This article has been Fact-Checked by Kendall Kennedy MS, RD, RYT
Magnesium is an essential mineral. That means that humans need it to survive and thrive. It plays an important role in all kinds of processes inside your body that may help you lose weight.
Some of these processes include keeping your heartbeat steady, building and repairing muscle, regulating sleep hormones, and controlling blood sugar levels.
Studies estimate that up to 75% of Americans do not meet the recommended magnesium intake (1).
By resolving this magnesium insufficiency you might see some weight loss results. That does not mean that more magnesium always offers more weight loss benefits. You can also get too much of this mineral which causes negative side effects.
Find out how magnesium can help you lose weight, how much magnesium you need, and how you can get the recommended daily magnesium intake.
7 ways magnesium can help weight loss
There are some important processes in your body that require magnesium to go well. If these processes go well they can help you lose more weight. The closer you get to your ideal magnesium intake the better these processes will go.
1. Magnesium helps you repair and build muscle
Magnesium is one of the vitamins and minerals that is required to build and repair muscle (2).
Muscle is very helpful when you’re trying to lose weight. A very important factor that determines how many calories you burn a day is your weight. One way to weigh more and thus burn more calories in a healthy way is by building muscle mass.
Even if you don’t lift weights your muscles get damaged every day. During cardio workouts, or just walking, you damage your muscles get damaged too. This damage needs to be repaired or sooner or later you won’t be able to get out of bed in the morning.
So if you want to burn more calories while you sleep because of more muscles mass you want to make sure you consume enough magnesium.
2. Magnesium can help with blood sugar control
A lack of magnesium can worsen your body’s ability to control its blood sugar levels (3). For example, one study found that even in subjects with normal blood sugar levels, magnesium supplementation reduced insulin resistance and blood sugar levels (4).
Being more insulin sensitive may help you lose weight by making it easier to burn fat.
3. Magnesium helps you sleep
Consuming enough magnesium helps reduce stress (5). Increased levels of stress can reduce sleep quality and duration.
Sleep is extremely important for getting to and staying at a healthy weight. Sleep loss causes decreased glucose tolerance, decreased insulin sensitivity, increased evening concentration of cortisol, increased levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin, and more things that negatively impact weight loss (8).
4. Magnesium helps your muscles move
Exercise is one of the most popular methods to lose weight. To exercise you need to be able to move your muscles.
Magnesium is an electrolyte. It helps conduct electric pulses throughout your body. This process is required to make your muscles move (9).
Without enough of each electrolyte, you can get things like cramps and muscle twitches. These are not helpful if you want to have a good workout or a good night’s sleep.
5. Magnesium helps reduce inflammation
Weight gain and inflammation are strongly connected. It’s a chicken or the egg situation between those 2. In any case reducing inflammation will benefit your health.
6. Magnesium can boost exercise performance
One study found that you need 10-20% more magnesium during exercise, compared to when you are resting (13). Magnesium can also make glucose more available during exercise which leads to increased performance (14).
Working out longer and more intense can help you burn more calories while exercising.
7. Magnesium can improve your mood
It’s easy to see how a person with a worse mood would do something like comfort eating more. The foods involved in comfort eating are also usually the worst kinds of food for weight loss.
Being in a better mood can also increase your adherence to the rest of your weight loss plan. Skipping your morning workout likely doesn’t benefit your weight loss progress.
How much magnesium do you need?
Below you can find a table with the recommended dietary allowances (RDA) for magnesium for adults, infants, and children (20).
Obviously, not all people have the same body weight, body composition, and activity levels. Hopefully one day there will be more specific dosage recommendations available. For now, these are some general numbers you can aim at.
|1-3 years||80 mg||80 mg|
|4-8 years||130 mg||130 mg|
|9-13 years||240 mg||240 mg|
|14-18 years||410 mg||360 mg|
|19-30 years||400 mg||310 mg|
|31-50 years||420 mg||320 mg|
|51+ years||420 mg||320 mg|
Both too much and not enough can cause negative side effects. It is very unlikely that you will consume too much magnesium from whole foods alone. If you take magnesium supplements it’s a different story.
Food sources high in magnesium
In general you want to try to get most of your vitamins and minerals from whole foods. This help you consume other important micronutrients.
Here are some examples of great food sources to increase your magnesium intake:
- Pumpkin seeds: about 535 mg per 100 grams (21)
- Nuts: for example almonds contain about 286 mg per 100 grams (22)
- Black chocolate: about 228 mg per 100 grams (23)
- Beans: for example boiled kidney beans contain about 42 mg per 100 grams (24)
- Avocado: about 29 mg per 100 grams (25)
When you know what foods to eat you can reach the RDA for magnesium a lot easier and lose more weight.
Should you supplement magnesium?
Whether or not you need to supplement magnesium depends on your age, activity levels, weight, and the rest of your diet.
If you eat a wide variety and large quantity of whole foods you might not need to supplement magnesium. If you’re not sure you can take a moment to count approximately how much magnesium you consume each day.
You can then compare that with the RDA for magnesium and decide if you need to supplement or not.
When in doubt you can always talk to your doctor before supplementing with magnesium.
What is magnesium citrate?
Magnesium citrate is a popular kind of magnesium supplement. If you get enough magnesium from your diet this supplement might help you lose weight. If you already eat a lot of whole foods you need to make sure you’re not overconsuming magnesium.
Is magnesium good for weight loss?
Magnesium is an essential mineral that plays an important role in several processes that can indirectly help weight loss. That does not mean that more magnesium will necessarily help you lose weight.
If you don’t consume enough magnesium, more magnesium might help you lose weight. If you already consume the right amounts of magnesium, more will most likely not help you lose weight.
There is no direct link (yet?) between magnesium and weight loss but resolving your magnesium insufficiency might help you lose weight.
It’s not clear exactly how much consuming the right amounts of magnesium exactly helps weight loss. That being said it’s always beneficial for your health to consume the right amount of vitamins and minerals.