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Magnesium- the WHAT, WHY, and WHERE?

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I get most of the ideas for my posts from the questions I get asked on a regular basis and this is a REALLY popular one, so hopefully I can shed some light on magnesium and why you may not be getting enough of it in your diet.

What is Magnesium and why do I need it?

Magnesium is an element that is responsible for over 300 different processes in the body. Magnesium is absolutely essential for your body to make or utilize ATP which is the energy currency for your cells. (So this is REALLY important!). When your are getting enough magnesium, you are supporting your body in many ways including helping to strengthen your immune system, regulate blood sugar, get better sleep, supporting digestion, energy production, bone growth, and heart, muscle, nerve, and thyroid function just to name a few.

Could I be deficient?

Roughly 70% of the population is deficient in magnesium. Most of us certainly don’t get enough, and if you are one of those, you may not be able to get all that you need from food sources alone.

Other factors can also impact your bodies ability to utilize magnesium such as stress levels, the amount of refined sugar in the diet, caffeine intake, soda consumption, and excessive alcohol consumption. If you are saying “That’s not me, I eat healthy!” you may not be out of the clear. Foods that are high in magnesium (more on that further down) are normally plant based. If the soil that these foods are grown in is depleted of magnesium, the foods you are eating will in turn have lower levels of magnesium. On that note, you could be eating a “healthy” diet with lots of beneficial fats, and protein, but if you aren’t eating ENOUGH of the foods rich in magnesium (which can be a very high volume) then supplementing might be a good option for you.

Though the symptoms can be extremely wide spread, some common symptoms of magnesium deficiency include: muscle weakness and cramping, fatigue, sleep issues, poor memory, numbness or tingling, rapid heart beat, increased inflammatory markers, or constipation.  If you think you may be deficient, you should talk to your doctor about being tested as well as possible supplementation. I always would recommend talking to your doctor or a nutrition professional before starting on a magnesium supplement, however supplementing with a recommended dose has generally been regarded as safe because excess magnesium in the blood is filtered by the kidneys. Impared kidney function could cause potential issues though, so that it why it would be best to get tested and talk to your doctor.  Another effective form of magnesium supplementation is magnesium oil that is applied transdermally. If you do decide to supplement orally, chelated magnesium (ending it “-ate” tend to absorb the best. For adults over 30, the RDA of magnesium is 420mg for men and 320mg for women.

 

What foods are high in magnesium?

If you are trying to increase the magnesium in your diet through whole foods alone, it is important to be aware of the amounts of magnesium in some of these foods.  This list is by no means a complete list.  What you will likely find is that you would need to eat a significant amount of food from this list in order to get the RDA of magnesium into your diet.  For example, spinach which is a leafy green, contains a high amount of magnesium.  You would have to eat over 1 pound of spinach a day in order to get to the recommended daily allowance. If you are an active adult that regularly works out you may have higher magnesium requirements because of the demands on your body due to your activity level. Eating a big spinach salad with some nuts and a piece of dark chocolate can definitely be beneficial and increase the amount of magnesium in your diet, but it might not be enough. Just food for thought!

Some foods that are typically high in magnesium include:

  • Dark leafy greens
  • Nuts and seeds-almonds, cashews, brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds
  • Dark chocolate
  • Some seafood-tuna, pollock, crab, oysters
  • Some beans and lentils

How I use Magnesium

I have been supplementing with magnesium for years.  At this point you know why magnesium is so important to your health.  I take a supplement called ZMA every night before bed.  It contains zinc, magnesium, and B6.  It helps my recovery and sleep quality as well as many other internal processes of my body that I am not even likely aware of.  In addition to the ZMA, when I am feeling particularly sore from training or have any aches or pains, I use the transdermal magnesium before bed as well. It is similar (though I believe much more effective) to taking an epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) bath.

Do you supplement with magnesium?  What have your experiences been? Did you learn something new from this article?  Leave a comment below!

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