Magnesium for Health & Performance
Benefits, dosing, and selecting the best form of magnesium
If you forced me to choose one supplement, what would I choose?
Of course, the answer is “It depends”, but with all things considered this essential mineral is a top contender and one of my "best kept secrets" for dramatically improving performance and body composition outcomes: Magnesium L-Threonate.
Let’s explore why it’s important, how to get adequate levels through food, and the 2 most critical errors people make: form and dosage.
Optimal Intake of Magnesium
Magnesium is a common deficiency that is very difficult to optimize through diet for two reasons. First, two major sources of magnesium are bones and mineral water. These sources are rarely consumed in significant quantities. Second, modern monocrop agriculture practices deplete the soil of this vital mineral, and so even dietary sources are lower in magnesium content, especially non-organic sources.
To compound the problem, stress, caffeine, and physical training deplete magnesium demand. And further still, optimal absorption of magnesium is impaired by low stomach acid or inadequate levels of other common deficiencies such as vitamin D, zinc, B6, and omega 3.
This is why, if I was allowed to thoroughly organize my diet to maximize nutrient intake, I would still likely supplement with magnesium. Many other nutrients can be obtained through proper nutrition, but optimal levels of magnesium are most difficult to achieve.
The first mistake people make when selecting a magnesium supplement is the form. The form of magnesium is important because it determines how the mineral is utilized in the body. For example, magnesium oxide is excellent for hydrating the colon - great if you’re constipated, but not well absorbed into the blood stream.
Other better absorbed forms of magnesium have specific effects on your physiology. Magnesium glycinate tends to have an affinity for muscle tissue, taurate for the heart, malate for mitochondria, and many other forms exist. In general, use several forms to ensure adequate absorption and a wide range of benefits.
The second mistake is misunderstanding dosages. You need 300-400mg of elemental magnesium daily, which requires a few grams of chelated magnesium. For example, you need 2 grams of magnesium L-threonate for about 130mg of elemental magnesium; 2 grams is the amount used in clinical trials. Look on your supplement container and you should see the elemental magnesium content listed.
People often get the form and dosage wrong, or undervalue this mineral altogether.
The Benefits of Magnesium
It is difficult to overstate the importance of magnesium, an essential mineral for both health and performance. And not only athletic performance, but cognitive performance as well.
Magnesium has been found to improve sleep, and there are a number of potential mechanisms: increasing muscle relaxation, increasing GABA levels in the brain, improving high blood pressure, increasing memory and cognition, and improving symptoms of depression.
I have seen great improvements in sleep, especially with L-Threonate. This is extremely relevant for health, since inadequate sleep increases all causes of mortality, but also for body composition outcomes.
Sleep is when the most testosterone and growth hormone are produced, and is a critical time for tissue regeneration. In other words, better sleep means more muscle and less fat, in addition to higher levels of strength and improvements in mood.
Magnesium is also important for muscle relaxation, since it stimulates calcium reuptake in the endoplasmic reticulum. Calcium generates muscle contractions, but magnesium is necessary for muscle relaxation.
Magnesium not only plays a major role in muscle relaxation, it's also important for general relaxation by increasing GABA and potentially improving high blood pressure. Generally, decreasing stress levels will improve training adaptations; your recovery will be faster and you'll be able to train more often.
This mineral has even shown to be efficacious for improvements in migraines, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels. Since magnesium is essential for glucose metabolism, it may play a critical role for diabetics.
Suffice to say, you might be surprised by the differences when you improve your magnesium levels. With magnesium L-threonate, I personally use the clinically tested 2 grams before bed and noticed major improvements in sleep and cognition. Post workout, I use magnesium glycinate and magnesium taurate for muscle relaxation and heart health.
Obviously, for medical purposes, consult your physician. Nothing in this article is intended to be a medical recommendation.
Let me know the results if you incorporate this magic mineral into your routine!
Daniel J Furtado, CPT, LMT, Owner of Honor Strength
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