If you took a quick poll among the people with whom you are surrounded and asked them what the benefits of magnesium were, they would probably scratch their heads for a second before replying, “it helps your muscles relax…doesn’t it?”
Let’s give it to them, they’re not wrong.
But are there any other benefits to taking magnesium? It does occupy a large portion of the vitamins and supplements market, after all. You can hardly walk past the vitamins aisle of a supermarket, pharmacy or even health food shop without seeing a plethora of varieties of what must be, essentially, the same product.
So why is it such a heralded mineral? What is it that magnesium actually does? Well come on then, let’s find out.
Can improve exercise performance
Several studies have indicated that magnesium supplements enhance exercise performance. So much so, that you may need 10-20% more magnesium while exercising than when you are resting. This is because, as magnesium assists in moving blood sugar into the muscles, it disposes of lactate, which in turn causes fatigue as it builds up during exercise.
Magnesium is being heralded not only for suppressing lactate production, but now also for increasing glucose availability and metabolism in the brain during exercise. Emerging evidence is indicating that fatigue could be lowered with higher brain glucose availability. So really, for the athletes among us, this is the supplement that is so extraordinary in its performance benefits that it barely feels legal to take.
Magnesium is also an incredibly effective form of exercise recovery. This is, in fact, why it is so widely known that magnesium ‘helps your muscles relax’. If taken pre-work out, it will keep working after you have put down the dumbbells and stepped off the treadmill to force your muscles to relax after they have been contracting. It does this by blocking the calcium uptake in your body. Remain consistent with stretching and your magnesium intake, and you will forget what sore muscles ever felt like!
We know the research tells us that magnesium plays an important role in brain function and mood. So of the many contributors to depression and anxiety in a person, magnesium is renowned for its ability to help stabilise their brain chemistry and hormones. This is a profoundly important benefit of magnesium. Low levels of each, of course, increase risk of depression.
One trial in depressed older adults concluded that 450 mg of magnesium, taken daily, improved mood as effectively as antidepressant medication. How does it do this? Magnesium is very helpful in blocking the actions of glutamate in the NMDA receptors. So when you have a deficiency in magnesium, not many of those receptors are being blocked. What could happen instead, is hyperexcitation and cell damage.
NB: Magnesium should not be taken as a substitute for antidepressant medication without first consulting your doctor.
Can lower blood pressure
The evidence on this is not terribly extensive. One study observed that there was a significant decrease in systolic and diastolic blood pressure in those who took 450 mg of magnesium per day. These results, however, have only been clocked for those who had high blood pressure to begin with. No difference was recorded in those whose blood pressure was within normal range.
Overall, the cardiovascular benefits are conclusive, as those with a higher intake of magnesium have been linked with a reduced risk of strokes.
Can help prevent and treat migraines
Researchers have confidently ascertained that people who are prone to migraines are likely deficient in magnesium. More studies conclude that magnesium can prevent migraines altogether, as well as treat them as they are occurring.
The benefits of magnesium really shine here. As it it known to keep blood pressure stable, promote heart health, build bone, DNA and protein, and regulate nerve and muscle function, using it preemptively or as a treatment for headaches and migraines will act the same way to block the pain signals going to your brain and
Improves PMS symptoms
Among magnesium’s many, many benefits, is the proven notion that it helps with hormone regulation. For the women who suffer especially from pain and mood fluctuations attributed to PMS, this could be a major signpost of a deficiency in magnesium. Taking more, whether by supplements or upping the amount of magnesium-rich foods in your diet, could alleviate anxiety, improve mood generally, reduce water retention (bloating) and assist with other symptoms affiliated with that of premenstrual syndrome. It is known to work especially well if taken with vitamin B6.
Lowers risk of type 2 diabetes
A deficiency in magnesium has been known to strengthen insulin resistance within the pancreas. Strengthening this means that your body is producing insulin but your cells are unable to respond well to it. This can often be a precursor for type 2 diabetes.
Studies have indicated that magnesium does play an important role in glucose control and metabolising insulin. That is to say, the higher the magnesium diet, the lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. There are many foods that are rich in magnesium. These, along with magnesium in the form of vitamins and supplements, will help stave off diseases such as type 2 diabetes.
Can improve sleep
Magnesium is an excellent sleeping aid because it is really good at telling the nervous system to pipe down. It does this by quieting neurotransmitters, which send signals throughout the brain and nervous system.
As it binds to GABA receptors, it is quieting nerve activity, which in turn helps your brain and body to relax and become sedated. Studies have shown that not having enough of it can affect quality of sleep, and so, conversely, can too much of it. By consuming the required amount of magnesium (usually 450 mg per day for adults), people can achieve deeper and less disruptive sleep.
All in all, it seems like magnesium is responsible for the fact that we can get out of bed every morning. Heck, it’s probably the reason we can do anything at all. With the evidence brimming with all the benefits of magnesium, run, don’t walk, to make sure this is a vitamin and supplement that remains constantly stocked in your house!