Sleep Better, Stress Less, Workout Smarter: Get More Magnesium
There’s No Cure-all — Except Maybe Magnesium
Imagine you woke up from a perfect night’s sleep at 6 a.m. to meditate for an hour before a totally manageable, stress-free workday. The night before, you fell asleep after eating a salmon and greens grain bowl and drinking a single glass of wine. You minimized screen time. You stretched between projects at your standing desk. You hydrated. You watered your plants. You called your mom. And somewhere in this perfect day, you worked out for two hours.
So what’s missing?
No matter who you are, no matter where you work, no matter how organic the grainbowl, you’re missing magnesium.
Even the textbook wellness warrior is likely deficient in magnesium, because it’s not something our body can make—it’s something we consume.
In the past, eating fresh grains, fruits, and veggies grown in nutrient-rich soil was the key to getting a full spectrum of vitamins and minerals. But for many reasons, nutrient-rich soil is becoming increasingly rare, and the modern refining process for foods like grain removes 80-95% of magnesium. All this makes getting enough magnesium from diet alone extremely difficult.
But why should we care? Why does magnesium even matter?
Turns out it’s a key mineral for almost all of the body’s most basic functions. Need to combat stress hormones? You’ll need magnesium. Looking for a restful, restorative night’s sleep? Magnesium required. Muscle aches, twitches, or just recovering from a serious workout? Magnesium. Hoping to balance your pH, prevent inflammation, and boost immunity? You guessed it: Magnesium. Casey Seidenberg, a health writer for the Washington Post, calls it a magic bullet: “Magnesium helps with energy, muscle strength, flexibility, sleep and stress management—everything you need.”
Now imagine (this won’t be tough) a more normal life. Your job is stressful and you might be running low on sleep, drinking a few cups of coffee or tea to perk up in the afternoon. But you still work out, because it makes you feel refreshed and accomplished, and you’re eating well. Despite best intentions, you’re even lower on magnesium, and you’re entering a vicious cycle powered by stress.
Nutritionist Keri Glassman, MS, RD, & CDN, explains the delicate balance between stress and magnesium loss: “Stress can be a side effect of inadequate amounts of magnesium, and the lack of it can make the body’s reaction to external stress worse.” The solution? Get some more magnesium in your diet! Says Glassman, “Magnesium may help ultimately reduce the secretion of stress hormones, and even act in the blood brain barrier to block the uptake of stress hormones into the brain.”
Build Flexibility & Maximize Recovery
A good run, lift, or yoga session is the best go-to stress reliever. And it works, but it’ll eventually backfire if you don’t have enough magnesium, which gets lost through sweat. Glassman explains, “Magnesium plays a role in neurotransmission and muscle contraction, meaning that it’s super important to have adequate amounts for best muscle function. Additionally, magnesium is lost through sweat, so it’s important to replenish your stores.”
Magnesium is no protein powder, but it might actually be better, contributing to flexibility and your muscles’ ability to relax. Says Seidenberg, “Without enough magnesium, muscles can’t properly relax, possibly causing cramps. Low magnesium can create a buildup of lactic acid, known to cause post-workout pain and tightness.” Plus, by helping the body produce an insulin-like growth factor, magnesium is essential for building muscle over time.
Seidenberg goes on to say that the biochemical way we store and use energy at the cellular level—molecules called ATP—requires magnesium. “Much of the body’s energy comes from ATP... ATP production depends on magnesium.”
It is a truth universally acknowledged that stress is exacerbated by lack of sleep, another side effect of low magnesium levels. In addition to relaxing muscles, preventing headaches, and solving twitchy muscles—which helps us get a better night’s sleep—magnesium also works to balance and control serotonin. You might know serotonin as a nervous-system relaxer and mood-lifter, but it also contributes to healthy sleep. Seidenberg adds, “A lack of magnesium upends sleep not only because of its role in serotonin production but also because it topples the sleep regulating hormone melatonin.”
The coffee, tea, and soda we drink to offset sleepiness causes even more magnesium loss: the caffeine stimulates the kidney to release magnesium, depleting our stores. Caffeine-free but full of sugar? Same problem: eating or drinking refined sugars mean you’re losing magnesium.
If you live in a major city, or even if you don’t, your drinking schedule is intimately linked with your social schedule—meaning, you might be drinking more nights than not. Just like caffeine and other diuretics drain magnesium by stimulating the kidneys to release even more, alcohol consumption drains this precious mineral. And if you’re on birth control, antibiotics, or allergy meds, plan ahead: you’ll need to replace some lost magnesium.
In the U.S., the recommended dietary allowance of magnesium for adults over 31 is around 400 mg, but one in five adults are getting less than half that daily allowance.
Adding a variety of nuts to your diet—especially almonds, cashews, pecans, and walnuts—will help. Avoiding sugar post-workout (and in general) is key; same with alcohol and caffeine. Leafy green veggies help, and so does edamame, seaweed, avocado, and raw cacao. High quality beans and brown rice are good, too, but all this food is usually not enough.
Says Glassman, “It’s likely we’re not getting everything we need based on our schedules, diets, and foods available to us. Because of this, it’s often beneficial to supplement as an insurance for getting all of the vitamins and minerals, which is where something like Natural Calm powder can be of help.”
Everyone’s ideal day looks a little different, but we’ve all got a few things in common: a good night’s sleep, less stress, and a flexible, energetic body are probably the most universal goals in the world.