Do you need Magnesium Supplement?

Originally Posted 11/7/2017

A question came up this weekend after our group run regarding vitamin and minerals: Does everyone need magnesium supplement?

Magnesium is a trace mineral that aids in over 300 biochemical processes in the body. If you paid attention in Biology 12, you will remember the mitochondria, ATP, and phosphocreatine synthesis are involved in energy production.

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Magnesium is an important mineral energy production in the mitochondria. Magnesium is also involved in the processes for oxygen uptake, nervous system function, electrolyte balance, glucose metabolism, and protein metabolism just to name a few. Note all these relate back to muscle functions. No wonder magnesium is getting so much attention in exercise and performance. (For fellow science geeks, I know I am totally over simplifying this part!)

It is estimated that for endurance athletes, the requirement is increased by 10-20%. You are not only using more Magnesium, you also lose it through sweat and urine. Further, modern diet tends to be low in magnesium.  An interesting study done comparing healthy subjects with sufficient magnesium levels versus those with marginal magnesium levels. The marginal level group showed an increase in exercise performance when subjects were given magnesium supplement. 1 Of course, if you are not magnesium deficient, supplementing with magnesium likely won’t have any impact on your performance.

If you are on medications, some medications can cause magnesium depletion. Common ones include acid blockers, diuretic, ACE inhibitors, ARBs, corticosteroids, hormone replacement, oral contraceptives, sulfonylurea diabetes meds can all rob you of magnesium. Other magnesium robbers: alcohol, coffee, high sugar diet, malabsorption caused by celiac, crohn’s, all have a negative impact on magnesium level in your body.

It is very difficult to get an accurate measure of tissue magnesium. Blood magnesium level doesn’t accurately reflect the amount of magnesium being used by cells. So, the best way to tell if you need magnesium is by looking for signs and symptoms of deficiency. These include:

  • Low energy/fatigue
  • Muscle spasms, tightness
  • Insomnia
  • Increased lactic acid retention
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Migraines
  • Kidney Stones
  • Osteoporosis

For endurance athletes, the recommended dosage is between 400 to 1000mg daily2. The most commonly found forms of magnesiums are oxide, citrate, sulphate, and glycinate. Magnesium oxide is what you would find in Magnolax, poorly absorbed and induces diarrhea. Do not try to use Magnolax as a supplement! Magnesium citrate is better absorbed with some potential for diarrhea. Magnesium sulfphate is used in IV administration, and has potential for topical application and is found in Epsom salts. Magnesium glycinate is my favourite. Glycine, a calming amino acid, works well with magnesium for better absorption and relaxation effects.

Of course, there is dietary sources of magnesium2:

  • Pumpkin seeds (roasted)                      532(mg per 100gm)
  • Almonds                                                      300
  • Brazil nuts                                                   225
  • Sesame seeds                                            200
  • Peanuts (roasted, salted)                            183
  • Walnuts                                                       158
  • Rice                                                             110
  • Whole-grain bread                                        85
  • Spinach                                                         80
  • Cooked beans                                               40
  • Broccoli                                                         30
  • Banana                                                          29
  • Potato (baked)                                               25

Of course, no amount of magnesium will help if you are not stretching, not hydrating appropriately, or not training for your race pace.

Finally, if you are not sure if you need magnesium, let’s talk!


1. Update on the Relationship Between Magnesium and Exercise Nielsen, F. H. and H. C. Lukaski Magnes Res. 2006, Sep; 19(3): 180-89. Document found on

2. MMI Fellowship 2016 Study Material, Module V – Nutrition and Exercise: Managing Effective Nutritional Supplementation, James LaValle, RPh, CCN

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