Musculosceletal system

This is how to protect your muscles from magnesium deficiency

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Magnesium is in charge of numerous important functions in our body. In the power plants of our cells, the mitochondria, it is involved in generating the indispensable energy needed for all of the body's processes.


  • activates about 600 enzymes in our body,
  • makes sure that hormones like insulin are stored and released,
  • is involved in the production of nerve messengers like serotonin,
  • protects our cardiac muscle from stress and
  • together with calcium, ensures the usual muscle function.
What is the function of magnesium in our muscles?

A well-adjusted magnesium and calcium balance is indispensable for healthy muscle function. Whereas calcium is responsible for muscle tension, magnesium is in charge of muscle relaxation. It controls the transmission of impulses from nerves to muscles, ensures that the continued inflow of calcium is prevented and that the nerve excitability is lowered once again – which leads to the desired relaxation. For healthy adults, the German Nutrition Society recommends a daily magnesium intake of 300-400 mg depending on age and gender. If there is magnesium deficiency, there is excessive calcium in the muscle and it can no longer fully relax. This causes painful cramps.

If there is magnesium deficiency, there is excessive calcium in the muscle and it can no longer fully relax. This causes painful cramps.

Calf cramps and other indications: magnesium deficiency symptoms
  • Tiredness
  • Fatigue
  • Cramps in calves, toes and feet
  • Cardiac arrhythmia or palpitations
  • High blood pressure
  • Muscle twitching at the eyes or corners of the mouth

Already a slight magnesium deficiency leads to reduced energy production in our cell power plants and can contribute to non-specific tiredness and fatigue that cannot always be directly associated with magnesium deficiency. It becomes clearer when muscles start striking, especially during sleep when the magnesium level drops. The lack of magnesium can cause calf, toe and foot cramps.

In addition, arrhythmia, palpitations, and high blood pressure can be related to magnesium deficiency – because the heart is, after all, "only" a muscle that depends on a regulated tension and relaxation as well as on a normal electrolyte concentration. Other magnesium deficiency symptoms are minor muscle twitches in the eyes and corners of the mouth. According to the latest research, persons affected by the restless legs syndrome can benefit from magnesium intake. In women, magnesium deficiency can intensify menstrual pain  and lead to premature contractions during pregnancy.

Who is particularly at risk for magnesium deficiency?

Magnesium deficiency can occur when the need for it suddenly increases and the normal diet can no longer supply enough of it. You are especially at risk for experiencing a magnesium deficiency if you

  • are pregnant, breastfeeding or using hormonal contraception,
  • exercise a lot,
  • are stressed,
  • are elderly,
  • lose more water (through increased sweating, urination, vomiting or diarrhea),
  • suffer from a certain disease like diabetes, HIV, cancer or liver and pancreas diseases, or
  • take certain medications over a longer period of time.

The latter medications contain diuretics, which also cause more magnesium to be carried out of the body. Moreover, patients who undergo chemotherapy with cytostatic drugs such as cisplatin or take corticoids excrete more magnesium.

Magnesium deficiency in certain diseases

Patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes are especially affected by magnesium deficiency. More than 60 percent of them are magnesium deficient because owing to their condition and medications, they flush out more minerals through the kidneys than healthy individuals – and thus magnesium as well. Persons who have HIV, cancer, and liver or pancreatic conditions, absorb less magnesium.

Magnesium and contraception

Women who take oral contraceptives for a long time can also suffer from magnesium deficiency, and they are urged not to take magnesium simultaneously with the oral contraceptive. The reason is that an excessively high dose of magnesium is directly excreted once again, which can lead to diarrhea. If this happens when the oral contraceptive is only half digested, it cannot exert its full effect on that day. However, if attention is paid to the right dose of magnesium, there is no risk to influence the contraceptive’s effect.

What must athletes pay attention to in case of magnesium deficiency?

Those who are very active do not just strain their muscles but also sweat profusely – and the need for magnesium increases sharply. Especially endurance athletes, who strain their bodies for long periods, can be affected by magnesium deficiency. Magnesium helps them to promote the resiliency and regenerative capacity.

Most of the isotonic sport drinks frequently offered to athletes contain only little magnesium but too much sugar instead. Since the body does not have many spare resources for digestion while exercising, beverages containing magnesium should be taken especially in the regeneration phase for optimal effect.

Specific prevention of magnesium deficiency and strengthening of muscle function

A balanced diet that includes for example

  • wheat germ,
  • avocados,
  • sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and
  • magnesium-rich mineral water

on the menu, satisfies the normal need for magnesium and lowers the risk of a magnesium deficiency. However, if the need for magnesium has increased or there is already magnesium deficiency, magnesium medications should be taken at least for a short time to quickly replenish the deficit. In this case, it is not recommended to take large quantities of magnesium all at once because they cannot be directly absorbed and utilized. Most of the mineral will be directly excreted again and may cause diarrhea. Magnesium can be better absorbed if the individual doses are smaller and taken over the course of the day. For example, you can dissolve an effervescent granulate in a large glass of water or in a closable bottle with 500–750 ml water and drink it during the course of the day – to purposefully and gently refill your magnesium level.

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