If you want to take your health game to the next level and improve every area of your fitness, magnesium (Mg) is key! It impacts hundreds of enzymatic reactions in the body, and is involved in everything from hormonal balance and energy production, to detoxification and sleep (1,2, 3). Yet, studies show that the majority of us are deficient in this critical mineral. (4) Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of magnesium before we dive into why so many people are deficient and what to do about it.
Eight Benefits of Magnesium
- Cardiovascular Health – protects the arteries from stress and allows the blood vessels to open up more easily for increased blood flow. (5) It is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, coronary disease, and stroke, as well as metabolic syndrome, diabetes and hypertension. (6)
- Digestion– It draws water into the intestines, allowing stool to pass easier and faster; it’s an excellent remedy for constipation. (7)
- Detoxification– It is involved in the production of glutathione, the body’s so-called “master antioxidant”. Glutathione is important for detoxification and immunity. (8)
- Muscle performance and recovery– numerous studies show that the more active you are the more magnesium your body needs. It can improve exercise performance by making glucose more available to the brain, muscles and blood; and by reducing the build-up of lactic acid in the muscle. (9)
- Energy– is important to cellular energy regulation carried out by mitochondria, which fuel every aspect of physical health. (10, 11)
- Sleep– enhances sleep quality by increasing melatonin levels and decreasing cortisol levels. It is also involved in the production of GABA, a precursor to melatonin and an important neurotransmitter for relaxation. (12)
- Bone health–studies show that Mg and not calcium is associated with higher bone density in both young and older populations. Recent research suggests too much calcium, especially when Mg levels are low, can lead to calcification of the arteries. Without the regulatory effects of Mg, calcium collects in the soft tissues rather than going to our bones where it is needed. (15, 16)
Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms
Insufficient intake is linked to just about every health condition, from type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance, to heart disease and hypertension. (14) If you have any of these symptoms, you might want to reconsider your intake:
- restless leg syndrome
- muscle cramps
- thyroid disease
Why You Might Be Deficient
It’s always a good idea to get nutrition from whole food sources whenever possible. However, in the case of Mg, it’s difficult to get enough from food alone. (15)
- Nuts and seeds are a good source, but you would have to eat too many of them even to meet the minimum requirements.
- Dark leafy greens a great source but most people don’t eat enough of them.
- If our guts are damaged, we can’t absorb the magnesium in our foods.
- Mg in our food sources has also decreased due to depletion of soils caused by modern farming practices. (16)
- Consuming certain foods and medications such as sugar, caffeine, and alcohol, depletes the body’s magnesium stores. (17,18)
- Stress causes the body to burn through magnesium faster. (19)
For all those reasons, if you’re not supplementing, you’re probably deficient.
How to Get Magnesium
These tasty foods are some dietary sources of magnesium (18):
- dark leafy greens
- nuts and seeds
- dark chocolate
- mineral water
If you find yourself overwhelmed by the various magnesium supplements on the market, don’t worry; here are the top picks based on ease of absorption and fewest side effects:
- Ionic magnesium is highly bioavailable because it’s dissolved in water and doesn’t require digestion. (20)
- Chelated magnesium in the form of glycinate or malate is better absorbed than the alternatives and has fewer side effects.
- Transdermal magnesium (aka: absorbing it through your skin) is very effective. It doesn’t need to be digested like a pill; it’s absorbed directly into the bloodstream. You can use Epsom salts in your bath for a magnesium boost, or try a magnesium oil spray. Some people find the sprays irritating to the skin, but if you follow it with a moisturising lotion it neutralizes the irritation.
How much should you take? Most people should aim for 400 – 600 mg per day from supplements. (21)
Do you supplement with magnesium? What supplements do you find effective? Please share in comments!