Serum magnesium concentration (S-Mg) was measured in 20 highly trained young men (mean age 19.5, +/- 0.5, range 18-20.5) before, and at 1 hour, 24 hours, 72 hours, and 3 months after a 120 km hike. As found in previous studies, S-Mg was significantly decreased at the end of the hike (p less than 0.001, [corrected] Student's t-test). In this group S-Mg had risen significantly after 24 hours in relation to the value at 1 hour (but not to starting value); yet, at 72 hours and 3 months later, it was once more significantly lower than the starting value (p less than 0.001 and p less than 0.05, respectively, Student's t-test). A marked elevation in serum creatine kinase activity (CK) suggests that the rise in S-Mg observed at 24 hours is the result of either exertional rhabdomyolysis or loss of membrane integrity, as a result of the strenuous exertion, since the CK had fallen sharply by 72 hours after the hike. The biphasic, statistically significant, lowering of S-Mg which persisted after 3 months suggests that strenuous exertion induces magnesium deficiency.