More about Magnesium
Magnesium is considered more than just an essential mineral in human nutrition, considering it's involved in more than 300 metabolic reactions: it's necessary for every major biological process, including the production of cellular energy, the synthesis of proteins, as well as muscle contractions and nerve impulses, among other things. It might be considered essential for life, wouldn't you say?
What most individuals are not aware of is that we continually deplete magnesium, especially with undue stress and/or intense training and less-than-perfect eating habits, thus giving rise to the importance of supplementation. Also, studies have shown that nearly 90% of Americans lack an adequate supply of magnesium, necessary to sustain life's most important functions.
Why do I need it?
Magnesium's usually found in high-quality multivitamin/mineral products because it's important to keep an abundant supply in the body, readily available, not only to avoid possible deficiencies but to remain on hand for a wide range of vitally important biological functions.
Magnesium is second only to potassium in its concentration within the cells of our bodies and is second to none as far as importance for healthy functioning of our bodily processes. Many of these processes have to do with energy production, such as the conversion of glycogen to useable fuel. Oftentimes, low levels of energy, muscle spasms, and uncoordinated movements during exercise are a result of a magnesium deficiency.
How does it work?
About 65% of magnesium is contained in our teeth and bones and is needed to keep them strong and healthy. Throughout our bodies, magnesium works at the cellular level to aid the sodium-potassium pump, increasing the absorption of potassium and other minerals into the cells and allowing for proper functioning of just about every system and structure within our bodies.
Glycogen (sugar stores) is converted to fuel for daily activities as well as intense exercise. Magnesium is necessary for this process, coordinating with calcium (hence the reason for the proper 2:1 mineral balance ratio of calcium to magnesium), to aid in the production of ATP, our primary energy source, and also allow our bodies to use carbohydrates and proteins more efficiently.
Magnesium also has been shown to stimulate insulin release, which is necessary for both hormone and blood sugar regulation as well as overall health. And conversely, insulin resistance has been reported in those with magnesium deficiencies. When we have adequate magnesium and these processes are running smoothly, our bodies may also store less fat.
Another benefit of adequate magnesium is protection against muscle cramping, which is all too common among athletes. Magnesium works with calcium to keep muscles functioning properly — calcium stimulates contraction, and magnesium relaxes both skeletal and smooth muscles throughout our bodies. To help relieve muscle cramping, some people need magnesium; others need calcium. Most often, the two minerals are recommended together because they are so intertwined.
Magnesium also works within the nervous system and aids nerve cells. Adequate magnesium allows for proper functioning of our brains, leading to enhanced memory, concentration, and overall mental stability.
Deficiency risks and symptoms
According to researchers, many countries, including the U.S., have a greater number of deficiencies than they did just ten years ago. In fact, many would say that most Americans have at least a minor magnesium deficiency. Average daily intake in the U.S. is estimated to be just above 200 mg daily, which is well below even the RDA.
This deficiency issue is believed to be caused in part by the increase in processed foods, particularly carbohydrate foods. This, combined with intense exercise, can significantly deplete this important mineral from our bodies. Deficiencies can also be caused by excessive alcohol, caffeine, or sugar intake, increased Vitamin D intake, drinking soft water, mineral-deficient soils, cooking and boiling whole foods, and the "inevitable" aging process.
Because there are so many causes of deficiency, essentially no one is completely risk free. Women (especially athletic and/or post-menopausal women) and the elderly are at an even greater risk. And, athletes who, of course, require more energy, or ATP, deplete magnesium rather quickly as well.
These deficiencies can cause a multitude of complications, but sadly, most doctors rarely make the connection. Symptoms include muscle cramping, due to a loss of muscle control and continual muscle contraction; fatigue; premenstrual syndrome, including cramping and water retention; irritability; insomnia; poor memory; decreased learning ability; high blood pressure; increased risk of kidney stones; and the list continues.
With these facts, magnesium rises a bit higher on the totem pole of supplements you might want to add to your regimen. Most often taken in a multivitamin/mineral formula, magnesium can also be added separately (combined with calcium), especially for people who are at greater risk for deficiencies and people who are suffering from muscle cramping or even tight muscles.