It’s on the periodic table, in the soil we use to grow our food, in the foods we eat every day, and most importantly, in our bodies to help keep us healthy and feeling our best. Let’s take a look at the crucial role magnesium plays in the day to day workings of our body.

What Is It?

Magnesium is a chemical element. In terms of our body composition it is referred to as a macro-mineral [1]. A macro-mineral is a mineral that the body needs in relatively large quantities to stay healthy and to function normally. Another common example of a macro-mineral is calcium.

What Is Its Biological Role?

Magnesium [2] is an incredibly important mineral for our health. It is a cofactor in over 300 biochemical reactions in our bodies. A cofactor is a component (in this case, the mineral magnesium) that is absolutely required in order for a given reaction to occur. For example, the body needs magnesium to synthesize ATP. A

TP, which stands for adenosine triphosphate, is one of the most basic units of energy flowing through our bodies. Magnesium also helps calcium to function properly when strengthening bones, makes the body’s muscle repair systems function properly, encourages healthy sleep patterns by assisting in the body’s regulation of melatonin (a hormone produced by the body that encourages sleep), and even plays a role in relieving issues like dehydration and constipation.

In addition to its role in strengthening muscles by stimulating the body’s production of certain growth factors, magnesium is also necessary to stop the contraction of muscles, and normalize the body’s pH balance. These effects keep our muscles from cramping and prevent a buildup of lactic acid, the substance that makes our muscles tender and sore after repeated use.

How Does It Help Bodybuilders and People Who Work Out?

A few of magnesium’s benefits should be of particular interest to fitness enthusiasts. It helps to keep you hydrated, an important element of health recognized by bodybuilders and marathon runners alike.

It also work to prevent muscle cramps, which enables you to work out longer without having a painful muscle cramp and throwing a wrench into your routine. Even after the workout, magnesium helps to normalize your body’s pH levels which prevents an overabundance of lactic acid.

Lactic acid is responsible for the pain and sensitivity in your muscles after a workout; avoiding these unpleasant symptoms will allow you to more fully enjoy your workout and not have to take rest days as frequently because your muscles will be able to heal properly.

What Foods Contain It?

Magnesium is particularly common in foods that contain a lot of fiber. Some examples of magnesium-rich foods include: black beans, spinach, almonds, soymilk, and some cereals.

How Much Of It Do You Need?

The recommended daily allowance for magnesium [3] in infants is 30mg. The dosage increases as you age, and once you pass the age of puberty it also varies depending on sex. For adults aged 19 years and older, the recommended daily allowance is 400mg for men and 310mg for women.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are generally recommended to increase their intake slightly during this time, aiming to stay in a range of 320mg to 360mg per day.

Are There Risks Associated With Consuming Too Much Of It?

Normally it is difficult to put your body in a state of magnesium toxicity. This is because your kidneys are typically very efficient at ridding your body of excess magnesium before it has time affect you.

However, individuals may experience magnesium toxicity if they have compromised kidney function for any reason, and then take medications containing magnesium or magnesium supplements. Major examples of medications containing magnesium are antacids and laxatives.

Symptoms of magnesium toxicity include irregular heartbeat, muscle weakness, nausea, low blood pressure, and potentially fatal symptoms such as respiratory distress and cardiac arrest.

Are There Risks Associated With Consuming Too Little Of It?

Magnesium deficiency can be quite serious, depending on how long you remain deficient. This is because of the wide array of functions for which the body requires magnesium to be present. Symptoms of a generalized deficiency include: tooth decay, fatigue, changes in mood such as depression or anxiety, constipation, muscle cramping or pain, and loss of bone density.

If this deficiency goes untreated it can lead to more serious symptoms such as worsening of anxiety or depression symptoms, numbness or tingling, and extreme muscle cramps that can lead to irregular heartbeat or spasms of the heart. Extreme deficiency also puts you at risk for seizures.

Many doctors are starting to present research that suggests that magnesium is responsible for even more bodily functions than are listed here, and that most of us do not truly get as much as we need.

Luckily, as long as you have healthy kidneys and don’t overdo it, choosing to supplement with magnesium if you worry you’re not getting enough from your diet can be a good option. This macro-mineral truly is a powerhouse in terms of keeping us healthy.


[1] Reference. What Are Macrominerals?., 2016.

[2] WebMD. Magnesium: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions and Warnings., 2016.

[3] Office Of Dietary Supplements, National Institute of Health. Magnesium-Consumer Fact Sheet. US Department of Health and Human Services, 2016.