By Kevin Masson MSc, CSCS, CPT, USAW, FMS
Magnesium deficiency is likely the #1 mineral deficiency in our world today. Estimates suggest nearly half of adult men and women in the United States aren’t getting enough magnesium.
What is Magnesium?
Magnesium is an element and mineral found throughout nature and one of the body’s electrolytes. In the body, it is the fourth most abundant mineral and is crucial to many aspects of health. It is often under-rated over its big brother calcium in terms of supplementation. The 12th element in the periodic table is utilized in more than 600 biological reactions in a variety of ways such as:
- Production of ATP, the energy currency of the body
- DNA and RNA replication and repair during cellular division
- Combining amino acids to synthesize complex proteins and enzymes
- Neurotransmitter regulation in the brain
- Regulating big brother calcium’s transport in the body, necessary for muscle contraction and relaxation.
And many more.
The daily recommended intake of magnesium for women is about 320mg/day (360mg/day during pregnancy), and 420mg/day for men. Children below 14 years of age require up to 240mg/day.A major percentage of this can be obtained from a well-balanced diet.
How do I know if I am deficit?
To know for sure, you would need a blood work done but there are symptoms often related to magnesium deficiency such as:
- Muscle cramps
- Insomnia or difficulties sleeping
- Hormonal Imbalance
- Low energy levels, weakness or laziness
- Anxiety and stress
If you tick some of the above or all of the above maybe you should try supplementing with magnesium.
Benefits of Magnesium
Magnesium intake and supplementation is shown to improve many of the common conditions and diseases ailing today’s generation. Let’s take a look at the benefits of magnesium intake and supplementation in 5 of them:
- Exercise and Sports
Several studies done on athletes on magnesium supplementation have shown its efficacy in improving athletic performance. Runners reported faster sprinting and cycling times. Volleyball players noted improved joint movements. Other subjects also showed reduced cortisol levels.
Magnesium works by increasing muscle uptake of glucose and disposal of lactic acid, thereby increasing muscle recovery and efficiency that translates into improved performance in sports.
- Type II Diabetes
Magnesium has been studied for its correlation with diabetes. One study states that not only have 48% of diabetic patients been shown to have a magnesium deficiency, but inadequate magnesium intake can also further predispose non-diabetic people to a pre-diabetic state (aka Syndrome X).
Another study demonstrated highly improved levels of HbA1c (Glycated Hemoglobin) in diabetic patients who were started on regular magnesium supplementation.
Furthermore, magnesium supplementation has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity in diabetics as magnesium is crucial to how target tissues respond to insulin.
Magnesium has been shown to decrease both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in a case-controlled interventional study. This effect makes magnesium supplementation a noteworthy addition to drug regimens for Hypertension. This effect, however, is not seen in people with normal blood pressure suggesting it uses limited to hypertension only.
- Depression and PMS
Magnesium deficiency has been linked to a significantly higher risk of depression. One study estimates that risk to be about 22% higher in adults with low dietary intake of magnesium. While the mechanism is not yet fully known and more detailed research and study are required in this area, a randomized controlled trial in older adult patients if depression has shown that a regimen of 450mg supplementation improved mood as effectively as popular anti-depressants such as SSRIs.
Similarly, Post-menstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms have shown improvement with better magnesium intake. Women reported better mood with decreased frequency of water retention and abdominal cramps.
Those debilitating migraine headaches accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and hypersensitivity to light and sound may be signaling that you’re deficient in magnesium. Magnesium rich foods and, in one study, one gram of supplemented magnesium improved migraine symptoms on par with painkiller medication such as Dexamethasone.
- Sleeping Aid
Getting your magnesium levels up can almost instantly reduce your body’s stress load and improve the quality of your sleep. Insomnia is a common symptom of magnesium deficiency. People with low magnesium often experience restless sleep, frequently waking during the night. Maintaining healthy magnesium levels often leads to more profound sleep. Magnesium plays a role in supporting deep, restorative sleep by maintaining healthy levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation and sleep. Research indicates supplemental magnesium can improve sleep quality. (Nielsen, 2015)
How to take Magnesium supplements?
Without stating the obvious but nutrition is a big part of where you will find magnesium. A well-balanced diet should provide you with the amount that you need to live healthily. Magnesium can be found in some types of food such as the example below:
top 10 magnesium-rich foods based on magnesium content (values of mg in food from the USDA):
Spinach, cooked — 1 cup: 157 milligrams
Swiss chard, cooked — 1 cup: 150 milligrams
Dark Chocolate — 1 square: 95 milligrams
Pumpkin seeds, dried — 1/8 cup: 92 milligrams
Almonds — 1 ounce: 75 milligrams
Black beans — 1/2 cup: 60 milligrams
Avocado — 1 medium: 58 milligrams
Figs, dried — 1/2 cup: 50 milligrams
Yogurt or kefir — 1 cup: 46.5 milligrams
Banana — 1 medium: 32 milligrams
Most likely the easiest way to take magnesium is through supplements. The price varies from $10 – $20 depending on what brand you choose and the average dosage are between 100mg to 200mg which is a pretty decent amount so if you are going to supplement with magnesium the key is always to start small and increase the dosage if you can tolerate it.
Magnesium Salt Bath and oil
A lot of research are claiming the effectiveness and superiority of transdermal magnesium over an oral application. (Absorbing magnesium through the skin instead of eating it). It is claimed that the transdermal absorption of magnesium in comparison to the oral application is more effective due to better absorption and fewer side effects as it bypasses the gastrointestinal tract and goes straight to the lymphatic system. Although research is not conclusive on how much salt is needed for the requisite of healthy levels of magnesium.
One of the latest fitness crazes, IV infusion is exactly what it sounds like, you are hooked to an IV with a cocktail of your choice, in our case and in the purpose of this article let’s choose magnesium, and you basically sit and relax for 30 mins while the IV infusion works its way through your bloodstream. IV Therapy bypasses the gut, delivering essential nutrients and fluids directly into the bloodstream for quick and easy 100% absorption.
Side effects of Magnesium
Magnesium has shown a few side effects when it is taken in excess either via diet or supplementation.
Oral magnesium supplementation can sometimes cause diarrhea and lead to dehydration. Interestingly, magnesium excess can hinder absorption of dietary calcium as both elements compete at the same receptor on intestinal cells for absorption into the bloodstream.
Intravenous administration of magnesium is done mostly in severe deficiencies, but an excess of it can lead to feelings of nausea and vomiting in some people. And it can cause disruptions in cardiac conduction and beating, leading to decreased heart rates and rarely, arrhythmias as well.
Consult your physician before supplementing with magnesium.
Note: People with kidney problems should NOTtake magnesium supplementations until expressly indicated by their doctors.
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9794094(Magnesium in Physical Stress)
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26322160(Magnesium and type II Diabetes)
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21205110(Magnesium and Insulin Resistance)
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19020533(Magnesium in Hypertensive Diabetics)
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25748766(Magnesium intake in Depressed patients)
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2067759(Magnesium and PMS)
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25278139(Magnesium in Migraines)