Magnesium is an under-the-radar supplement, but it’s one you might want to pay attention to. Magnesium is involved in over 300 reactions in our body—all of our cells need this mineral to function properly—and even if you don’t have a clinical deficiency, suboptimal levels might mean you’re not performing at peak function.
Though I always favor a food first approach, the truth is, most of us are falling short on this mineral. There are several reasons why: For one, people don’t embrace enough magnesium-rich foods; our soil isn’t as rich in magnesium as it once was; common medications (like antacids) can interfere with magnesium absorption; heavy alcohol use inhibits absorption; and very common GI concerns can increase our needs. I recommend supplements on a case-by-case basis, but magnesium is one supplement I think most people could benefit from—so I suggest you pay attention to this superhero mineral!
Magnesium binds receptors in the brain that tell it to chill out and get ready for bed. Common prescription sleep aids also bind to these receptors, but unlike medications, magnesium doesn’t cause any next-day drowsiness. On the flip side, studies also suggest that suboptimal magnesium intakes can lead to sleep problems.
Magnesium impacts how your body responds to stress. Because of the way it’s been shown to act on certain pathways in the brain, it basically tells your body to calm down, promoting a better sense of well-being.
Improvements in anxiety and mood
While not a substitute for mood-regulating medications, magnesium may be helpful in improving anxiety and depressive symptoms. In one study among people with low magnesium levels, correcting this insufficiency led to improvements in depressive symptoms. Other research points to the fact that people notice improvements in anxiety symptoms after supplementing with magnesium. Magnesium (sometimes in combination with other minerals and supplements) has also been shown to improve anxiety, irritability, and mood problems associated with PMS.
Magnesium is one of the minerals involved in regulating heart rhythms, and there’s a lot of interest in ensuring optimal magnesium levels to support cardiovascular health.
Workout gains and recovery
If you’re more than an average exerciser, you may have higher-than-normal magnesium needs and magnesium might lead to improvements in your workouts. Magnesium helps your muscle cells get the energy they need to support movement, and is also involved in the contraction/relaxation process. Magnesium also lowers your muscles’ oxygen requirements, so you can work out a little longer without getting fatigued. Plus, some studies suggest it might lead to strength improvements.
Magnesium is also important in the recovery phase since it’s one of the minerals that you lose in your sweat (provided you’re participating in really sweaty workouts!).
Magnesium is involved in glucose metabolism and in one study among people at high risk for diabetes, those who supplemented with this mineral experienced improvements in fasting plasma glucose levels. Over time, high levels of glucose can cause demands on your insulin response that can raise the risk of diabetes and other health concerns. In my opinion, keeping glucose levels—and therefore, insulin levels—in a proper range is one of the best things you can do for your long-term health.
Sources of magnesium
The RDA for magnesium is 320 mg for women and 400 mg for men. You can get this amount through a well-planned diet that includes plenty of magnesium-rich foods. Top sources include leafy green veggies, beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Here are a few great sources to lean on:
2 cups spinach: 47 mg
1 cup cooked broccoli: 30 mg
½ cup cooked quinoa: 59 mg
1 oz almonds: 78 mg
2 Tbsp. hummus: 22 mg
½ c canned black beans: 42mg
Still, you can see why our magnesium levels might not be what they could be! All the foods listed here only supply 87% of what women need each day; men need more.
What you need to know before you take a magnesium supplement
Though I’ve highlighted a few studies here, there are far more that point to the benefits of making sure you’re taking in and absorbing the magnesium your body needs to thrive. What’s more, most of us aren’t routinely getting our magnesium levels checked—particularly since the common lab tests aren’t the best indicators of our body’s magnesium status.
If you’d like to try a magnesium supplement, it’s important to pay attention to the type of magnesium you buy. Common forms, like magnesium citrate and oxide, can irritate your tummy, or worse, cause a laxative effect. (Um, no thanks to that!) If this happens, it basically means you’re pooping out your magnesium! I always recommend magnesium glycinate, because your body absorbs it better than other common forms, and it’s gentle on the tummy.
I work with OMG! Nutrition, a ready-to-mix, very absorbable type of magnesium (magnesium glycinate chelate) that makes it easy to make a habit out of getting the magnesium your body needs. This isn’t a sponsored post or affiliate link, though! I just really like the product and want to put it on your radar. For people who don’t like pills or who want a convenient, totable supplement, these pre-measured, tasty packets make it easy to get the magnesium your brain and body needs to function at your best.