Believe it or not, magnesium is found in every cell of the body. It is one of the most important nutrients found in the body consumed through food. It plays many roles; in muscle movement, energy creation, metabolic processes in protein production, and even aids function in the nervous system. In developed countries, it is estimated that 15-20% of adults consume less than the recommended amount of magnesium per day.
Our consumption of magnesium is heavily influenced by the food choices we make on a day-to-day basis. It is found in a variety of food sources, such as green leafy vegetables (ex: spinach), legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Consuming non-refined foods are recommended to help obtain the accurate needs of magnesium. Refined food, such as white bread or white rice is stripped from its germ and brand and therefore loses its nutritional value, including its nutrients in magnesium. It is encouraged to consume whole-grain foods and non-processed foods to maximize your magnesium absorption as the body only absorbs 30-40% of dietary magnesium.
Let's now take a look at a few reasons why magnesium is so important to us in exercise and mental health:
1 - Muscle Movements & Contractions
Magnesium is involved in the process of movement and contraction of the muscle fibers in our body. Therefore, it plays an important role during exercise. It has been found that magnesium deficiencies may be the cause of muscle twitches and cramps (especially during and after exercise). Magnesium supplements may relieve some of these symptoms, however, research has shown that mg supplements are not necessary, as long as you have a well-balanced food intake.
Please note that muscle spasms, twitches, and/or cramps could be caused by a variety of other things. If you are experiencing any continuity of these symptoms, it is suggested to speak with your family physician or a doctor.
2 - Exercise Performance
Magnesium is involved in transporting glucose (sugar) into your bloodstream to your muscles when you are doing exercise. It also helps with the disposal of lactate build-up in the muscle - which can help recovery from muscle fatigue, therefore, enhancing exercise performance. Although research shows mixed results in magnesium supplements and exercise performance, it has been shown in several studies that mg supplements may help enhance exercise performance. However, it is not needed for people or athletes who have an adequate dietary intake of Mg.
3 - Supports Mental Health
More recent research shows that magnesium deficiencies MAY be linked to depression and anxiety. Mg may play a role in mood disorders and has links to how humans respond to stress in the brain. Although there is not enough evidence to support that Mg supplements work for reducing depression and anxiety, it seems to be leading that way. Having an adequate intake of dietary magnesium is encouraged.
4 - Anti-inflammatory properties
Mg inhibits certain markers that create inflammation in the body and has demonstrated anti-inflammatory benefits. Therefore, magnesium could be beneficial to help muscle recovery or even soreness after a workout by reducing inflammation around the muscle and joints post-workout.
5 - Promotes Bone Health
Fifty to sixty percent of your body's magnesium is found in your bones and plays a crucial role in the maintenance of bone health and protection of bone loss. Furthermore, low magnesium intake has been shown to promote a greater risk of bone fractures. Mg intake can promote bone density in the hip and neck bones - which are areas prone to injury and fractures. Having strong bones (especially in your hip and spine/neck area) increases our chances of being active for longer and can benefit our overall health.
6 - Better Sleep
We all know that sleep is important for recovery - both mental and physical. Unfortunately, not all of us have the luxury of good quality sleep. Magnesium plays a big role in regulating neurotransmitters involved in sleep and has been shown to benefit a faster falling asleep time and quality of sleep. So, for people who suffer from insomnia, magnesium has been a recognized supplement to promote better sleep.
The main takeaway from this should be that dietary magnesium should not be overlooked. Keep aiming for whole foods, including leafy greens, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds to help you obtain an adequate amount of magnesium throughout the day. If you are curious to learn more about how YOUR food intake can impact your exercise performance, please reach out to our nutritionist, Kelissa Ouellet, to learn more about her services and programs.
B.Sc, PTS, ICF