Magnesium is unquestionably on the list.
In the recent article, "Debunking The Multivitamin Myth + Why Supplements Are Still Critical" I explained that due to low-quality ingredients and improper formulation, multivitamins are largely inefficient and a waste of time. However, this does not mean that vitamin/mineral supplementation is also a waste of time - far from it. It is almost impossible to get adequate (not to mention optimal) levels of many nutrients via food alone. It is my belief that if you are in search of vibrant, optimal health, your diet must include a intelligent supplementation regimen. So what supplements should you be taking?
I'm going to take a few weeks to cover the whole of what I recommend supplementing with. For this article I'm going to start with the three supplements I believe to be among the most critical, Vitamin D3, Magnesium and Omega 3 EFA's.
Why We Need Vitamin D Supplementation
It's somewhat well known that our bodies will synthesize vitamin D on their own when given adequate sunlight. In a multistep process, our bodies use UVB rays from the sun to convert cholesterol (generally abundant in the body) into cholecalciferol, otherwise know as vitamin D3. While technically possible, for practical purposes it's impossible to get enough UVB exposure to produce adequate levels of D3. You would have to live in a tropical area and spend most of your days in the sun wearing little clothing. If this is your life - congratulations - you can skip the rest of this article. For the rest of us, we'll have to turn to D3 supplementation. Where I live (SF Bay Area), the atmosphere filters out enough of the UVB that it is actually impossible to get adequate exposure, even if you were naked and outside every daylight hour. Of course, most of us spend our days largely indoors, making the need for supplementation that much more pressing.
What Vitamin D Does In The Body
Once in the body, D3 is converted into calcitriol a hormone that regulates all of the body's processes involving calcium. First, calcitriol is essential for calcium to be adequately absorbed from the gut. Secondly, calcitriol is also the hormone responsible for regulating circulating calcium levels in the blood. Finally, calcitriol interacts as a hormone with cells in all throughout the body, regulating their calcium uptake and usage.
Calcium is primarily known for it's role in supporting bone health, but in reality calcium has a number of critical functions throughout the body. Calcium and magnesium work in tandem in cells throughout the body, most notably in muscle contractions and neurotransmitter release. Without proper calcium regulation, all of these functions are not executed optimally and well-being suffers.
Why We Need Magnesium Supplementation
Once upon a time, magnesium was abundant in food supplies. It is naturally present in most soils and it is pulled up readily and incorporated into plants growing in those soils. Unfortunately, like most minerals, once the soil has been farmed several years in a row, magnesium levels will be greatly diminished. Because plants don't require much magnesium for their own growth, it is rarely added back to the soils via fertilization. The result is a food supply that is severely magnesium deficient.
In fact, 70% (!!!) of the US population is deficient in magnesium even by the FDA's far-too-low recommendation. My recommendation for optimal magnesium levels is 2-3 times what the FDA recommends. I'd expect that by my standards, somewhere around 90% of the US population is getting inadequate magnesium.
What Magnesium Does In The Body
What doesn't magnesium do in the body? There are few nutrients involved in more metabolic processes than magnesium. As I mentioned above, magnesium works in tandem with calcium to regulate cell function in muscle contraction and neurotransmitter release. Put simply, when calcium enters a muscle cell, it is a signal for muscle contraction. Conversely, when magnesium enters the cell it is a signal for relaxation.
This is a big reason why addressing a magnesium deficiency can so quickly be beneficial for well-being. Chronically magnesium deficient muscle cells don't release as fully and can hold more tension. Naturally, this also makes magnesium useful for sleep enhancement. Taking your magnesium on an empty stomach before bed can have a pleasant muscle-relaxing effect that makes it easier to move into and stay in deep sleep states.
Beyond its function in the muscles, magnesium is involved in signaling for a huge number of cell types in the body. Finally, it is a required nutrient for the function of over 300 enzymes in the metabolism, including all enzymes using ATP (the metabolism's primary energy source).
Omega 3 Supplementation
Balancing your Omega 3 and Omega 6 intake is critical to proper hormone function and limiting systemic inflammation. In a world over-saturated with Omega 6 oils (most vegetable oils), almost everyone is Omega 3 deficient and suffering because of it. Learn all about this topic here in this previous article.
Synchro Dosage/Brand Recommendations (click here for linked brand recommendations)
- Vitamin D3 - 5000IU daily, taken in the morning. Recommended Brand: NOW Foods Vitamin D3 5000iu
- Magnesium - 800mg-1200mg daily, taken 30 minutes before bed. Recommended Brand: Solaray Magnesium Glycinate 400 mg
- Omega 3 EFA's - 1g Krill Oil, taken whenever. Increase to 1.5g-2g if you eat Omega 6 containing oils. Recommended Brand: Jarrow Formulations Krill Oil
- Calcium - Generally not necessary to supplement. Calcium is readily available in common foods.
Looking For More On Supplementation? Check out:
Fixing Your Nutrient Deficiencies (Supplementation Series - Part 3 of 3)
Power Your Brain with Creatine Supplementation
Your Omega 3 and 6 Are Out Of Balance (and it's making you fat and less awesome)