How To Get Rid Of A Magnesium Deficiency – The Ultimate Guide

Magnesium oil
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As you read this article, you have about two ounces of pure magnesium in your body – mostly in muscle and bone tissue. This mineral is essential for more than 300 reactions in your body, including nerve and cardiac function, muscle contraction and relaxation, protein formation, and perhaps most importantly for the triathlete, synthesis of ATP energy.

A magnesium deficiency can result in muscle cramping, excessive soreness, inadequate force production, disrupted recovery and sleep, immune system depression, and even potentially fatal heart arrhythmias during intense exercise.

Multiple studies have shown magnesium to be effective for buffering lactic acid, enhancing peak oxygen uptake and total work output, reducing heart rate and carbon dioxide production during hard exercise, and improving cardiovascular efficiency. In addition, supplementation with magnesium can elevate testosterone levels and muscle strength up to 30 percent.

But unfortunately, as you learned in my Magnesium Miracle interview with Dr. Carolyn Dean, over 75% of the population is deficient in magnesium.

So if you’re deficient, can you just eat more seeds, nuts, grains and vegetables (which are all sources of dietary magnesium)?

While seeds, nuts, grains and vegetables are indeed high dietary sources of magnesium, highly active people who include these foods in their diet can still be deficient in magnesium. This is due to a combination of mineral loss through perspiration and accelerated mineral turnover due to high activity levels.

Unfortunately, simply using an oral magnesium supplement will not fully replace this deficiency, as oral magnesium in the amount needed for an active individual is not easily absorbed and at high doses creates diarrhea. So while the use of oral magnesium (such as magnesium citrate powder) is certainly helpful from a supplementation standpoint, a far better way to deliver targeted doses of magnesium is through the use of topical magnesium.

(Frankly, the only thing I use oral magnesium for is to help me get to sleep.)

This is where transdermal magnesium comes in.

The delivery of drugs transdermally (through the skin) is a practice used in medicine to avoid the risk or inconvenience of intravenous therapy, to lower loss of absorption as a drug passes through the gastrointestinal tract, to lower metabolism of the drug by the liver, and to provide a more targeted application (such as a topical non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug delivery via patch vs. swallowing a pill).

Magnesium oil
A transdermal magnesium oil.

This same practice can easily be used to deliver high doses of precisely targeted magnesium to your muscles pre or post-workout for enhancing performance and recovery. Since topical magnesium also bypasses digestion, higher doses of this key mineral can be delivered.

There are multiple ways to take advantage of transdermal magnesium delivery, but if you choose any of them, it’s still important to keep track of exactly how much magnesium you’re taking in via a combination of oral and topical use, since anything above 500-1000mg can cause loose stool or gastrointestinal discomfort.

For example, you’ve probably heard of one popular form of transdermal magnesium delivery, which is an Epsom salts bath – commonly used for decreasing muscle soreness.

Epsom salts actually deliver magnesium sulfate, which can help with post-workout recovery. However, magnesium chloride is even more effective than Epsom salts, and you can actually dissolve one to three pounds of pure magnesium chloride flakes or crystals in a bath for an extremely relaxing and soreness relieving soak.

A magnesium chloride flakes bath will deliver about 500mg of magnesium. Alternatively, if you don’t want to hop in a full bath, after a long run or ride, you can simply soak your feet in a magnesium chloride footbath.

Topical magnesium chloride is also available for use via a spray application, and I personally use 8-10 sprays each on my shoulders, arms and legs prior to a race or hard workout, and do the same post workout.

In most cases, 10 sprays will deliver approximately 100mg of magnesium. Some people may find that topical magnesium spray causes a tingling or slightly annoying burning sensation. This is normal, and usually subsides with use. For more usage tips, I contacted Ancient Minerals, who makes the magnesium oil I use, and this is what they said:

“Yes, the concentration of the magnesium chloride in the product can cause a tingle (or itchiness) with some individuals, partly due to the vasodilation of capillaries on the skin (magnesium is a vasodilator).  An effective application time is about 20 minutes.  Our best recommendation for application on those sensitive to the product, is to apply over the arms/legs/torso liberally, left on for 20 minutes, and then rinsed in the shower.  It is particularly convenient if timed with your typical shower. A moisturizer is recommended after rinsing off, if you experience dryness.  Also worth mentioning is that if you allow the product to dry completely on the skin, you are no longer absorbing the magnesium ions since it needs moisture as a means of transport.”

If you use sports massage therapy, you can give magnesium chloride spray or oil to your massage therapist for use during your session. A magnesium sports massage can assist with the body’s natural recovery process and speed up healing from a workout or injury, as well as help prevent future injuries from sore and stiff muscles. Finally, if you have a strain or sprain, topical magnesium can be used to improve circulation or decrease pain – simply spray the magnesium on a sore area and rub it in.

If you found this topic interesting and want to learn more about both oral and topical magnesium use, you should listen to this fascinating interview with Dr. Mark Sircus: “Learn the Shocking Truth About The Single Most Powerful Compound That Pharmaceutical Companies Don’t Want You to Know About“.

In addition, Dr. Carolyn Dean has written the book “The Magnesium Miracle” and the e-book “How To Change Your Life With Magnesium”.

Questions, comments or feedback? Leave them below.

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22 thoughts on “How To Get Rid Of A Magnesium Deficiency – The Ultimate Guide

  1. he did say to up your intake of nuts:

    "While seeds, nuts, grains and vegetables are indeed high dietary sources of magnesium, highly active people who include these foods in their diet can still be deficient in magnesium. This is due to a combination of mineral loss through perspiration and accelerated mineral turnover due to high activity levels."

    My guess would be it depends on how much you are training and what your needs are.

    Ben is there a test we can do to determine what our intake should be on a daily basis? or to determine if we are deficient?

    1. Yes, the test would be an NTX urine test. Bioletics can do this one.

      I recommend you start at 400-600mg of magnesium (combined from oral and topical) and increase until you get loose stool, then back off, and that'd be about your starting level…

  2. Is coconut a nut,fruit,vegetable? just wondering!

    This information is so iinteresting, thank you Ben for the great work you are doing. I always wonder why my muscles are so sored after weight training and it would sometimes last for almost 4-5 days.

    1. Tons of clues. I'd *highly* recommend checking out Carolyn Dean's book "Magnesium Miracle", and also realizing that about 75% of people are deficient, but it can range from headaches, to cramping, to subpar performance, to low testosterone, to poor sleep, to restless leg syndrome – with a mineral that is responsible for 300+ enzymatic reactions, the list goes on and on…I'd honestly just take magnesium, man.

      1. Thank you Ben for always posting such great information, your commitment to solid information and your passion for the endurance sports really shows..

        thank you

  3. I am unaware of any study cofirming the therapeutic value of topical magnesium as a supplement. Just as normal sweating cannot replace the kidneys, spraying a bit of magnesium on the skin cannot replace the intestines. Magnesium is "poorly absorbed" for a reason. the body does not like anything that messes with the level of magnesium in the blood. So, take a supplement, take it every day. 500 mg of magnesium oxide will deliver 300 mg of elemental magnesium to your intestine and about 100mg to the kidneys. The kidney will keep what it needs and excrete the rest. Most diets fall short of recommended by about 100 mg. Don't use magnesium citrate. The high citrate content increases the absorption of aluminum an lead, both poisons.

  4. My name is Jim. I wrote the above. I’ve been in the medical magnesium business for thirty years. I have international credentials in the field. I think that I can answer your question. In fact, I help a lot of people answer their medical questions. If the question is about magnesium, there is no charge but if I have to spend time researching a medical issue, there is a charge. The first hour is free. After that, I can pretty much tell you if it is worth pursuing. Each hour after that is billed at $60.00 per hour with a two hour minimum. I can be contacted at [email protected]

  5. Ben,

    I am hearing a bit about maltodextrin over at Endurance Planet, but am not real sure how about to use it. I am looking at a product called Now Foods, Carbo Gain 100% Complex Carbohydrate. I set up for several ultras this year, and really do not want to rely on a lot of gells to get me through. I have had the GI problem in the past, but have mostly fixed this through adjustments in diet and chiropractic care. I still need a lot of nutrients during the race as I seem to run out of steam easily. Also, any thoughts on a strong liquid diet (shakes) for night before and morning of huge training runs (20 + miles) and races.

    Respectfully Submited,
    rob
    [email protected]

    1. I'm not a fan of maltodextrin for longer efforts because A) it only uses one sugar transporters, vs. a maltodextrin blended with a simple sugar like fructose that uses two sugar transporters; B) it can cause diarrhea after about 8-10 hours of use.

      For some ideas about ultrarunning foods, listen to today's podcast (#187)…

  6. So how does one best use Magnesium Citrate without getting the loosening bowel effects? I am self experimenting for the sake of research looking at mood and anxiety. I noticed this morning, particularly looser stools. I I currently bought the brand Solgar which is offering 400mg of magnesium as magnesium citrate per serving. In one dose, I can already detect a difference.

  7. I just purchased Natural Calm with calcium and wonder if the benefits will be the same? I have been taking the magnesium citrate version for about 6 weeks and have noticed a big improvement in my sleep quality. I purchased the magnesium only version on the recommendation of my local health food store after a DNF in a half marathon last month due to calf cramping. I'm not good at taking a calcium supplement so the magnesium citrate with calcium was very appealing as I am almost done with my first jar of magnesium citrate.

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