Magnesium & Zinc Deficiency

Updated July 19, 2017

Many Americans today have some vitamin or mineral deficiency, and two of the most common are magnesium and zinc. Both magnesium and zinc are part of many of your body's functions, and a deficiency in either or both can have severe long-term effects on your health and quality of life.


Both magnesium and zinc are required in higher amounts when a person starts exercising and lifting weights; however, this behaviour is typically accompanied by a decrease in food intake. This will further exacerbate any vitamin or mineral deficiencies that already exist, and may cause new ones. According to strength coach Charles Poliquin, the basic medical literature states that between 54 and 75 per cent of the general population is magnesium deficient, and between 58 and 75 per cent of the population are deficient in both. However, his experience indicates that in the athletic population it is closer to 100 per cent.


Red blood cell magnesium and red blood cell zinc levels tests can indicate if levels of magnesium and zinc are low. These tests will tell you how much of these minerals are actually available for use by the body.

Deficiency Symptoms

The symptoms of zinc deficiency include increased fat gain around the breast (especially in men), decreased sense of taste, constipation and baldness. It can affect the immune system and fertility.

Magnesium deficiency symptoms include constipation, fatigue and sleeping disorders. It is also common for people who are insulin insensitive or diabetic to be deficient, as well as osteoporosis patients. Magnesium deficiency is also related to inflammation and low HDL cholesterol levels.

Correcting Zinc Deficiency

In addition to taking a quality multivitamin, a non-active individual could have sufficient levels of zinc within a couple months by taking 30mg per day in supplement form. An athlete will likely need to take more, as much as 180mg per day in supplement form. If you are taking more than 30mg, be sure to space it out throughout the day, and take it with food. Using multiple forms like zinc picolinate and zinc aspartate simultaneously will help raise levels more quickly.

Correcting Magnesuim Deficiency

Magnesium deficiencies typically take longer to correct. While the Recommended Daily Intake is only 400mg, to get your levels up to an adequate state you may have to take as much as 2,000mg per day. If you are extremely deficient, jump straight to the maximum dose, and be sure to get tested frequently. As your levels approach adequate you can taper off to a maintenance dose. Also be sure to take multiple forms of magnesium, as the different forms have different functions in the body. Avoid magnesium oxide as it is a very low quality source of magnesium.

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About the Author

Aaron Thornton is a certified personal trainer and nutritionist in Fresno, CA. He is also finishing up his degree at California State University: Fresno in kinesiology: exercise science. His objective is to help educate people on how to eat and live healthier, so they can feel good in their body.