Magnesium deficiency is widespread in all populations, including athletes. I first twigged to the importance of magnesium years ago when some researchers began administering it to heart attack victims upon entering emergency departments to see if it helped survival.
Magnesium deficiency contributes to high or erratic blood pressure, heart disease, poor circulation and muscle cramps. It calms the nerves.
When is magnesium deficiency suspected?
Magnesium deficiency should be suspected if any person has developed cardiovascular problems, muscle cramps, tendon problems, back and neck pain, fibromyalgia, stress, anxiety and nervous twitches. Incidentally, it is often associated with vitamin D (sunlight) deficiency. Many of the ailments I come across are cardiovascular and muscular in nature. Magnesium deficiency is suspected in many cases as a significant contributing factor. Sometimes the improvement from a few simple measures, including magnesium (and other mineral) supplementation is spectacular.
Is it more common nowadays?
We don't really know; however, we know much more about the importance of magnesium and there is good reason to think it is more common nowadays. For a start, we are living longer and older people don't eat as much or absorb nutrients quite as well as they did when young.
Magnesium deficiency is more likely nowadays because of our refined foods diet and the fact our vegetables are gown on intensively cultivated lands that have about 70% less trace minerals in them than 50 years ago (This is a good reason for growing your own veggies and feeding them with composted seaweed). Mineral water is often a good source of magnesium, but not so in most filtered water and zero in distilled water. Sea salt contains trace minerals, including magnesium. Processed salt (sodium chloride) has no trace minerals worth considering.
Sweat increases magnesium loss, so a person working or exercising for long periods in hot conditions has larger than usual needs for dietary magnesium. Topping up an athlete’s depleted magnesium stores will give a significant gain in both power and endurance and is the principal way to prevent muscle cramping.
How much magnesium do you need to keep healthy?
If deficiency is suspected, I recommend taking up to 800mg supplementary magnesium per day for three months. This is combined with other minerals, including calcium. After three months this can drop to less than 400mg.
Magnesium is stored in the organs, including the muscle and bones. While it is easy to boost blood levels in a day or so, it can take many months to build body stores. This is why I recommend a period of deliberate supplementation before backing off and then relying principally on diet.
Why don’t we hear more about the importance of magnesium?
The answer is simple, as well as disturbing: magnesium is dirt cheap and does not require a medical prescription. It is just like sunlight (vitamin D) which gets little or no promotion. This is despite the overwhelming evidence of the health benefits of magnesium for conditions like heart disease and ragged nerves.
There is no money to be made out of magnesium; whereas there is billions to be made out of all manner of heart drugs for example. You get it in your water, cheap sea salt and in your veggies. A course of magnesium supplementation costs just $10-15.