Athletes from across the world use gym chalk to improve their grip, reduce sweaty palms, kill bacteria, and improve friction between their hands and the weights/gym bar.
But what is gym chalk made of? And is it harmful?
That’s what I’m going to answer today.
What Are The Ingredients In Gym Chalk?
There are 3 common types of gym chalk – liquid, powder, and a block.
Having analysed a few different brands of liquid gym chalk, the commonly featured ingredients are:
- Magnesium carbonate
Whereas powder and block gym chalk are typically made of pure magnesium carbonate.
Magnesium carbonate is a solid, white, inorganic material that doesn’t dissolve in water.
Is There A Difference Between Gym Chalk And Regular Chalk?
The key difference between gym chalk and regular chalk is that gym chalk is made from magnesium carbonate whereas regular chalk is made from calcium carbonate.
The chalk which is used for writing on blackboards is made from calcium carbonate bounded to kaolin clay, oleic acid, and sodium hydroxide.
Magnesium carbonate is used for gym chalk as it’s a lot safer, causes less irritation, and is insoluble in water. This makes it great for absorbing moisture from sweaty hands.
Is Gym Chalk Harmful?
When used sensibly and as recommended by the manufacturer, gym chalk is typically safe for humans.
However, there are some concerns with inhaling gym chalk.
This was highlighted in a 2016 study which found that powdered gym chalk caused high levels of dust particles in the air.
While inhaling a small amount of magnesium carbonate powder is unlikely to cause much harm, it can be irritating and potentially harmful for those with respiratory conditions, like asthma.
Another concern with gym chalk particles is that it can attract bacteria – especially from sweaty palms.
If you’re breathing in gym chalk that contains bacteria, then you’re more at risk of an infection.
This is why it’s vital that your gym is well ventilated and is cleaned regularly.
Alternatively, you can train outside where the risk of inhaling bacteria-ridden gym chalk is minimal.
Is Gym Chalk Edible?
If your gym chalk is made from pure magnesium carbonate, then you could argue that it’s edible given that there are magnesium carbonate supplements out there.
These are used to prevent and treat low amounts of magnesium in the blood.
However, given that it’s difficult to control the dose with powdered gym chalk, you should avoid eating it.
This could be especially dangerous if you have high blood levels of magnesium, as it could result in hypermagnesemia.
Also, given that liquid gym chalk contains alcohol and other ingredients, you should avoid ingesting it.
In short, there’s very little benefits of consuming gym chalk and there are associated risks so it should be avoided.
If you want to supplement with magnesium, then there are much safer ways, including magnesium capsules and magnesium tablets.
Powder Gym Chalk vs Block Gym Chalk vs Liquid Gym Chalk
Powder gym chalk is one of the most used gym chalks amongst powerlifters thanks to its ease of use.
However, there are a couple of downsides of powder gym chalk.
If the packaging isn’t secure, there’s the off chance that it spills in your gym bag leaving a chalky mess.
It can also leave an unpleasant cloud of chalk when used.
Block gym chalk is usually the cheapest option as less processing is required as the manufacturers don’t have to crush it into a powder.
Unfortunately, this means that you have to crush it down, which can become a messy experience.
To avoid a big mess, it’s best to put the block of chalk into a ziplock bag and crush it, so that none of the chalk can escape.
You can then take as much as you need to the gym with you in your chalk bag.
Liquid chalk is ideal for those who don’t want to make a mess.
To use it, squeeze some onto your hands and massage into your palms so it’s spread out evenly and let it dry.
Liquid chalk is easy to reapply too, once it’s been used up.
- Magnesium carbonate is the primary ingredient of gym chalk.
- There are different types of gym chalk. Powdered and block form are typically made from pure magnesium carbonate, whereas liquid gym chalk is mixed with alcohol and other ingredients.
- Gym chalk is safe to use, although you should avoid consuming it or inhaling it.
Thanks for reading.
I’ve been in the fitness and strength training industry for nearly a decade. In that time, I’ve gained 30 pounds of muscle, written hundreds of articles, and reviewed dozens of fitness supplements. As for my educational background, I’m a currently studying for my Active IQ Level 3 Diploma in Personal Training.