplement form to enhance extra cellular buffering.  Not only providing a highly bioavailable source of magnesium, which is known to support the glycolytic pathway, Aquamin has also been shown to significantly reduce lactate production9. This buffering capacity is a welcome benefit in a sports context, as it helps to prevent the lactate threshold (the point at which lactate accumulates in the blood faster than it can be removed) being reached and so enhances performance.  


High intensity training and endurance sports put significant demands on the body, so effective recovery is vital in order to promote repair, wellbeing and performance. Optimising nutrition is key and we believe Aquamin has an important role to play. This multi-mineral marine complex is supported by a growing body of evidence demonstrating its beneficial effect in many of the most influential aspects of sports recovery.   


  1. Ryan et al. (2011). Evidence that the marine-derived multi mineral, Aquamin, has anti-inflammatory effects on cortical glial-enriched cultures Phytotherapy Res 25(5): 765-7
  2. Granert C, Raud J, Waage A, Lindquist L. 1999. Effects of polysaccharide fucoidin on cerebrospinal fluid interleukin-1 and tumor necrosis factor alpha in pneumococcal meningitis in the rabbit. Infect Immun 67: 2071–2074. 
  3. Jung K, Ha E, Uhm Y et al. 2007. Suppressive effect by Hizikia fusiforme on the production of tumor necrosis factor in BV2 murine microglial cells. Neurol Res 29(Suppl 1): S88– S92.
  4. O’Gorman et al. (2012) Evidence that marine-derived, multi-mineral, Aquamin, inhibits the NFκB signalling pathway in vitro. Phytotherapy Res 26(3):630-32. 
  5. Murphy et al. (2014). The marine-derived, multi-mineral formula, AquaPT reduces TNF-a levels in osteoarthritis patients. Journal of Nutritional Health.
  6. Frestedt et al. (2008). A natural mineral supplement provides relief from knee osteoarthritis symptoms: a randomized controlled pilot trial. Nutrition Journal 7:9
  7. Attili et al., 2019
  9. 9.Felice et al., A marine-derived, multi-mineral supplement influences bacterial fermentation and short chain fatty acid profile in vitro. J Med Food 00 (0) 2020, 1-5.
AndrewB - March 2021