The Importance Of Magnesium
Lately it has been a struggle to get through the work day. Sleep has been poor and my energy has been low. Coffee consumption has doubled. The naps have gotten longer and snacking has gone up. The snacking would give me a quick jolt of energy, but it would soon subside. And I wasn’t snacking on unhealthy foods. Fruits, almonds, and jerky made up the majority of my snacks. I was confused. I couldn’t figure out why my energy had taken such a hit.
Isn’t it crazy that a 26 year old personal trainer could be suffering from low energy? I am supposed to be the epitome of health and fitness! I felt as if I was living a lie and being a hypocrite. Here I was giving my clients advice on how to be healthy, while I was relying on coffee to get through the day. My self-esteem took a hit. I questioned if I was the right person for the job. I work hard to study nutrition and health, but sometimes knowledge isn’t enough. As a trainer, you must practice what you preach and I was not holding up my end of the bargain.
For the last month, I have been taking an online course with Dr. Ben House on functional medicine and nutrition. The course has been eye opening. I never realized the impact nutrients could have on your health, especially micronutrients. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals that can only be obtained from food or supplements. A deficiency in these vitamins and minerals can cause detrimental effects, from fatigue to poor sleep. In the United States, micronutrient deficiency is common, especially magnesium. Research has shown 7 out of 10 people don’t get the recommended amount of magnesium (1).
The Importance Of Magnesium
Magnesium is the 4th most abundant mineral in the body. It plays a crucial role in the regulation of muscular contraction, blood pressure, insulin and energy metabolism. Research has shown an association between certain chronic diseases and magnesium deficiency (2).
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
A meta-analysis of 532,979 participants from 19 studies showed an inverse relationship between cardiovascular disease (CVD) and magnesium intake. As magnesium intake increased, CVD risk decreased with the greatest decrease occurring when intake went from 150mg to 400 mg per day (3). In addition, two systematic reviews showed improved insulin sensitivity in magnesium deficient patients (4,5). When insulin sensitivity improves, diabetes risk decreases. Put simply, magnesium is really fucking important. Excuse my language, but I cannot underestimate the importance of this micronutrient.
According to the National Institute of Health, only 30-40% of dietary magnesium is absorbed (6). Almonds and spinach are some of the highest magnesium containing foods at 80 mg per serving. Thus, you need to consume about ten servings of almonds and spinach to hit the recommended amount of 400mg of magnesium. Our modern environment has made it very challenging to fight off nutrient deficiencies. Research has shown today’s soil to be depleted of minerals. Mineral depleted soil reduces the nutrient quality of our foods. Joseph Pizzorno, ND, Editor in Chief of Integrative Medicine: A Clinician's Journal wrote, “One disconcerting study shows that the trace mineral content of US wheat in the past 122 years has decreased by 20% to 33% (7).”
How Do I Fix It?
We know a whole food diet won’t necessarily save you from deficiency. I consume a ton of magnesium rich foods (almonds, leafy greens,broccoli, whole grains), but still experienced benefits from supplementation. How could this be? Well, absorption isn’t the only player in nutrient balance. You have to look at the other side of the coin. Nutrient loss. For example, when you don’t sleep enough and consume too much alcohol, caffeine, or salt you lose magnesium faster (8). I was drinking too much on the weekends and not sleeping enough during the week. The lack of sleep led to increased caffeine consumption, and the increased caffeine led to poor sleep. A vicious cycle had started. Sound familiar?
Without even realizing it, I had developed a magnesium deficiency. And if I can develop one, than you could too.* Luckily, I could test my hypothesis right away. For the last week, I have been spraying my body with topical magnesium before bed. Sleep has improved drastically and my energy levels have shot back up. I can’t say for sure whether or not it was the extra sleep that improved my fatigue or if it was specifically the magnesium. As I stated above, magnesium plays an essential role in energy production, so it could be a combination of both. Regardless of the mechanism, I feel better.
I will admit though, applying magnesium before bed can be quite the annoyance when tired. So I have opted to give the pill form a try. I recommend taking the supplement an hour before bed to help with sleep. I have experienced similar results with both forms of magnesium. Thus, you can supplement with a topical spray or take it in pill form. I have found great results with the two products below. Nevertheless, supplementation should never replace the consumption of whole foods. Rather, supplementation should take place on top of a whole food diet.
“The benefits derived from fruits and vegetables are not derived principally from the vitamins and therefore can never be obtained from the use of multivitamin pills as a substitute for whole foods.”-Alex Vasquez ND, DO, DC
*Please talk to your doctor before taking any supplement