“Health is not valued till sickness comes.”
Thomas Fuller 19 June 1608 – 16 August 1661
Continuing the foundation series on supplementation this article will look at Magnesium and Zinc. These are fundamental minerals and combined they play a role in literally hundreds of reactions in the body. In the past, we have mentioned some of the benefits to magnesium and zinc, and the purpose of this article is to explain why these 2 important minerals form the foundation of supplementation for optimal health and performance.
There are many areas in the body where magnesium exerts an effect, with several hundred functions in total, this shows its wide-ranging significance in the body. Magnesium works in metabolism and energy production, the heart and muscles, but the effects on the nervous system are what makes magnesium a significant mineral.
Magnesium works in the nervous system (brain and spinal cord) to calm down its activity and it helps produce 2 important hormones, serotonin and melatonin. The former is known as the happiness hormone and the latter as the sleep hormone. This means that taking magnesium is ideal in the evening as it will set you up for better quality sleep by relaxing the nervous system and helping you get off to sleep. In addition to the previous point, the effects of increased serotonin will be able to help anxiety and mood, and there is some evidence emerging for this (3). So magnesium could be part of a wider sleep and mood strategy to improve your wellbeing.
When we train hard we deplete magnesium, this means that we need to replenish magnesium much like an electrolyte. Specific forms of magnesium can be used for exercise, for example, magnesium taurate, chloride or citrate are ideal because they can quickly replenish the magnesium you have depleted during training.
Other functions include supporting the immune system, lowering inflammation, lowering blood pressure, managing fat levels in the blood and bringing calcium into bones. It is clear how important it is, from helping cardiovascular health to helping your sleep better, magnesium is a key supplement and we will elaborate on why nowadays it is more important than ever.
Magnesium comes in many forms and can be used for slightly different goals.
- Mag (bi)glycinate – more suited to use for sleep and relaxation.
- Mag citrate – more for exercise, this also helps bowel movement so start at low doses.
- Mag taurate – good for the heart and lungs, can also calm the nervous system.
- Mag l-threonate – strengthens cells and connections to help memory and cognition.
- For sleep and the nervous system, the supplements which are better suited include Designs For Health Magnesium Buffered Chelate and ATP Labs SynerMag.
- For improved recovery, YSPI Magnesium is a good match.
- For brain function, memory and cognition ATP Labs MindMag and DFH NeuroMag contain magnesium l-threonate perfect for brain function.
Zinc has many functions and is involved in hundreds of reactions in the body, again here we will highlight the ones of greatest interest to the reader and why.
Zinc is needed to produce certain hormones including testosterone and IGF-1. These are called ‘anabolic’ hormones because they help to build tissue such as muscle and they can improve strength too (1). This means it is potentially useful for exercise performance, so for strength and muscle mass improvement, there is benefit in using zinc supplementation to ensure you have adequate levels. Zinc is also needed to make dopamine, which is a key chemical messenger for your brain to stay focussed and alert, this will help your productivity, training sessions and mood.
It is also a strong antioxidant, which means it helps prevent damage to the cells of your body. This is good for reducing the toxic load in the body and improving your immunity. There is also evidence it is able to reduce inflammation and help the immune system to function, which is important as we age (6).
One more benefit to note is that zinc can help with blood sugar control, this is because zinc is needed to secrete insulin, the hormone which manages sugars in the blood. Without insulin functioning well you cannot effectively control blood sugar levels, this means it is something which can help those with insulin resistance or type II diabetes.
ATP Labs offer SynerZinc which uses zinc monomethione, a highly absorbable form of zinc which is better used by the body. Designs for Health have Zinc Supreme which combines zinc with b vitamins to help maintain zinc levels.
Magnesium and Zinc Deficiency
We have covered what magnesium does in the body, but nowadays magnesium is more important than ever. This is primarily because the nutrient density of the soil and the range of foods we eat is decreasing, subsequently, we do not get as much magnesium as perhaps in the past and this makes us quite liable to deficiency. Nutrient guidelines have been decreasing and these only present a minimum target anyway, so it is good to ensure we are towards the higher end of recommendations so we get the benefits of magnesium.
Zinc deficiency is less common and less severe, but ensuring your zinc levels are optimal will help strength, testosterone production, insulin and blood sugar management and more.
Modern life can be full of stress, poor sleep, poor food, exposure to toxins and so on. There needs to be an emphasis on recovery, detoxification and stress management to combat this, of which zinc and magnesium should play a key role supplementally because together they help sleep, provide antioxidants, help immunity, and are involved in most tissues in the body.
Supplementation can be the missing link for our health, zinc and magnesium form some of the foundations of supplementation because they are important for so many areas of the body. We know the importance of sleep, we know the importance of antioxidants to age healthily, we know the importance of a strong functioning immune system, so we need to have good levels of zinc and magnesium in our bodies. Supplementation of these two minerals is the best bet because supplements contain better doses and more bioavailable forms, so you not only get enough but you get the form which is best taken up by the body.
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- Magnesium supplementation improves indicators of low magnesium status and inflammatory stress in adults older than 51 years with poor quality sleep.
- Enhancement of learning and memory by elevating brain magnesium.
- Nutritional and herbal supplements for anxiety and anxiety-related disorders: systematic review
- The immune system and the impact of zinc during aging