Magnesium

Essential Micronutrient

OVERVIEW

Summary

Magnesium is needed for over 300 of our bodies’ most important biological processes, not the least of which is ATP energy production and muscular contractions. Nonetheless, it’s most typically used by active individuals to prevent muscle cramping; to enhance muscle and nerve functioning; to relieve tight, sore muscles; and to help improve bone density.

Other names for Magnesium

Mg

Where to find Magnesium

Magnesium can be found naturally in legumes and soy products such as tofu as well as in seeds, nuts, whole grains, and most green leafy vegetables.

Note Most foods that are normally thought to be magnesium-rich, even though they may contain naturally occurring magnesium, are poor sources because of refinement and processing. Also, the absorption of magnesium into the cells is diminished by high intakes of fat, caffeine, and sugar. So, limiting these nutrients while supplementing with magnesium is advised.

Popup: Foods highest in Magnesium.

Daily Value

The Daily Value for Magnesium is 400 mg.

PERFORMANCE BENEFITS

Why athletes use Magnesium

Most sedentary Americans are already deficient in magnesium, and athletes are at an even greater risk of deficiency. Don’t take a chance — find yourself a high-quality multivitamin/mineral supplement that contains adequate amounts and ensure your “essential mineral” requirements are being met.

Ways that Magnesium can enhance Muscle Gain & Recovery:
  • Support strong, healthy bones by regulating mineral absorption and use
Ways that Magnesium can enhance Energy & Endurance:
  • Cooperating with calcium, assist in the production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate, the “energy factory”)
  • Aid in muscular functioning, muscle contractions, and nerve impulses.

HEALTH BENEFITS

Signs of Magnesium deficiency

Deficiency of Magnesium has been linked to:

  • NIDDM
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Irritability/nervousness
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue/Weakness
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • Insomnia/sleep disorders
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • ALS
Potential uses for Magnesium

Research indicates that Magnesium may also be useful in the treatment of:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Insomnia/sleep disorders
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • Asthma and other bronchial ailments
  • Attention deficit disorder (ADD)
  • Herpes
  • Kidney stones
  • Constipation

DISCUSSION

More about Magnesium

Magnesium is considered more than just an essential mineral in human nutrition, considering it’s involved in more than 300 metabolic reactions: it’s necessary for every major biological process, including the production of cellular energy, the synthesis of proteins, as well as muscle contractions and nerve impulses, among other things. It might be considered essential for life, wouldn’t you say?

What most individuals are not aware of is that we continually deplete magnesium, especially with undue stress and/or intense training and less-than-perfect eating habits, thus giving rise to the importance of supplementation. Also, studies have shown that nearly 90% of Americans lack an adequate supply of magnesium, necessary to sustain life’s most important functions.

Why do I need it?

Magnesium’s usually found in high-quality multivitamin/mineral products because it’s important to keep an abundant supply in the body, readily available, not only to avoid possible deficiencies but to remain on hand for a wide range of vitally important biological functions.

Magnesium is second only to potassium in its concentration within the cells of our bodies and is second to none as far as importance for healthy functioning of our bodily processes. Many of these processes have to do with energy production, such as the conversion of glycogen to useable fuel. Oftentimes, low levels of energy, muscle spasms, and uncoordinated movements during exercise are a result of a magnesium deficiency.

How does it work?

About 65% of magnesium is contained in our teeth and bones and is needed to keep them strong and healthy. Throughout our bodies, magnesium works at the cellular level to aid the sodium-potassium pump, increasing the absorption of potassium and other minerals into the cells and allowing for proper functioning of just about every system and structure within our bodies.

Glycogen (sugar stores) is converted to fuel for daily activities as well as intense exercise. Magnesium is necessary for this process, coordinating with calcium (hence the reason for the proper 2:1 mineral balance ratio of calcium to magnesium), to aid in the production of ATP, our primary energy source, and also allow our bodies to use carbohydrates and proteins more efficiently.

Magnesium also has been shown to stimulate insulin release, which is necessary for both hormone and blood sugar regulation as well as overall health. And conversely, insulin resistance has been reported in those with magnesium deficiencies. When we have adequate magnesium and these processes are running smoothly, our bodies may also store less fat.

Performance benefits

Another benefit of adequate magnesium is protection against muscle cramping, which is all too common among athletes. Magnesium works with calcium to keep muscles functioning properly — calcium stimulates contraction, and magnesium relaxes both skeletal and smooth muscles throughout our bodies. To help relieve muscle cramping, some people need magnesium; others need calcium. Most often, the two minerals are recommended together because they are so intertwined.

Magnesium also works within the nervous system and aids nerve cells. Adequate magnesium allows for proper functioning of our brains, leading to enhanced memory, concentration, and overall mental stability.

Deficiency risks and symptoms

According to researchers, many countries, including the U.S., have a greater number of deficiencies than they did just ten years ago. In fact, many would say that most Americans have at least a minor magnesium deficiency. Average daily intake in the U.S. is estimated to be just above 200 mg daily, which is well below even the RDA.

This deficiency issue is believed to be caused in part by the increase in processed foods, particularly carbohydrate foods. This, combined with intense exercise, can significantly deplete this important mineral from our bodies. Deficiencies can also be caused by excessive alcohol, caffeine, or sugar intake, increased Vitamin D intake, drinking soft water, mineral-deficient soils, cooking and boiling whole foods, and the “inevitable” aging process.

Because there are so many causes of deficiency, essentially no one is completely risk free. Women (especially athletic and/or post-menopausal women) and the elderly are at an even greater risk. And, athletes who, of course, require more energy, or ATP, deplete magnesium rather quickly as well.

These deficiencies can cause a multitude of complications, but sadly, most doctors rarely make the connection. Symptoms include muscle cramping, due to a loss of muscle control and continual muscle contraction; fatigue; premenstrual syndrome, including cramping and water retention; irritability; insomnia; poor memory; decreased learning ability; high blood pressure; increased risk of kidney stones; and the list continues.

In truth

With these facts, magnesium rises a bit higher on the totem pole of supplements you might want to add to your regimen. Most often taken in a multivitamin/mineral formula, magnesium can also be added separately (combined with calcium), especially for people who are at greater risk for deficiencies and people who are suffering from muscle cramping or even tight muscles.

NOTES ON USAGE

Amount

Between 250 and 500 mg is typically recommended for healthy adults. Intensely training athletes, though, may require 500 to 1,000 mg daily for optimal results.

Timing

Magnesium should be taken in combination with other minerals, such as in a high-quality multivitamin/mineral formula, in three divided doses per day. Optimal absorption requires certain “acids” in the stomach, so it should be taken between meals or before bed.

Tip

The calcium-magnesium balance is important, so when calcium is supplemented, magnesium should also be supplemented because they work cooperatively in the body. Magnesium is typically recommended with double the amount of calcium (for example, if supplementing with 500 mg of calcium, also take 250 mg of magnesium) for proper mineral balance.

Synergists of Magnesium

Studies have shown that Vitamin B6 taken with magnesium helps increase levels of magnesium “uptake”/absorption within cells.

Safety of Magnesium

Magnesium is very safe, even at high amounts, though it shouldn’t be used excessively by people with impaired kidney (renal) function.

Toxicity of Magnesium

No known toxicity.

Bans and restrictions

None reported.

RELATED RESEARCH

  • Cox, I.M., et al., “Red Blood Cell Magnesium and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome,” Lancet 337.8744 (1991) : 757-60.
  • Dahle, L.O., et al., “The Effect of Oral Magnesium Substitution on Pregnancy-Induced Leg Cramps,” Am J Obstet Gynecol 173.1 (1995) : 175-80.
  • Facchinetti, F., et al., “Oral Magnesium Successfully Relieves Premenstrual Mood Changes,” Obstet Gynecol 78.2 (1991) : 177-81.
  • Hinds, G., et al., “Normal Red Cell Magnesium Concentrations and Magnesium Loading Tests in Patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome,” Ann Clin Biochem 31.5 (1994) : 459-61.
  • Kawano, Y., et al., “Effects of Magnesium Supplementation in Hypertensive Patients: Assessment by Office, Home, and Ambulatory Blood Pressures,” Hypertension 32.2 (1998) : 260-5.
  • Tanabe, K., et al., “Efficacy of Oral Magnesium Administration on Decreased Exercise Tolerance in a State of Chronic Sleep Deprivation,” Jpn Circ J 62.5 (1998) : 341-6.