Essential Supplements: Magnesium


There are certain supplements that repetitively present as being required by almost all clients and for that reason we have decided to put them into a series of posts explaining how and why they are beneficial.

This Essential Supplements post is on Magnesium.


For about a year in 2006, I lived in Toronto and was required to get up at 4:00 am to go train forex traders. The problem was that I was not getting to bed early enough to get sleep that I required. The result was that after a few months that my cortisol levels were severely elevated and I couldn’t sleep more then 5 hours a night (on any night, weekends included). Furthermore, the quality of my sleep for those 5 hours was very light and thus very poor. This resulted in me becoming what Charles Poliquin refers to as “Tired but wired“.

Through this period I really messed up my body’s natural balance which resulted in very high stress levels combined with feeling very drained mentally. It was this situation and the need to rectify it that prompted me to learn about cortisol, sleep and supplementation. I needed to learn about natural ways to get my body back in balance and keep it in balance and this is where I discovered the importance of magnesium (amongst other elements, that I will address in another post).

Magnesium’s role in the body:

Magnesium is a co-factor for: protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, and blood pressure regulation. Magnesium is required for energy production and the synthesis of DNA. Magnesium also plays a role in nerve impulse conduction, muscle contraction and in providing a normal heart rhythm ( 2014).

Many individuals present as Magnesium deficient:

Among US adults, 68% consumed less than the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of magnesium, and 19% consumed less than 50% of the RDA” (King and Mainous III et al. 2005, 166–171). The more stressful and active the life the greater your magnesium depletion and thus requirement. Therefore it quickly becomes apparent that the combination of less then recommended dietary intakes of magnesium when paired with active and stressful lifestyles, will result in magnesium levels quickly becoming depleted.

How Magnesium specifically relates to our lives:

Sleep/Relaxation: Magnesium plays an important role in helping an individual to relax and to achieve better sleep quality (Abbasi and Kimiagar et al. 2012, 1161). When one is becomes magnesium deficient, overall sleep quality suffers resulting in lighter sleep which is tied to an increase in sleeping neural activity (Depoortere and Francon et al. 1993, 237–245).

Depression: Magnesium deficiency has been associated with depression and depressive disorders (Kirov and Tsachev 1990, 79–81). Thus its supplementation has been proposed as a potential treatment (Eby and Eby 2006, 362–370).

Cortisol: Cortisol is a low grade stress hormone that is required for energy. Whilst a spike in cortisol levels is the trigger to waking you up in the morning, ongoing elevated cortisol levels have been linked to a range of diseases which include brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Elevated cortisol levels effect ones ability to fall asleep and overall sleep quality. Furthermore exercise results in a spike in cortisol levels and magnesium provides a means by which to counteract this spike and thus reduce cortisol levels (Golf and Happel et al. 1984, 717–722).

Muscle Strength: Magnesium supplementation in combination with resistance training, results in comparatively greater strength gains then in non-supplemented individuals (Brilla and Haley 1992, 326–329).

Vascular Disease and Insulin Resistance: Magnesium deficiency and been associated with both vascular disease and insulin resistance (Nadler and Buchanan et al. 1993, 1024–1029).

Take home message: Magnesium provides real benefits in all areas of your life: being your ability to cope with stress, sleep better, feel happier, be healthier and get stronger. As many of these benefits are correlated, it quickly becomes clear why it is an essential supplement. We all live busy lives and are faced with more than our fair share of stress (be it mental, emotional and physical), thus it is our recommendation that ALL clients should be taking some form of magnesium supplementation.

Not all magnesiums are created equal:

Magnesium salts (eg Magnesium Oxide) are poorly absorbed, so don’t waste your time with them. You want highly absorbable magnesium (glycinate, chelate, etc). Some good brands are:

When to take your magnesium:

Don’t take your magnesium during the day for the reason that you want to be alert throughout the day, though the exception to the rule is when you have already elevated cortisol levels, e.g. right after exercise.

Generally at Eastside Fitness, we suggest that you take a dose at dinner time and another dose at bed time. Also note that replenishing your magnesium levels takes some time, so in the case that you want a more extreme protocol from which to quickly replenish your magnesium levels we suggest seeing the Poliquin Group Magnesium protocol that is detailed at the end of this post.

All the best in health,

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Abbasi, Behnood, Masud Kimiagar, Khosro Sadeghniiat, Minoo M Shirazi, Mehdi Hedayati and Bahram Rashidkhani. “The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial.” Journal of research in medical sciences: the official journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences 17, no. 12 (2012): 1161.

Brilla, Lorraine R and Timothy F Haley. “Effect of magnesium supplementation on strength training in humans..” Journal of the American College of Nutrition 11, no. 3 (1992): 326–329.

Depoortere, H, D Francon and J Llopis. “Effects of a Magnesium Deficient Diet on Sleep Organization in Rats.” Neuropsychobiology 27, no. 4 (1993): 237–245.

Eby, George A and Karen L Eby. “Rapid recovery from major depression using magnesium treatment.” Medical hypotheses 67, no. 2 (2006): 362–370.

Golf, SW, O Happel, V Graef and KE Seim. “Plasma aldosterone, cortisol and electrolyte concentrations in physical exercise after magnesium supplementation.” Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine 22, no. 11 (1984): 717–722.

King, Dana E, Arch G Mainous III, Mark E Geesey and Robert F Woolson. “Dietary magnesium and C-reactive protein levels.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition 24, no. 3 (2005): 166–171.

Kirov, George K and Kamen N Tsachev. “Magnesium, schizophrenia and manic-depressive disease.” Neuropsychobiology 23, no. 2 (1990): 79–81.

Nadler, Jerry L, Thomas Buchanan, Rama Natarajan, Indra Antonipillai, Richard Bergman and Robert Rude. “Magnesium deficiency produces insulin resistance and increased thromboxane synthesis..”Hypertension 21, no. 6 Pt 2 (1993): 1024–1029. “Magnesium — Health Professional Fact Sheet.” 2014. (accessed 1 Apr 2014).

One comment on “Essential Supplements: Magnesium
  1. Jonny says:

    Great article!

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