Muscles play a vital role in our everyday lives, from enabling us to move and perform physical tasks to supporting our internal bodily functions. Keeping our muscles healthy is crucial for overall well-being. One mineral that often goes overlooked but plays a pivotal role in maintaining healthy muscle function is magnesium.
Magnesium and Muscle Function
Magnesium's dual role as a structural component and a regulatory cofactor of muscle health underscores its critical importance in maintaining healthy muscle function and overall physical performance. Magnesium deficiency can cause many health concerns, and magnesium supplements may help with several ailments, along with muscle cramping and soreness. And because magnesium has been shown to help the muscles relax, people often turn to supplements for relieving muscle soreness, as prescription medications can have more severe side effects.
Magnesium isn’t addictive and is a mineral that the body needs with virtually no side effects, adverse reactions, or withdrawal symptoms associated with taking appropriate dosages. It’s also easy to take a supplement when you aren’t getting enough of the mineral through your daily diet, and reduce dosage when you don’t need it. And because magnesium has been shown to help the muscles relax, people often turn to supplements for relieving muscle soreness, as prescription medications can have more severe side effects.
Muscle Contraction + Relaxation
One of the primary roles of magnesium in muscle function is its involvement in muscle contraction. When you want to move a muscle, a signal is sent from your brain to your muscle fibers, initiating a series of events that result in muscle contraction. Magnesium plays a crucial role in regulating these muscle contractions by controlling the flow of calcium ions into and out of muscle cells. This ensures that your muscles contract and relax smoothly.
While it’s vital for the muscles to contract when needed, they must also relax to operate normally. Magnesium prevents the flow of calcium when it’s time for nerve excitability to decrease, allowing the muscles to relax. Calcium contributes to muscle tension, while magnesium is responsible for relaxation, as well as controlling the flow of impulses between the nerves and muscles. This ensures the proper flow of calcium to the body.
Tremors, twitches, and muscle cramps are all signs of magnesium deficiency. Some research has shown that these symptoms might stem from the additional flow of calcium into the nerve cells, which hyper-stimulates and over-excites the muscles.
With the right balance of magnesium serving as a natural way to block the excessive calcium, muscles can more easily relax. If you are deficient, magnesium for muscle spasms might be an ideal solution.
Within some studies, low magnesium has been linked to higher levels of inflammation, underlining magnesium deficiency’s role in various, body-wide aches and pains. Not only does magnesium play a role in the way muscles work, but studies how it prevents central sensitization and reduces pain hypersensitivity, which is why many people take magnesium for muscle pain.
Healthy muscles require a constant supply of energy to function optimally. Magnesium is involved in the production and utilization of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the primary energy currency of cells. Without sufficient magnesium, your muscles may experience fatigue and weakness, hindering your physical performance.
Magnesium and Protein Interactions
Magnesium plays a pivotal role in muscle function by interacting with various proteins involved in muscle contraction and relaxation. Certain sites inside the muscle - myosin, actin, troponin, parvalbumin and calmodulin - contain several key muscle proteins that bind magnesium. These proteins work together in a coordinated manner to control muscle contraction and relaxation while maintaining proper muscle function and overall physical health.
Myosin is a protein that makes up the thick filaments in muscle cells. During muscle contraction, myosin heads attach to actin and generate the mechanical force necessary for muscle contraction. ATP provides the energy for myosin to "pull" actin and create muscle movement.
Actin is a protein that makes up the thin filaments in muscle cells. During muscle contraction, myosin interacts with actin to generate force and shortening of the muscle fibers.Together with troponin, actin regulates muscle contraction. In a relaxed state, tropomyosin blocks myosin-binding sites on actin. When calcium binds to troponin, it causes tropomyosin to shift, exposing these binding sites and initiating muscle contraction.
Troponin is a complex of three protein subunits (TnC, TnI, and TnT) found in skeletal and cardiac muscles. It regulates muscle contraction by controlling the interaction between actin and myosin, two key proteins in the contractile apparatus of muscle fibers. Magnesium indirectly influences troponin's function by regulating the flow of calcium ions (Ca²⁺). When a nerve signal triggers muscle contraction, calcium ions bind to troponin, allowing myosin to interact with actin and initiate muscle contraction. Magnesium is essential in this process because it modulates the activity of calcium channels and pumps in the muscle cell membrane and sarcoplasmic reticulum, ensuring the precise control of calcium levels.
Parvalbumin is a calcium-binding protein found in fast-twitch muscle fibers. It acts as a calcium buffer, helping to quickly regulate and reduce high calcium levels in muscle cells, enabling rapid muscle contractions and relaxation. Magnesium influences parvalbumin indirectly by ensuring proper calcium homeostasis. By regulating calcium channels and pumps, magnesium helps maintain the right balance of calcium, preventing excessive muscle contraction and muscle stiffness.
Calmodulin is a calcium-binding protein that regulates various cellular processes, including muscle contraction, by activating specific enzymes, such as myosin light-chain kinase (MLCK). Magnesium is involved in calmodulin activation and function. While calcium binding to calmodulin initiates the activation of MLCK, magnesium helps stabilize the calmodulin-calcium complex. The magnesium-calcium-calmodulin complex is essential for the precise control of muscle contraction and relaxation.
How Much Magnesium Do I Need?
The National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements suggests that most people get between 350 and 450 mg of magnesium each day. Certain foods are said to contain magnesium but there is no way to test all the soil in all the farms to know if there is enough magnesium in the soil to live up to the levels suggested. You can eat so-called magnesium rich foods for the minerals and fiber but it's pretty clear from all the magnesium deficiency symptoms people are having that we need to supplement with magnesium.
When considering magnesium rich foods, it's also important to do the math and calculate the actual amount of magnesium available. For example, a full US cup of almonds weighs 42 grams, and holds approximately 118 blanched almonds. Each serving of a handful of almonds (23 almonds) would have 76.5 mgs of magnesium, which is only 18% of the Recommended Daily Value for most adults. In order to reach the recommended Daily Value of 400 mgs, you would need to eat 120 almonds. And when you conside the nutrient-depleting processing that modern food goes through, this calculation is still off. Make sure that the suggested food intake does not exceed your caloric intake just to get the daily value of magnesium required.
- Almonds (80 mg per serving)
- Spinach (78 mg per serving)
- Cashews (74 mg per serving)
- Peanuts (63 mg per serving)
- Shredded wheat (61 mg per serving)
- Soymilk (61 mg per serving)
- Black beans (60 mg per serving)
- Edamame (50 mg per serving)
- Peanut Butter (49 mg per serving)
- Baked Potato (43 mg per serving)
- Brown Rice (42 mg per serving)
- Plain Yogurt (42 mg per serving)
If you aren’t able to get enough magnesium for muscles through your diet, you might consider taking a supplement instead. The question is, how much magnesium for muscle cramps is ideal? You would want to figure out how much you are getting through your daily diet and make up the difference.
There are some people that should talk to their doctor before beginning a supplement. If you are taking bisphosphonates, antibiotics, diuretics or proton pump inhibitors, it’s best to talk to a professional first.
Choosing A Magnesium for Muscle Health
Is magnesium good for muscle? It can be, but it matters what kind you take. There are several types of magnesium for muscle cramps to choose from.
When determining the best magnesium supplement for muscle cramps, consider these factors:
- Absorption: many pills and powders are poorly absorbed. Instead look for a highly absorbed liquid form of magnesium such as liquid magnesium chloride. Another benefit of liquid mineral products is you can adjust the dose easily.
- Backed by Research: Not all dietary supplement companies are the same. Look for a product line that is backed by research and clinical evidence.
- Quality: Look for a magnesium brand that is properly manufactured. Your dietary supplement company should have professional staff dedicated to the adherence of all quality standards of the FDA’s Good Manufacturing Practices which stipulate that manufacturers must evaluate the identity, purity, quality, strength, and composition of their dietary ingredients and dietary supplements to help guarantee that our products are safe and accurately labeled
- Ease of use: Using a lotion or epsom salts can give you the relief you need for sore muscles. Added to a bath epsom salts soothe sore muscles.