How Magnesium Supports an Active, Healthy Lifestyle

the science behind the marvelous mineral an active body needs
magnesium supplement mineral nutrient
© Can Stock Photo / cegli

Magnesium is truly a marvellous mineral. It is the fourth most plentiful mineral in the human body and is estimated to be involved in over 300 biochemical processes1,3 including energy metabolism, cell growth, nerve conduction, muscle contraction, cardiac activity, DNA and protein synthesis, and much more!1,2

Humans require regular consumption of magnesium to support biological pathways and prevent deficiency. Decreased levels of magnesium have been associated with conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, type II diabetes mellitus, hypertension, osteoporosis, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).1 Although the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) is 400–420 mg for males and 310–360 mg for females over 19 years old,4 this range only applies to the nutrient requirements for healthy individuals. As such, following the RDA may be sufficient to prevent frank deficiency but is likely not enough for optimal health for many people. Magnesium levels in the general population have substantially declined, both due to decreased dietary intake as well as reduced micronutrient density in our food from processing, soil erosion, and fertilizer use.1,5

Why Athletes Love Magnesium

Because of magnesium's role in energy metabolism, cardiac activity, and muscle contraction, it is especially important for athletic performance and recovery. In higher metabolic situations, like strength training programs, the demand for magnesium increases, and when magnesium levels are suboptimal, endurance is decreased. Further studies have shown that increased magnesium levels have been correlated with decreased oxygen needs in aerobic training as well as increased strength parameters such as grip strength, knee extension torque, and maximal isometric trunk flexion.2 In one study of 16 males who took magnesium supplementation for 14 days, researchers found that mean systolic blood pressure was reduced by 8.9 mmHg at rest, 13 mmHg after exercise, and 11.9 mmHg during recovery.3

Magnesium appears to work through a variety of different mechanisms, including decreasing lactate, increasing red blood cell count, increasing adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production, preventing muscle damage, and, when levels exceed the RDA, maintaining muscle integrity.2,3,7,8

Diet or Supplementation?

Our typical Western diet is full of refined flours and sugars, lacking in fresh produce and magnesium-rich foods such as almonds, spinach, salmon, pumpkin seeds, black-eyed peas, and tempeh, so ensure you have an abundance of dietary sources.6

If your diet isn’t cutting it, supplementing will help. There are different forms of magnesium available, ranging from citrate, oxide, bisglycinate, malate, and threonate complexes. Each form has an affinity towards different concerns, although many overlap in their successes. For example, magnesium malate may be more suited for those with energy deficiencies. Citrate and oxide forms are often geared towards constipation due to their ability to draw water into the intestines (osmosis), and glycinate or bisglycinate forms are used for muscle tension and anxiety due to its relaxation effect. However, as magnesium works on so many fundamental levels in numerous vital organ systems, it is likely that all magnesium forms work in a spectrum across the body.

Oftentimes, dosing (and form) is either geared towards a specific condition, or to bowel tolerance. As magnesium is often bound to another element for stability, the separation of these elements in our digestive tract can sometimes cause loose stools and bloating. Average dosing ranges from 100–400 mg daily, often in split doses and with food to maximize absorption. Visit your healthcare provider to find out which magnesium form is best for you and your specific needs.

Magnesium has a good safety profile, however caution should be taken in those with renal impairments and low blood pressure. People taking medications such as bisphosphonates (used to treat osteoporosis), antibiotics, diuretics, and using proton pump inhibitors should consult with their healthcare provider before starting supplementation.4

Want to learn more? Check out more EcoParent, including All Women Need Magnesium, Marvelous Magnesium for Sweet Sleep, and Tips for a Happy and Healthy Immune System.