How Magnesium Can Benefit Your Health and Workout Routine

This essential mineral is responsible for hundreds of reactions in your body that benefit not only your health but also your exercise performance!

How Magnesium Can Benefit Your Health and Workout Routine
Evelyn Valdez Evelyn Valdez
6 min read

Magnesium is one of seven essential minerals. In fact, it's one that is often recommended by nutritionists for good reason. Magnesium is known as the relaxation mineral because of the way it functions in your body... It's responsible for over 300 enzyme reactions and found in all your tissues (mainly in your bones, muscles, and brain). Your body needs magnesium so your cells can help with muscle function, cardiovascular health, and even skeletal strength. Unfortunately, about 50 percent of Americans don't meet the recommended daily intake of magnesium. [1]

Not getting enough magnesium in your diet can affect the body in a number of ways because your body needs all vitamins and minerals to function at an optimal level. So what is magnesium good for? And how can getting enough of it benefit your health and workouts? Keep on reading to find out!

Health benefits of magnesium

As mentioned earlier, it is stored in your bones, muscles, and other soft tissues, but it's actually quite difficult for your body to access, especially if you have low magnesium levels. This is definitely not something you want your body to have difficulty accessing because it's involved in hundreds of biochemical reactions in your body, like...

  • Helping convert food to energy
  • Helping with protein formation
  • Creating and repairing DNA and RNA
  • Helping with muscle contractions and relaxation
  • Helping with the nervous system regulation (responsible for sending messages throughout your brain and nervous system)

Here are six other reasons why you want to start making sure you get enough of this mineral...

It's important for preventing bone fractures

When it comes to bone health the focus is always on calcium and/or vitamin D, but aside from these two, magnesium is also essential for healthy bone formation. Research has shown that getting the necessary amount of magnesium has been linked to higher bone density and improved bone crystal formation. [2] Not only that, but studies in 2017 have shown a link between magnesium levels and bone fractures. A study published in the European Journal of Epidemiology found that low levels of magnesium were an independent risk factor for bone fractures in men. [3] Another study published by the British Journal of Nutrition found that women who met their magnesium intake recommendations (by food or supplements) had a 27% lower chance of having fractures in the future compared to those who fell short. [4]

When it comes to strength training, bones need to be in tip-top shape to avoid any unwanted injuries. This is why you need to make sure that you're getting enough calcium, vitamin D, and magnesium from either your diet or through supplements.

Can help reduce migraine headaches

Migraines and severe headaches can hit at any moment, it's even worse if it gets in the way of your workout routine. Well, magnesium just might help reduce or relieve them altogether. That is because a magnesium deficiency can affect neurotransmitters and restrict blood vessel constriction, these are factors that doctors link to migraines. Studies have shown that consuming 600 mg of magnesium citrate regularly can be a safe and effective way to help prevent migraine headaches. [5] Although people who experience migraines can have lower levels of magnesium, consult with your doctor first before using a magnesium supplement.

Can help lower blood pressure

When people think of high blood pressure, they usually associate it with stress, lack of physical activity, or being overweight. Although these do play a factor in it, another culprit could be a mineral deficiency, specifically magnesium. The important role magnesium has in regulating blood pressure is relaxing "smooth muscle cells" (found in veins and arteries) so they don't constrict blood flow. It also regulates other minerals that are associated with blood pressure - It maintains a balance between sodium and potassium, and even helps the body absorb calcium. A 2013 study did a great job of examining the consumption of magnesium in relation to hypertension. It tested how much magnesium people ate in their diet and how much of it was actually absorbed by the body, this makes it easier to determine whether it really reduces the risks of high blood pressure. Researchers found that absorbed magnesium was associated with a 21% lower risk of hypertension even after consideration of the subject's lifestyle and diet. [6]

Can help you sleep better

Everyone could use a good night's rest, plus sleep is when the muscle-building magic happens 😉 Surprisingly magnesium can help! As mentioned earlier, magnesium helps with the contraction and relaxation of muscles, and relaxing your muscles might just be what you need for a good night's rest. Getting enough magnesium has shown to reduce and prevent sleep disorders and even restless leg syndrome which contributes to sleep loss. [7] [8] That's because this mineral helps to calm your nerves and mind by regulating two neurotransmitters that tend to keep you awake. The role of magnesium with restless leg syndrome has more to do with than just its muscle relaxing capabilities... It also has to do with the fact that it helps lower inflammation and helps make melatonin and glutathione, the main sleep-enhancing chemicals.

May reduce insulin resistance

Insulin resistance happens because of the muscle and liver cells impaired ability to properly absorb sugar from your bloodstream. This is actually one of the leading causes of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Apparently magnesium plays a pretty important role in the process of insulin resistance. It allows insulin to be more responsive to the sugar in the bloodstream and helps carry it into your cells quickly. A 2017 study in the journal Diabetes Care helps prove this case. The study found that people with a high intake of magnesium had a 15% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared with a group that consumed a much lower amount. [9]

Can help boost exercise performance

There are so many health-related reasons as to why you should make sure to consume an adequate amount of magnesium, but this reason might get you the most excited... Magnesium can help improve your exercise performance. It does this by helping move blood sugar into your muscles and disposing of lactate. Lactate buildup can build up during exercise and causes fatigue, which is something you don't want in the middle of a lifting sesh.

A study showed that athletes who supplemented with magnesium for four weeks experienced a boost in their running, cycling, and swimming times during a triathlon. They also experience a reduction in their stress hormone level and in insulin. [10] There are more studies similar to this that show supplementing with magnesium increasing endurance performance, but the evidence is mixed. Your best bet is to make sure you're getting enough of it in your diet before considering including a magnesium supplement in your pantry.

The amount of magnesium you should consume depends on your age and gender. The Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA) are:

  • Men between the ages of 19-30: 400 mg
  • Women between the ages of 19-30: 310 mg
  • Men ages 31 and older: 420 mg
  • Women ages 31 and older: 320 mg

Best sources of magnesium

You should be able to get most of what you need through natural food sources. Luckily, there are a lot of yummy foods that are rich in magnesium.

Here are a few magnesium-rich foods:

  • Nuts like cashews (74 mg per ounce), peanuts (63 mg per ounce), and almonds (80 mg per ounce)
  • Spinach: 78 mg per 1/2 cup
  • Black beans: 60 mg per 1/2 cup cooked
  • Edamame: 50 mg per 1/2 cup cooked
  • Avocados: 44 mg per cubed cup
  • Whole-wheat bread: 46 mg per 2 slices
  • Brown rice: 42 mg per 1/2 cup cooked
  • Dark chocolate (60-69 percent cocoa): 50 mg per ounce serving
  • Banana: 32 mg per medium-sized banana

Magnesium supplements

Now, let's talk about magnesium supplementation... Although you should focus on filling up on dietary magnesium from foods, having a supplement can come in handy on the days you are certain you didn't get enough of it. Unfortunately, picking the right supplements is not easy, especially when it comes to magnesium because there are so many different types. It's important to know the difference between them because some work better for certain health concerns.

  • Magnesium citrate and magnesium oxide: These two are best used for issues with bowel movements like constipation. These supplements have a laxative effect and help flush you out.
  • Magnesium threonate and magnesium glycinate: These too are best for those struggling with stress, mood, or sleep issues. If you have issues with muscle cramping or twitching at night consider taking magnesium glycinate.
  • Magnesium lactate: This type is recommended for heartburn, upset stomach, or indigestion. The American College of Cardiology recommends taking it with food to lessen the chance of side effects like diarrhea.[11]

Magnesium supplements are not necessary, but if you want to consider taking one then please consult with your doctor or health care provider before purchasing one.

In summary, magnesium deficiency is common because most people consume a diet high in processed foods, white flour, meat, and dairy. Although these foods in moderation are good for you, like meat, they have no magnesium. Lacking in just one essential mineral like magnesium can lead to several unpleasant effects in the body. Remember, your body needs all essential nutrients in order for it to function to the best of its capabilities. Including magnesium-rich foods like leafy greens, nuts, whole grains, and legumes will help you reach your magnesium needs, but also fill you up on other essential nutrients that can benefit your health and workout routine!