Monday, May 11, 2009

Magnesium: The Solution [You Weren’t Aware of] to MANY Problems

“Officer, it’s not what you think, I swear!"

I was inspired to read up on magnesium and decided to grab a book at Chapter’s to get a better understanding of its role in the human body, and why it’s such an essential mineral. The book, The Magnesium Miracle, by Dr. Carolyn Dean, gives a detailed explanation of magnesium and describes its crucial role in the regulation of more than 300 enzymes in the body. Here is a somewhat-short summary of the book. I HIGHLY recommend you pick up a copy for yourself!

[They] say, because crop soil is not what it used to be (major absence of minerals due to over-processing), crops are subsequently lacking their nutrients, and thus causing us to become deficient in them. According to a study done by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nutrients like protein and riboflavin have become less abundant in crops when comparing present values to ones from 1950, with percentages ranging from 6%-38%.

The fewer nutrients in the soil create a domino effect. If the soil is deficient, then the crops become deficient; thus, we, the consumers of the crops, become deficient. So, then, if we were to consume the proper daily dose of these nutrients with this information in mind, we would have to consume a lot more vegetables and fruits than we can fit down the hatch; in other words, we'd have to be eating more in terms of how much our eyes can eat as opposed to our stomachs. Now why the hell can’t we do that with pizza and ice-cream?!

Apparently this study that was conducted failed to include a number of other important minerals, one being magnesium.

What is the significance of magnesium? Well, aside from the fact that it is responsible for the regulation of over 300 enzymes in the body, it is one of the most overlooked, most neglected mineral, yet it is one of the most vital. How did we miss the boat on this one?!

Magnesium deficiency is tied to many ailments that we are all too familiar with:

  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Asthma
  • Blood clots
  • Bowel disease
  • Cystitis
  • Depression
  • Detoxification
  • Diabetes
  • Fatigue
  • Heart disease
  • Hypertension
  • Insomnia
  • Kidney disease
  • Migraine
  • Musculoskeletal conditions
  • Nerve Problems
  • Osteoperosis
  • Tooth decay

…to name a few.

Many of these ailments are treated with prescribed medication or over-the-counter, but the point I am trying to make is medication is not always needed. The body doesn’t know what all these synthetic chemicals are that make up these pills, and it sure as hell doesn’t say to itself, “Hey, I’m feeling a little down, I think I could use some more citalopram!”

I’m a firm believer in natural remedies. If I’m sick I’m going to find what natural remedies are available prior to obtaining doctor-prescribed medication. Plain and simple, I think it’s all whack! Medication is merely a temporary fix, a way to suppress symptoms instead of remedying them – and interestingly, taking prescribed medications can actually cause a depletion in magnesium levels in the body, which can cause yet another ripple effect in your symptoms.

Doctor Carolyn Dean describes in her book how she took three patients – one with a myriad of symptoms, another with chest pains, and another with PMS – and convinced them to try the natural route: increasing their magnesium intake. After 3-6 months, all three patients showed substantial signs of improvement, not just in their addressed issues, but in many others.

Calcium’s crucial role in the existence of magnesium

Calcium and magnesium share a special ‘bond,’ an agreement, a “help me, help you” kind of deal. In layman’s terms, without calcium, magnesium can’t break down; however, at the same time, if there is an imbalance (a 3:1 ratio of calcium to magnesium, for example), problems can occur. Calcium deposits start to appear on the teeth and bones which, in the latter case, can cause side effects like hypertension (spasms in the blood cells) and asthma (tightening of the bronchial tract).

Eating healthy goes a long way

Prior to CrossFit I was suffering from depression which, in retrospect, was partly due to my eating and drinking habits. As soon as I changed my diet and stopped drinking, I noticed a drastic change. This change was occurring because I was giving my body what it needed: nutrients. The synthetic things were being replaced with natural vitamins and minerals, and my body was taking notice. Waking up and feeling a hundred times more refreshed and energetic was enough to convince me that what I was doing was right. And why was I feeling this way? Because my body’s natural vitamin and mineral levels were being restored to their original settings.

Magnesium can help performance in the gym

CrossFit workouts can really take a toll on one’s body, especially during the high intensity MetCon workouts that demand us to work with as little rest between reps as possible. In respect to magnesium, these high intensity workouts can cause depletion due to the high stress level that is put on the body. At the beginning of a workout, adrenalin begins to pump, and stress levels begin to increase: this is the fight-or-flight response. Before the workout even starts, magnesium begins to deplete from the body, and it continues to do so until the end of the workout. Sweating alone causes depletion!

Lactic acid build-up is something we all try to avoid in the world of fitness. The reason why this happens is simple: too much calcium and not enough magnesium. Calcium causes contractions in the muscle, while magnesium causes relaxation, so you can see why lactic acid would begin to accumulate. If there is too much calcium, all of the muscles begin to contract too much, causing tension and tightness. This is the very reason why it is paramount that you replenish your magnesium levels after strenuous workouts. If there is a balance of calcium and magnesium, the body too will be in equilibrium.

For even better results at the gym, I recommend upping your ‘mag. Your recovery time will be shorter, you’ll have more energy, and your workouts will improve.

Here are the daily requirements for athletes:

The daily recommended dose is 2.7–4.5mg/lb/day

  • For women: ~540mg per day
  • For men: ~800mg per day

Who peed in your corn flakes this morning?!

Not everyone wakes up on the right side of the bed, and what with all the stresses in life – be it work, kids, or school – getting a good night’s sleep can sometimes end up at the bottom of your ‘to do’ list. Learn to make this a top priority. I can’t stress enough how paramount it is to have a good night’s sleep – especially for CrossFit – and speaking from my own experiences of sleep issues, I know first hand.

If you’re taking magnesium supplements, it’s best to take them in the morning and late afternoon. You are most deficient when you wake up and in the middle of the day. The next best time to take the supplement is before bed. A lot of people who experience restlessness as well as leg cramping have found that taking a dose of magnesium before bed helps to relax the muscles.

My personal results

Since taking magnesium supplements and eating more foods that contain higher levels of magnesium, I have noticed a change in my sleeping patterns. My REM sleep has lengthened substantially, I have not been waking up in the middle of the night, and I have been waking up with a noticeably greater amount of energy. Prior to adopting these habits, I had been experiencing some symptoms of magnesium deficiency, including fatigue, muscle weakness, insomnia and poor memory. Now I am no longer as tired, my WODs have been improving, I have no longer been experiencing problems with sleep, and I am noticing a difference in memory retention. I am more focused on my workouts as well as daily tasks, and I have been able to adopt a better sleeping habit; and the latter has specifically helped problematic areas in my daily routine as a whole, which all roots back to increased consumption of magnesium.

I keep a daily log of numerous observations including level of energy throughout the day, number of hours slept, meals eaten, and so on. If anything changes, I make note of it, and see if it changes or stays the same.

Eventually my goal is to replace the supplement magnesium solely with fresh foods that are most abundant in magnesium, and focus on eating mostly organic. Here are some noteworthy food items that contain magnesium:

Rich Sources

  • Kelp
  • Wheat bran
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Brazil nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Pecans
  • Walnuts
  • Tofu
  • Spinach
  • Shrimp
  • Avocado
  • Brown rice
  • Dates
  • Barley
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Cheddar cheese


Herbs are some of the best sources of magnesium, as Dr. Carolyn notes in her book, because they are usually hand picked and grown in the wild, untouched by pesticides. Look out for:

  • Cilantro and Parsley
  • Dandelion – a natural diuretic that helps treat blood pressure
  • Dulse (seaweed) – high in digestible protein (eat more sushi!)

Salts: not all are bad!

Not all salts are bad for you – in fact, some are therapeutic! Sea salt is especially high in magnesium and helps patients with heart disease; however, they still do contain variable amounts of sodium. Look out for:

  • Celtic Sea Salt – from evaporated seawater, this type of salt is very high in magnesium, but still pretty high in sodium
  • Smart Salt – evaporated salt from Salt Lake in Utah. This type of salt has 3 times less sodium than normal table salt which, in turn, makes it an excellent source of magnesium
  • Cardia Salt – this particular salt is recommended because 50% of its sodium is reduced while increasing its potassium and magnesium levels

Here is a site you can visit to check out all the other foods that are high sources of magnesium. Try to, if they aren’t yet, implementing them in your daily diet, and see what results you get!

I wrote this blog because I thought the topic was really interesting. My personal goal is to eventually switch from a mixture of supplements and foods high in magnesium, to just foods high in magnesium – specifically organic ones. I hope some of you give this a try! And I hope you now all have a better understanding of the role that magnesium plays in our bodies!


  1. I loved this part.

    'Plain and simple, I think it’s all whack! Medication is merely a temporary fix, a way to suppress symptoms instead of remedying them'

    I couldn't agree more. I hate traditional doctors.

    Gonna look into Magnesium supliments a bit more after reading your post. Curious to see how it will affect my performance in the WODS.

    Cheers :)

  2. So that's what the cool kids are doing these days ;)
    Seriously a great post - I have been telling my friends about magnesium for a while now.

  3. Great post on Magnesium! I recently learned about it's importance. I noticed that there is a big difference between a certain brand of powdered magnesium and the tablets I was taking before though. I sleep much much better on the powder. It's probably easier absorbed. It's a mix of citrate and carbonate with calcium, boron and vitamin d3.

    I won't name the brand because then it may seem like I'm posting here like a secret sales person or something haha.

    But I could definitely tell a big difference when taking it versus not, or tablets.

    Also for you athletes out there, I mix my magnesium powder with creatine, to get a synergistic formula, as it's crucial to have enough magnesium, since magnesium is actually found BOUND to ATP in the muscle cell, plays a role in the Kreb's cycle and is cardio-protective.