THE SU­PER NU­TRI­ENT YOU NEED

Mag­ne­sium keeps you strong and en­er­gised, yet most ac­tive women aren’t get­ting enough. Here are the best ways to in­crease your in­take of this pow­er­ful mus­cle builder.

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Here are the best ways to in­crease your in­take of this pow­er­ful mus­cle builder.

Long over­looked while cal­cium soaked up the spot­light, mag­ne­sium is fi­nally get­ting some much-de­served at­ten­tion from ex­perts. Re­cent stud­ies show that it helps boost mus­cle power, en­durance, and sleep, all while re­duc­ing anx­i­ety and even your can­cer risk.

But most of us are com­ing up short on this power min­eral. “Roughly 75 per cent of women don’t get enough,” says Liz Ap­ple­gate, the direc­tor of sports nu­tri­tion at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia. “If you’re eat­ing less than 1,800 calo­ries a day, avoid­ing grains, or not load­ing up on leafy greens, there’s a good chance you’re one of them.” Sur­pris­ingly, ex­er­cise cre­ates even more of a de­fi­ciency. “You lose mag­ne­sium through sweat, and if you work out reg­u­larly, those losses can add up,” Liz ex­plains.

That’s a big prob­lem be­cause mag­ne­sium is cru­cial for health and fit­ness. “It plays an es­sen­tial role in en­ergy metabolism,” Liz says. “With­out it, your mus­cles can’t get en­ergy from the food you eat, lead­ing to fa­tigue and lack of en­durance.” “Your mus­cles also need mag­ne­sium to func­tion prop­erly,” adds Dr Carolyn Dean, the author of The Mag­ne­sium Mir­a­cle, 2nd Edi­tion. “It helps them take in oxy­gen, is nec­es­sary for main­tain­ing elec­trolyte bal­ance, and works with cal­cium to en­sure that they con­tract and re­lax prop­erly dur­ing ac­tiv­i­ties.” A mag­ne­sium de­fi­ciency can im­pair your abil­ity to ex­er­cise, and it can also sap your z’s. “Twitchy, tight mus­cles make you hy­per­alert and ir­ri­ta­ble, which can lead to trou­ble fall­ing or stay­ing asleep,” Dr Dean says.

Mag­ne­sium af­fects your mood too. Those of us who get more of the min­eral are hap­pier and more re­silient to stress than oth­ers. In fact, study par­tic­i­pants who took a sup­ple­ment of 500mg of mag­ne­sium chlo­ride four times a day ex­pe­ri­enced an im­prove­ment in symp­toms of de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety af­ter just two weeks, the jour­nal PLOS One found.

Green, leafy veg­eta­bles are a top source of mag­ne­sium – just eat them raw or lightly steamed.

Fi­nally, stud­ies show the me­tal may even help pre­vent cer­tain types of can­cer, in­clud­ing breast, ovar­ian, liver, col­orec­tal, and pan­cre­atic. Here’s how: When you’re de­fi­cient in mag­ne­sium, your body ex­pe­ri­ences ox­ida­tive stress, which pro­duces in­flam­ma­tion, a risk fac­tor for can­cer devel­op­ment and growth, the jour­nal

Mag­ne­sium Re­search re­ports. Get­ting enough of the min­eral keeps in­flam­ma­tion in check. “Not only that, but the foods that con­tain mag­ne­sium – leafy greens, nuts and seeds, whole grains – also tend to be amaz­ing sources of phy­tonu­tri­ents that we know help lower breast can­cer risk and im­prove di­ges­tive tract health,” Liz says.

The good news is that it takes just a few sim­ple tweaks to boost your mag­ne­sium in­take. Use this check­list to get for­ti­fied.

FIG­URE OUT EX­ACTLY HOW MUCH YOU NEED

The rec­om­mended amount of mag­ne­sium is 310 to 320mg a day, but if you ex­er­cise heav­ily, you may need up to 600, Dr Dean says. A good rule of thumb: In­crease your in­take by about 100mg for ev­ery 45 min­utes of ex­er­cise you get daily. If you still ex­pe­ri­ence symp­toms like chronic fa­tigue, mus­cle cramps, or anx­i­ety, add an­other 50mg a day. (In­creas­ing the amount by too much all at once can up­set your stom­ach.) Re­peat ev­ery one to two weeks un­til the symp­toms go away.

EAT TH­ESE FOODS

“Green, leafy veg­eta­bles are a top source of mag­ne­sium – just eat them raw or lightly steamed to avoid los­ing too much nu­tri­tion,” Liz sug­gests. Other good sources: seeds, nuts, grains, and even co­coa. Choose raw spinach (135mg in 170g), dried pump­kin seeds (191mg in ¼ cup), al­monds (108mg in ¼ cup), co­coa pow­der (107mg in ¼ cup), and cooked ama­ranth (160mg in a cup).

COM­BINE IT WITH CAL­CIUM

Mag­ne­sium and cal­cium work as a team: Mag­ne­sium helps the body ab­sorb cal­cium and re­laxes the mus­cles, while cal­cium con­tracts them. But the two need to be in bal­ance. Get­ting too much cal­cium and too lit­tle mag­ne­sium, which is rel­a­tively com­mon for women, makes it harder for your body to use both nu­tri­ents ef­fec­tively. That’s why the min­er­als tend to come as a pack­age deal in sup­ple­ments. Get­ting enough mag­ne­sium will help keep things on an even keel. It’s also im­por­tant not to take in one nu­tri­ent with­out the other. Many healthy whole foods are good sources of both, in­clud­ing kale, al­monds, and quinoa, Liz says. But if you’re munch­ing on a cal­ci­um­rich cheese plat­ter, for in­stance, eat some pump­kin seeds or nuts with it.

FILL IN THE GAPS

If you strug­gle to get enough mag­ne­sium from food alone, Dr Dean says it’s fine to take a sup­ple­ment. Look for mag­ne­sium glu­conate or mag­ne­sium chlo­ride – they are less likely to cause stom­ach up­set than mag­ne­sium ox­ide, ac­cord­ing to Con­sumerLab.com, which tests the qual­ity of sup­ple­ments. Start with a low dosage so you can in­crease your daily in­take slowly, and take it at night to min­imise any GI-re­lated side effects. But aim to get no more than 50 per cent of your to­tal mag­ne­sium in­take from sup­ple­ments. “Whole-food sources are best be­cause they also con­tain zinc, cop­per, and other nu­tri­ents that all work to­gether in the body,” Liz says.

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