Magnesium: Big Bang for Your Buck

Believe it or not, half of us are likely deficient in magnesium and don’t even know it. If you exercise vigorously, which increases urinary and sweat losses, your magnesium daily intake requirements increase by 10-20%. While the best way to find out for sure is to get a blood test, this mineral supplement is inexpensive, and poses little to no risk if taken needlessly.

Here’s what you need to know about magnesium.

Magnesium is a mineral and a cofactor in more than 300 different chemical reactions in the body. In other words, our body uses it in a lot of different ways and it is crucial for optimal functioning. One study states that:

Based on magnesium’s many functions within the human body, it plays an important role in prevention and treatment of many diseases. Low levels of magnesium have been associated with a number of chronic and inflammatory diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, asthma, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), insulin resistance, type-2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension, cardiovascular disease (e.g., stroke), migraine headaches, and osteoporosis.

Other important influences of magnesium include:

  • Important in maintaining good bone, muscle and mental health

  • Helps in prevention of diseases like diabetes & hypertension 

  • Significantly increases calcium absorption to prevent the onset of osteoporosis and helps keep bones strong

  • A lack of magnesium can decrease exercise performance

  • Low levels of magnesium can cause fatigue, stiffness and muscle cramping

Symptoms of a Magnesium deficiency

Magnesium must be consumed daily in order to prevent a deficiency. Extreme magnesium deficiency can cause serious problems such as mood disorders, seizures, IBS disorders and numbness in your limbs and tingling. However, minor deficiencies can be issues that we deal with more regularly such as:

  • Poor cognitive function, headaches and chronic migraines

  • Insomnia

  • Muscle Spasms and cramping

  • Chronic pain

  • Fatigue

Magnesium and Exercise

Magnesium becomes increasing more important when we ask more of our body with consistent and vigorous exercise. It crucial for performance because of its role in helping glucose become more available in the brain, muscle and blood. It also helps reducing and delaying the build-up of lactate acid in the muscle. Both of these are training responses that help you to work harder for longer!

Another important function of magnesium during exercises is that it helps balance electrolytes, which creates homeostasis in the body. During physical activity, especially in warmer temperatures, you lose electrolytes through sweating, which could throw your body out of balance. This can lead to cramping and excessive fatigue. 

Where is it Found?

While you should look to get most of you micronutrients from food, the average Western diet is notoriously low in magnesium. Sometimes the body loses magnesium faster than you can replenish it through food. The foods with the highest magnesium content include: nuts, seeds, greens and whole grains. 

The chart below shows some of the highest magnesium containing foods: 

Supplementing with Magnesium

If you do decide to add a magnesium supplement, there are many types available so here's a quick list of the best absorbing ones:

  • Malate

  • Glycinate

  • Chloride

  • Taurate

  • Orotate

  • Citrate

  • L-Threonate

Most other forms are poorer in absorption and are laxative in nature such as magnesium oxide, dihydroxide, sulfate, aspartate, and carbonate. My personal favorite is Reacted Magnesium from Nutrabio (you can use code “occam10” for 10% off)

Other References