Manganese for Athletes: a Complete Guide

November 18, 2022

Although it is not the most recurrent supplement among athletes, manganese is vital for human health. It has an important biological role since it is an essential chemical element for all forms of life.

It is crucial to clarify what manganese is and what it is used for, especially not to confuse it with another mineral such as magnesium. Also, it's worth asking whether it is useful for training or not. 

What Is Manganese and What Is It Good for?

As the Office of Dietary Supplements of the National Institute of Health reminds us, manganese is a mineral necessary for the organism's health since it intervenes in the production of energy and the protection of cells. It is also essential for bone strengthening, reproduction, immune system health, and blood clotting.

Are Manganese and Magnesium the Same Thing?

No. The fact that the names are similar and they are both metallic elements and essential nutrients easily lead to confusion. However, they are separate identities with very different physical and chemical properties. 

  • Density. Compared to aluminum, for example, magnesium is lighter, but manganese is four and a half times denser.

  • Chemical characteristics. Both are metals, but magnesium is a reactive alkali metal, and manganese is easily oxidized.

  • Functions. Although both are essential, the body uses less manganese than magnesium, and the functions in which manganese is involved are more limited.

In 2008, confusion between magnesium and manganese killed one person in Spain. It was an isolated incident, but there were 13 others affected.

Apparently, it all started from an error that forced the withdrawal of 90 bottles of 100 and 250 grams distributed as magnesium sulfate. This is used as a laxative and requires much higher doses than manganese sulfate. The latter, in high concentration, can irritate the mucous membranes, causing vomiting, nausea, stomach pain, and gastrointestinal disorders. The deceased suffered a serious consequence: liver failure. 

Manganese and Training Benefits

As we said, manganese health properties vary depending on its multiple interventions in several biological functions:

  • It decreases fatigue

  • It intervenes in the production of cartilage

  • It helps to assimilate vitamin E

  • It intervenes in the synthesis of fatty acids

  • It participates in the synthesis of sexual hormones

  • Reduces irritability

  • It reinforces the memory

Manganese is as important for the athlete's life as for any other person's, no more and no less. There is no conclusive evidence that supplementation with vitamins and minerals increases sports performance.

Only people with dietary deficiencies or special requirements will need to supplement with manganese, for which it's best to visit a specialist. Remember that vitamins and minerals do not provide energy, although they intervene in their production. 

How to Take Manganese for Training

The necessary amount of manganese depends on age and sex. Those who need the least are babies from birth to six months: 0.003 mg per day on average, and those who need the most are lactating women: 2.6 mg per day on average. An adult male needs about 2.3 mg and an adult female 1.8 mg.

Manganese deficiency is not very common, but it is related to problems of growth retardation, fertility, and metabolic or skin functions. People with epilepsy, diabetes, or osteoporosis are more prone to deficiencies, as are those suffering from chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.

With a healthy and balanced diet, you will ensure a sufficient amount of manganese, so you do not have to consider special supplementation when training. In any case, it will be the analysis and the medical knowledge for its interpretation that will help you to know if you need it or not.

When to Take It: Before or After Training?

Manganese is present in common dietary foods that ensure the recommended dose, such as fruit. It is worth asking whether it is better to take fruit before or after training, and the answer depends on your goal.

If you want to lose weight and burn fat, it is better to take fruit after. By doing it before, you will favor the burning of carbohydrates over fat. 

If burning fat is not among your priority objectives, you can eat fruit before, during, and after training. In addition to manganese and other minerals such as magnesium and potassium, fruits are also a source of energy, vitamins, fiber, and water, and can help you with preparation and recovery.

Manganese-Rich Foods

Foods with manganese ensure the recommended daily dose without the need for anything else. Many foods contain manganese, such as the following:

  • Whole grains: rice, bread, and oatmeal

  • Legumes: soybeans or lentils

  • Vegetables: especially leafy green vegetables, such as spinach

  • Mollusks: clams, mussels, and oysters

  • Fruits: some fruits, such as pineapple or blueberries, are especially rich in manganese

  • Nuts: hazelnuts or walnuts

  • Spices: one example is black pepper

  • Tea

How Much Manganese Should an Athlete Take?

We have not found scientific studies that indicate that an athlete has to take more manganese, but that the dose varies according to sex and age. 

Age Recommended Daily Allowance

  • Infants from 7 to 12 months 0.6 mg

  • Children from 1 to 3 years old 1.2 mg

  • Children 4 to 8 years 1.5 mg

  • For children from 9 to 13 years 1.9 mg

  • Boys 14 to 18 years 2.2 mg

  • Girls 14 to 18 years old 1.6 mg

  • Males 2.3 mg

  • Females 1.8 mg

  • Adolescents and pregnant women 2.6 mg

Manganese Supplements

Manganese supplements come in various forms. We will review the common ones, although some of them are not recommended in special circumstances, such as pregnancy or lactation.

  • Tablets

These are tablets that generally provide 100% of the recommended daily amount. One tablet a day, at any time, is sufficient.

They are highly absorbed and taken by people who need some extra help to cover the dose. Also, manganese tablets are taken by people who want to combat oxidative damage.

  • Sachets

The powdered manganese is dissolved in water or fruit juice, between 100-150 ml. Take it before or after your meal, once a day.

They favor the formation and normal maintenance of connective tissue. Depending on the composition, it is recommended to consume with some other supplement, such as Omega-3 fatty acid capsules.

  • Other Manganese Supplements

Although the above are the most common, along with capsules, some other supplements and medications contain manganese and have different functions.

One example is the spray liquid used to clear the nose in times of allergy. Another is the ampoules, which protect cells against oxidative stress and help reduce cold symptoms such as the sore throat.

Final Word

Now you know what manganese is and what it is used for, and these are some of the conclusions we can draw:

Manganese is an essential mineral necessary for multiple biological functions.

A healthy and balanced diet ensures the recommended daily dose, which depends on age and sex.

It should not be confused with magnesium, because the concentrations of both minerals are different.

In case it is needed for any reason, it is recommended to get a doctor's prescription.