It’s the fourth most abundant mineral in your body and, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is essential for more than 300 of your body’s biochemical functions. Some of those include muscle and nerve function, supporting bone health, regulating blood pressure, and producing energy. This mineral all-star may help alleviate migraines, stress and anxiety symptoms, and also help you sleep. (And poop!)
What is this heavy hitter, this mineral MVP? (Hey, spring training has started so we’ve got sports on the brain.)
It’s magnesium. “Magnesium is a critical part of the mineral cocktail that makes your body run smoothly. It’s involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions,” says MYX Coach Lauren Sambataro. “And many people don’t get the recommended daily amount. For women, that’s around 320 mg, and for men around 420 mg.”
Besides playing an important role in prevention and treatment of many diseases, here are all the ways it can help you bring your A Game to your workouts:
Muscle Function (including your heart)
Magnesium is essential for muscle growth and strength, and that includes maintaining a healthy heart. Magnesium also contributes to muscle flexibility, which can help prevent injury. Without enough magnesium, muscles can’t properly relax, which may cause cramps.
Much of the body’s energy comes from ATP, a molecule that draws chemical energy from food and uses it to fuel other processes in the body. ATP production depends on magnesium.
Stress Management and Sleep
Magnesium is essential for proper hormone regulation, including hormones associated with stress. It’s needed to produce serotonin, which contributes to healthy sleep, and also relaxes the nervous system and boosts your mood. Magnesium deficiency may lead to sleep disturbances not only because of its role in serotonin production but also because it affects the sleep regulating hormone melatonin.
Magnesium is one of the essential electrolytes needed for efficient hydration of your body’s cells.
How to get your daily dose? Eat real food
“It’s always preferred to get as many nutrients from food as possible,” says Lauren. There are plenty of foods that are rich in magnesium, but start with these good sources.
A one-ounce serving of dark chocolate provides 16% of the RDA for magnesium. “Dark chocolate is also loaded with antioxidants, which neutralize free radicals (harmful molecules that can damage your cells),” Lauren says. “Choose a product that’s at least 72 percent cocoa/cacao to ensure you’re getting the health benefits without the added sugars.”
One medium avocado provides 58 mg of magnesium, or 15% of your recommended daily amount. Avocados are also high in potassium, B vitamins and vitamin K. And unlike most fruits, they’re high in heart-healthy fats. Studies have shown that eating avocados can reduce inflammation and improve cholesterol levels. “Avocados are easy to add to any meal: with eggs on toast, in a salad, or a bowl of chili.”
Nuts and Seeds
Cashews, almonds, and Brazil nuts are high in magnesium. A single serving of cashews, for instance, provides 20% of your day’s needs. Nuts are anti-inflammatory, and beneficial for heart health. Many types of seeds, including flax, pumpkin, and chia seeds, are rich in magnesium. Pumpkin seeds are a particularly good source, with 150 mg in a 1-ounce serving — a whopping 37% of the RDA. Sprinkle them on smoothies or your morning bowl of oatmeal.
Legumes are nutrient-dense plants that include lentils, beans, chickpeas, and peas. They’re rich in many nutrients, including magnesium. A cup of black beans, for instance, contains 30% of your daily needs. Legumes are also high in potassium and iron.
“Mineral water is also a great source of magnesium! Says Lauren. “Our paleolithic ancestors naturally drank water high in mineral solids, but in our modern world, most of our water is stripped of all key nutrients.”
If you’re not getting enough of this important mineral through your diet, taking a supplement may be helpful. “There are many different forms of magnesium, each playing a slightly different role in the body,” Lauren says.
Citrate: good for mood-calming and sleep (also used as a laxative)
Malate: helps with muscle soreness and nerve function
Glycinate: encourages relaxation and sleep (and is highly absorbable)
Sulfate: used topically—think epsom salts in a nice warm bath!
“Just like food macronutrients, taking a compounded form of magnesium (including two or more of the above) can be beneficial for filling in any nutrient gaps and supporting your body in endless ways.”
The magnesium in supplements can interact with certain types of antibiotics and other medicines. Always consult with your doctor before taking any new supplement. Check with your doctor or pharmacist if you're considering magnesium supplements, especially if you routinely use magnesium-containing antacids or laxatives.