Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Supplement info: Magnesium

Good morning, happy people!

After writing the "Diet tip of the day: Drink more water" - post I've received a ton of questions on supplements and superfoods. Therefore I want to share my knowledge with you guys. This is the first part of my "supplement info"-series. My main goal is to introduce some of the most important supplements any athlete (beginner, intermediate or professional) should be taking - giving you a description of why they work and some tips on using them correctly.

Do you want to improve recovery after a really tough workout?
Do you want to sleep better at night?
Do you wish to reduce muscle spasms, cramps and improve your tolerance of vigorous physical activity?


Magnesium is the fourth most abundant element by mass in the human body and is essential to good health. It's ions are essential to all living cells, where they are needed in manipulating important biological compounds like ATP, DNA and RNA. Magnesium is required in the catalysation of more than 300 enzymes in the human body, and it has been detected in nearly 4,000 binding sites of human proteins.

Magnesium is important to metabolism, enzyme function, the proper function of the nervous system, the uptake of calcium, the immune system, muscle function (keeping the heart beat steady - the heart is a muscle), strengthening bones and protein synthesis. Taken correctly, magnesium prevents stroke and heart attacks; and can help pain in fibromyalgia, migraine and premenstrual symptoms.

Magnesium is essential in a healthy diet. Magnesium, just like Vitamin D, plays a part in many chemical reactions and functions in the human body, and deficiency is therefore challenging to diagnose. Many people may not have enough magnesium stored in their body because they fail to get the recommended amount of magnesium from their diet. Having enough body stores of magnesium can prevent stroke and heart attacks and immune dysfunction.

Common first symptoms of magnesium deficiency are numbness and tingling, apathy, memory loss and learning difficulties, nausea, desorientation, sleep disorders, irritation, muscle spasms and cramps, headache, loss of appetite, fatigue and weakness. Magnesium deficiency can cause asthma, diabetes and osteoporosis. Keep in mind that many of these symptoms are general and can be caused by many other things than magnesium deficiency!
Magnesium deficiency is usually caused by a disease or dysfunction of the intestines (diabetes, kidney dysfunction, irritated bowel syndrome), certain types of medicine (diuretic compounds, birth control pills and antibiotics), stress or alcoholism.


Good dietary sources of magnesium include green vegetables (spinach, agar, green leafy spices), fruits like banana and avocado; beans and peas; tomatoes, ginger, cumin, fish (halibut), nuts and seeds (especially cashews, almonds, sunflower and pumpkin seeds), and whole, unrefined grains. Refined grains (e.g. white flour) are generally low in magnesium, because when they are processed, the magnesium-rich germ and bran are removed. So make sure you eat whole-grain products in stead of processed foods! Coffee, cocoa and tea are also good sources of magnesium. When it comes to cocoa, choose raw cacao (here's why).

Keep in mind that carbonated drinks like sodas decrease the uptake of magnesium, as does taking large amounts of calcium supplements.

Magnesium dietary supplements are widely available. Here's a short description of the different forms of magnesium supplements:

Magnesium oxide is one of the most common forms in magnesium dietary supplements, because it has a high magnesium content per weight (60%), but it is the least bioavailable. Magnesium oxide works mostly as a laxative in the human body, so don't overdose on it - you'll feel the consequences pretty fast.
Magnesium citrate has been reported as more bioavailable then oxide or amino-acid chelate (glycinate) forms. Citrate is a common form of magnesium in supplements, you'll find it in almost every supermarket.
Magnesium glycinate is a highly bioavailable form of magnesium, and it provides a high level of absorption and is considered ideal for those who are trying to correct a deficiency. (It's also the form I mostly use).
Magnesium chloride or lactate has only 12% magnesium, but it is still more bioavailable than magnesium oxide.
Magnesium stearate is a potentially harmful additive, a binding ingredient in drugs and mints, and shouldn't be used as a magnesium supplement. According to a health-oriented website magnesium stearate (or the stearic acid in it) can lower your immune system and potentially prevent the absorption of nutrients in your intestine. So, steer clear of magnesium stearate.

So, what did you learn? Don't use magnesium oxide, take almost anything else. Except for magnesium stearate, that is. Read the labels on your supplement bottles! If you're unsure about supplementing on magnesium, leave a comment or send me a message - I'm glad to help.

Excess magnesium in the blood is filtered at the kidneys, so it's difficult to overdose on magnesium from dietary sources. With supplements, overdose is possible, but mostly in people with poorly functioning kidneys.So you shouldn't worry.

Picture source 1 2

 Hope you're having a great day!

/Coach U

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