In the Western world, we rarely think about balance. Instead, we have a winner-take-all mentality. In the mainstream world, the winner has been calcium. In the supplement world, the winners have been zinc, Vitamin D, and fish oil.
Vitamin D is necessary for human health, and zinc has a reputation for increasing testosterone. Most guys are taking some form of zinc, Vitamin D, and fish oil.
I hadn’t given much thought to magnesium’s usefulness outside of a sleep aid. I’d often take ZMA before bed time.
As it turns out, magnesium is the Vitamin D of minerals:
Magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. It helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function, keeps heart rhythm steady, supports a healthy immune system, and keeps bones strong. Magnesium also helps regulate blood sugar levels, promotes normal blood pressure, and is known to be involved in energy metabolism and protein synthesis
In the Magnesium Miracle (yeah, I hate the title, too), the author claims that supplementing with magnesium increases testosterone level. The research supports her claim. Here’s one of many scientific studies from PubMed:
This study was performed to assess how 4 weeks of magnesium supplementation [approximately 1 gram] and exercise affect the free and total plasma testosterone levels of sportsmen practicing tae kwon do and sedentary controls at rest and after exhaustion… Our results show that supplementation with magnesium increases free and total testosterone values in sedentary and in athletes. The increases are higher in those who exercise than in sedentary individuals.
In other words, guys who lift weights will get more of a benefit than couch monkeys.
Magnesium also has potential anti-aging effects:
Optimal nutritional and hormonal statuses are determinants of successful ageing. The age associated decline in anabolic hormones such as testosterone and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) is a strong predictor of metabolic syndrome, diabetes and mortality in older men. Studies have shown that magnesium intake affects the secretion of total IGF-1 and increase testosterone bioactivity… In a cohort of older men, magnesium levels are strongly and independently associated with the anabolic hormones testosterone and IGF-1.
The problem, the author of Magnesium Miracle notes, is that magnesium is hard to absorb.
Not all magnesium forms are equal. If you took a gram of magnesium oxide, your best case absorption would be 100 mg.
Most of us have inadequate stomach acid and lack the bacteria needed to process magnesium. Thus, some magnesium is less available than other forms.
So what’s the solution? There are two – one obvious, and one you’ve probably never heard of.
Epsom salt, which is something we think of old people using, is high in magnesium. The magnesium is absorbed through the skin after a 20 minute soak. Epsom salt is used by old people because it reduces inflammation – thanks to magnesium.
I used to soak in Epsom salt after a really hard Brazilian Jiu Jitsu workout. Now I regularly soak it in.
The next solution is the best one. It’s so effective that I wouldn’t have believed it.
Magnesium oil is not really an oil at all. It’s a concentrated solution of the magnesium chloride (which, when taken orally, is poorly absorbed). Some people make their own, but the stuff is inexpensive enough that I’d avoid the hassle.
As I already eat a high magnesium diet, I started supplementing with 200 mg of topical magnesium. The results surprised me.
A screwed up elbow healed about 50% faster than it should have. My workouts have also been especially good. I’ve had more energy and felt stronger.
There are several different brands. They all come from the “Ancient Zechstein Sea.”
Yes, I laughed when typing about a supplement that is responsible for 300 necessary biological process and comes from the Ancient Zechstein Sea. It certainly sounds silly.
But I’ve tried every sort of supplement. The placebo effect doesn’t work well on me, as I’ve seen it all.
Since magnesium oil is so inexpensive, it seemed like a cool experiment.
I noticed an immediate impact with magnesium oil. More energy, and – most telling – more aggression. I have a greater urge to break things and say, “No, fuck that,” when someone annoys me.
I’ve personally used the Ancient Minerals brand. The Swanson brand is about $5 cheaper (once you factor in cost of shipping), and is supposed to be the same thing. You can also buy bath flakes - a sort of super concentrated Epsom salt.