7 Signs You Need More Magnesium

by Metabolic Meals

by Metabolic Meals

Updated Dec 18, 2023

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Magnesium is an essential micronutrient required for optimal health and peak performance. It is classified as one of seven essential macrominerals and is a cofactor in more than 300 enzymatic reactions in the human body. Blood pressure, heart rhythm, insulin sensitivity, blood inflammation markers, and nervous system regulation are all directly linked to magnesium levels. For those looking to find a natural performance enhancer to maximize their time in the gym, magnesium also affects protein synthesis, testosterone levels, and strength increases. Needless to say, optimal magnesium intake is critical.

Unfortunately, magnesium deficiency is rising in today’s society because of a lack of micronutrient-dense food sources available in the prevailing “Western diet.” It is estimated that between 60 and 80 percent of Americans do not consume enough magnesium. While magnesium is predominantly found in food sources such as leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds, and beans, it is virtually nonexistent in the processed and fried foods common in today’s grocery stores and restaurants.

The rise in magnesium deficiency means many health-related disorders are also increasing at an alarming rate. But you don’t have to be surprised by the diagnosis — there are signs and habits that indicate your body likely needs more magnesium and strategies you can use to increase your magnesium levels.

Consequences of Magnesium Deficiency

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One of the most alarming findings on magnesium deficiency is the increase in blood inflammation markers. While acute inflammatory responses are indeed healthy bodily functions in certain instances, the chronic inflammation associated with magnesium deficiency is not healthy and leads to a host of other issues. Blood cell irregularities, cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, and osteoporosis have all been linked back to low levels of serum magnesium concentrations.

Another effect of magnesium deficiency is the influence on the sympathetic nervous system. Anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, and extreme fatigue are all byproducts of low magnesium levels. The nervous system is designed to up and down regulate to maintain homeostasis, but because of the numerous actions requiring magnesium, the nervous system is unable to function properly when the nutrient is at a deficient level. Magnesium intake is critical for nervous system regulation, and studies have confirmed that increasing magnesium intake leads to improved sleep quality and sleep time.

From a performance enhancement standpoint, magnesium deficiency might be the reason behind a plateau in the gym. Magnesium intake has been linked to not only testosterone levels and protein synthesis, but also to increases in strength levels. One study found that supplementing with 8 milligrams of magnesium per kilogram of bodyweight resulted in significantly higher strength increases over the course of a seven-week training protocol.

How to Spot Low Magnesium Levels

Here are some subtle indicators that you might be in need of more magnesium:

1. Cramping:

Muscle cramping often occurs because of electrolyte imbalance, primarily in the form of magnesium deficiency. When it comes to electrolytes, calcium is the metaphorical gas, while magnesium is the metaphorical breaks. Magnesium “blocks” calcium from overactivating the nerves and triggering musculature contractions.

2. Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS):

When magnesium levels are low, nerve impulse conduction and muscle contractions might become stimulated. Promising research has emerged linking magnesium supplementation to improvements in RLS in those who are deficient.

3. Insomnia:

Magnesium helps prevent stress hormones from staying elevated in the evening. This leads to more meaningful sleep and longer time spent asleep.

4. Irritability:

The most common cause of irritability is stress. Magnesium acts as a stress regulator by helping regulate adrenaline and cortisol. Magnesium deficiency leads to elevated stress hormones, causing a constant state of agitation.

5. Anxiety:

Because magnesium helps relax the nervous system, a lack of magnesium can lead to a constant excitatory state. This state can lead to chronic anxiety issues.

6. Alcohol and Caffeine Consumption:

Regular alcohol consumption and excess consumption of caffeine — likely through too much coffee — can cause excess excretion of magnesium.

7. Birth Control Pill Use:

Birth control pills also increase the risk of excess excretion of magnesium.

Increasing Your Magnesium Intake

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Whether your primary focus is on athletic performance or general health, the goal should always be to consume nutrients from whole food sources first. A diet rich in leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and seafood will ensure you are on track to consuming the recommended daily allowance of magnesium, which is roughly 400 milligrams per day for males and 310 milligrams per day for females.

However, while these are the RDA values, many of the leading authorities in the world view these numbers as being too low. Thus, in addition to whole food sources, supplementation might be necessary for certain populations. For athletes, I recommend considering a dosage of 3 to 4 milligrams of magnesium per pound of bodyweight. If you do find yourself needing to supplement, make sure it is in a highly absorbable form. Magnesium oxides do not absorb well, while chelated forms of magnesium — such as magnesium malate, magnesium glycinate, or magnesium taurate — are highly absorbable.

As with all health and nutritional advice, it is recommended that you speak with your healthcare practitioner to determine the right amount of magnesium for you and before beginning any supplementation protocols. Too much magnesium can lead to toxicity, and while rare, magnesium overdose is possible.

Alan Bishop is the Director of Sports Performance for Men’s Basketball at the University of Houston. Alan has a master’s degree in Sports Conditioning and Performance and holds certifications through the NSCA, CSCCA, and USAW.

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