Get adequate magnesium to improve body composition—don’t let a deficiency keep you from losing fat and gaining muscle! Magnesium is necessary in the body for muscle contractions when training, for protein synthesis to rebuild tissue, and to fight inflammation. If you don’t have enough magnesium, you won’t get the most out of all your hard work in the gym.
A new analysis in the journal Nutrition Reviews calls our attention to the often overlooked need to get enough magnesium to stay lean and healthy. Magnesium deficiency is surprisingly widespread: Studies show that 48 to 60 percent of Americans don’t even meet U.S. Recommended Daily Values, which aren’t necessarily high enough for an optimal physique. Surveys show that in the Western world, daily magnesium intake since 1900 has dropped by at least a third from about 500 mg/day to 175 mg/day. At the same time, calcium intake has increased dramatically to 3 or 4 to 1.
This is a big problem for health because calcium and magnesium intake need to be in a ratio of about 2 to 1 for optimal metabolism and health. For example, a skewed ratio and low magnesium triggers a pro-inflammatory state because excess calcium activates a “cascade” that produces inflammation in the same way that the body responds to injury or illness by becoming inflamed. Researchers think this skewed rate is a primary contributor to the huge jump in type 2 diabetes and obesity in the U.S. over the last few decades.
A magnesium deficiency also means the body can’t build muscle and restore tissue because it enables enzyme function in the body. And, since we know that magnesium must be present for the muscles to contract, a lack of it will lower your work capacity and maximal strength. Data show that by increasing your magnesium you can gain more strength. For example, one study found that a group of men who took 8 mg/kg/bw a day in conjunction with strength training three times a week put on more muscle and gained more squat and bench press strength than a group that took a placebo.
A few more things you should know about getting adequate magnesium in your quest for optimal body composition are the following:
• Only 1 percent of magnesium in the body is in the blood serum, making it very hard to identify a deficiency since most people rely on blood tests. In fact, the rest of magnesium is in the intracellular space in muscle or bone. To effectively assess magnesium levels, you need to test the content in the red blood cells.
• Low Magnesium is also associated with heart disease risk, sudden cardiac death, bone loss and osteoporosis. It enables vitamin D to function in the body, meaning low magnesium will directly affect your vitamin D levels.
• Magnesium has a calming effect on the central nervous system, which can help lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol that causes belly fat gain when it is persistently high.
• Simply getting adequate magnesium is a way to treat high blood pressure naturally. A large-scale review showed that magnesium supplementation as high of 486 mg/day will significantly lower blood pressure in hypertensives and it is more effective than blood pressure medications.
• The supplemental magnesium that most people take in a multi-vitamin is magnesium oxide, which is a low-quality magnesium that is not absorbed well by the body. Opt for a magnesium that is bound to glycinate, orotate, taurate, threonate, or fumarate.
Take away a commitment to balancing your calcium/magnesium intake and getting adequate high-quality magnesium. Getting adequate magnesium will help remove obstacles to fat loss like chronic low-grade inflammation, insulin resistance, and poor metabolism. Many people find good results from getting 500 mg of magnesium in conjunction addition to what you get in your diet. Increase your intake slowly so your body has time to adjust to the calming effect throughout the body.
Rosanoff, A., Weaver, C., et al. Suboptimal Magnesium Status in the United States: Are the Health Consequences Underestimated. Nutrition Reviews. 2011. 70(3), 153-164.
Brilla, L., Haley, T. Effect of Magnesium Supplementation on Strength Training in Humans. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 1992. 11(3), 326-329.