The Daily Glow | Magnesium and Muscle Relaxation

Muscle relaxation and Magnesium

My muscles are currently burning, and it took me longer to get out of bed yesterday morning than I’d care to admit to – not surprising, considering over the past few days I tried crossfit for the first time, and ran a 4 mile mini marathon (plus the mile I had to run to the starting line due to a terrible combination of my embarrassingly bad sense of direction, with some poor timing).  DOMS, or delayed onset muscle soreness is a familiar feeling (if not name, that’s what that gradually worsening pain 1-2days after exercise is called) for anyone who’s started a new fitness regime or pushed themselves in a new physical endeavour.  And while yoga, stretching or foam-rolling can all help, there’s also a supplement that can encourage muscle relaxation – and bring some other benefits as well.

The Daily Glow | Magnesium and Muscle Relaxation

Triathletes, and all these other impressive serial exercisers, frequently profess the virtues of epsom salt baths…which are essentially magnesium.  This mineral is commonly deficient, but excellent for promoting muscle relaxation and sleep – both of which obviously enough support tired muscles.  But it’s not only this delayed onset muscle soreness that it can help, it can also:

  • reduce teeth grinding or clenching (bruxism) and sometimes the associated neck pain, due to it’s action on the main muscles involved
  • aid sleep – this study shows improvements in sleep time, sleep efficiency and an increase in melatonin levels in the body after 8 weeks of magnesium supplementation
  • reduce stress – lower serum cortisol (the stress hormone) levels have also been noted, which can be further helped with some lifestyle changes

The Daily Glow | Magnesium and Muscle Relaxation

Getting enough magnesium can be a bit tricky, as not only do you have to have a diet quite high in magnesium to begin with (something fruit and veg grown in increasingly mineral-depleted soil may be lacking), but additionally, you need sufficient levels of vitamins B6  and D, and selenium for your body to absorb it. Oh, and excess fat, caffeine and stress hinder this process.

The Daily Glow | Magnesium and Muscle Relaxation

Yeah so not quite as easy to get sufficient magnesium by mistake, especially if you’re stressed and living on caffeine.  But, taking a supplement in a form that is easily digested and absorbed by your body, at a separate time to your cup of jo, can make it a bit more straightforward.  I find 150-300mg magnesium citrate (from a reputable brand like Solgar, Viridians or most types stocked in health food stores) taken in the evening, separate to food, works well for me and most of my patients.  Most magnesium tablets are giant bullets, so the powdered form can be easier to take, or you can add it to a smoothie.

*** However, please note that magnesium can increase the effects of other muscle relaxant drugs (like Botox or Valium), so if you are on any medications, please check with your doctor before adding this supplement to your daily routine.  ***


Have you ever tried magnesium supplementation?


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How to manage stress | The Daily Glow

How to manage stress

Stress presents itself in countless ways – insomnia, headaches, nausea, general irritability and the inability to focus clearly.  None of these symptoms are particularly helpful in relieving the original stress, and sometimes the cause itself can be out of our hands – illness of of loved one, family drama, work colleagues or exams looming.

How to manage stress | The Daily Glow

Supporting yourself through times like this allows you to survive it, and hopefully come out stronger on the other side – with an new awareness of how you can recognise (and potentially avoid) a similar situation in the future.  Yoga, meditation, exercise and talking it through with someone you trust are all well-known methods for coping with stress, however there are also changes you can make to your diet and lifestyle to maximise your resilience at a time when you need it the most.

Cut back on stimulants
It might seem counter-intuitive when you feel like you’re already running on empty, but caffeine, sugar and alcohol are temporary fixes that only propagate the stress response further in the long run.  The yo-yo effect on your blood sugar impacts your mood, your ability to focus and even your waistline (and stress hormones specifically predispose to weight gain around the middle). I am absolutely not advocating quitting coffee completely (God help anyone I have to work/live with or even talk to if I tried that when the pressure is really on), but attempting to reach for peanut butter instead of pick-and-mix, and ensuring I have a decent breakfast every morning have made a big difference when I’m burning the candle at both ends.

How to manage stress | The Daily Glow

Chromium and cinnamon can both help stabilise blood sugar, thereby reducing the frequency of blood sugar crashes – which inevitably lead to a determined hunt for anything chocolate-related every few hours.  I have an affinity for cinnamon that cannot be sated, and therefore am happy to lace everything from granola, to peanut butter and pancakes liberally.  However, chromium supplementation is a good option for those of you not quite as addicted to the spice as I am.

Up your B-vitamin intake
B-complex supplements encompass a large number of vitamins, including niacin, biotin, folate and thiamine.  Many of them are important for healthy skin, hair and nails, as well as your immune system and memory.  Even mouth ulcers can be helped with B vitamin supplementation – as they have been linked to iron and B12 deficiency.  As a previous vegetarian I know first-hand how easy it is to be lacking in some of these if you don’t eat meat, and as eggs are a major source in the typical western diet, vegans can find deficiency far too close for comfort without supplementation. Eggs, wheatgrass, almonds, dark leafy greens and asparagus are some veggie-friendly dietary sources if you’d prefer not to take a supplement.

I know, I know, it sounds patronising to say the least doesn’t it?  But you can actively make it easier for yourself with the help of magnesium, chamomile tea and lavender, and by limiting screen time.  Magnesium supplementation has been shown in clinical trials to improve both sleep time and sleep efficiency, and also helps with tight or cramping muscles – the epsom salt baths that triathletes etc rave about are essentially water and magnesium.  Magnesium citrate or magnesium glycinate are two of the more easily absorbed forms, and the powder supplement can be a bit cheaper than the tablets (and easier to take – have you seen the size of some of those tablets?).

How to manage stress | The Daily Glow

A cup of chamomile tea and this “Deep Sleep” spray spritzed on your (silk!) pillow both help you to drift off, but definitely the biggest game changer for me has been switching my phone to airplane mode before getting into bed.  As I’ve said before, not only does it help you get to sleep, but the mental clarity this can give you is incredible, if you leave it off until heading out the door in the morning – and I have found my mind stops racing pretty much as soon as I change mode.  It has made me insanely curious about the benefits of a full blown digital detox – this experiment by Kovert Designs has seems to have been life-changing for the participants.

The above have all worked pretty well for me, but of course everyone is different, and you may find something else much more effective.  If you have any other suggestions I’d love to hear them!

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Beauty sleep – how to get the most out of your night

An ever-so-slightly compulsive multitasker, I love being able to get things done while doing something else (clearly I’m aiming for “coolest person the year” 2017 to add to my 2016 accolade).  So breakfasts I can bake while I’m out running, or decent face masks that I can wear while flying (without freaking fellow passengers out – I mean the ones that look like moisturiser when they’re on) have a special place in my heart.  Following on from my non-resolution of getting up on time, while I am actually asleep, I like to get as much out of the hours after sunset as I can.

The Daily Glow - Sleep

Invest in silk
I have already mentioned how sleeping on your face can cause a number of wrinkle-related problems, and I am slowly managing to change from a regular face planter to a poised sleeping beauty (I hope). A silk pillowcase can reduce some of the face planting effects, and also promote frizz-free tresses. The number one question I’ve had in relation that entire post was where to get the pillow cases, so below is a list of some recommended suppliers. I bought both my eye mask (if you think eye masks are overrated, try a silk one before you really decide) and pillowcase in Australia a few years ago, so I haven’t tried any of them myself yet – these are recommendations from friends.

  • This is a pricey enough option (£55 plus delivery from the U.K.), but the designs of the eye masks are amazing – particularly good as presents for those people that literally have everything.
  • A bit more reasonably priced (€45, plus €6.50 delivery. Warning: they do a lot more than just pillowcases and eye masks, so you could be in very real danger “justifying” the delivery charge and buying right, left and centre – don’t say I didn’t warn you) and the company was founded by irishwoman Eva Power, if you like to buy Irish.
  • The cheapest of the lot (2 for €25) and also an Irish based purchase.

I have found a silk eye mask to be my best friend in the aforementioned sleeping on my back attempts – there is something in having my eyes covered that makes it just about okay to not burrow into the pillow as I doze off, so you may want to check out those too while you’re at it.

Update: I found my actual eye mask eye mask on – and it’s not going to break the bank.

The Daily Glow | Wanderlust Lite

I tend to have gloves on for most of the working day, so I always come up short when it comes to drinking enough water.  Combine that with working in air conditioning or heating, sweating it out at the gym and having an active social life (aside from January – silly season got me again this year) and I am forever trying to hydrate.  Adequate water intake is crucial for clear skin and headache-free afternoons – in fact mild dehydration is said to be the number one cause of midday fatigue (not hunger, despite my stomach’s notions).  By the time you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated, so trying to make a habit of drinking water rather than waiting for your body to remind you is the best way forward.  An American survey showed that 75% of the general population are chronically dehydrated.  Drinking later in the evening is sometimes inconvenient (I tried this, getting up in the middle of the night every couple of hours is not for me, but have a go if you really want to), so I’ve found one way around it is to bring a pint of water ) with me when going to bed (usually with a chlorophyll supplement in it, as in the photo below – Dublin City council’s water supply may not win awards, but it’s not green) – but leaving it to drink first thing in the morning instead. This way I feel like I’m not actually starting on a deficit, and am more likely to remember to drink water throughout the day.

The Daily Glow - hydrate

Overnight oats
This one saves my a€€ when I have not managed to get up on time, but still need to have breakfast (I always need breakfast, I am not a nice person without it).  I make it in a glass jar (or take away coffee cup – I hate buying coffee without my Keepcup, but sometimes I’m stuck and cave, so I always re-use them if possible) and usually take it with me, but you can make up a big batch for 2-3days and keep it in the fridge. You need:

  • Oats (gluten-free if needed)
  • Milk – I use almond milk as I try to keep dairy milk to a minimum because it affects my skin, but you can use whatever type you like.
  • Yoghurt – greek gives a really nice texture, and you don’t need a flavoured one unless you have a very sweet tooth. You can use soya or coconut for a vegan version.
  • Vanilla protein powder – I do use a dairy based one for this, simply because I have yet to find a vegan one that tastes remotely nice (any recommendations very welcome on this one!)
  • Frozen raspberries

Mix the oats, milk, yoghurt and protein powder to a bircher muesli type consistency. Add the raspberries, which will defrost overnight. You can add cinnamon, chopped walnuts, brazil nuts, blueberries or anything else that takes your fancy. I’ve made a number of different flavours, including “Pumpkin Pie” with puréed sweet potato, cardamom, cinnamon and ginger – which although delicious, was pretty time-consuming to make, so I tend to revert back to chopped banana (add in the morning – black banana oats its not so inviting, no matter how hungry you are) and walnuts, or raspberries and flaxseeds.

The Daily Glow - overnight oats

How do you make the most of your beauty sleep?  I would also love to hear any tips you have for better sleep – I’m a terrible insomniac at times, which makes most of the above null and void!

how to get up on time - the daily glow

How to get up on time – even if you’re not a morning person

Despite my protests about New Year’s resolutions, getting up early (or at least on time) is a challenge I’ve set for myself this January – and yes, I am well aware I picked the worst month possible, by a long shot.  As a previous early riser, I used to hop out of the bed without even considering the snooze button, for years (and yes, I did feel ridiculously smug about it, all a distant memory now).  Over the last couple of years, due to a combination of work scheduling, illness and just general life-being-messy, I seem to have lost this very, very useful ability (ditto the smugness).  I have the busiest year to date ahead of me (3 different jobs and counting, a part time masters and every second one of my friends seem to have picked 2017 to get married) so if I don’t figure out how to get up on time I am going to be way behind by the start of February.

how to get up on time - the daily glow

Like every other challenge I embark on, after a cursory Google search, I try to figure out the best way to make it easier for myself by reading any relevant material available – usually by way of Pinterest and a number of blogs I follow.  So between that scientific process (!) and the life lessons learned by not getting up on time, here are 3 of my best.

Write a to-do list
This one probably makes the cut on every “how to” guide related to sleeping easy, being productive or organising your life.  Even still, in my experience, it’s there for a reason.  I use both a written list, for emails and small things that I really need to get done before work, and an app, Wunderlist.  Wunderlist I picked up from organisation expert, Claire Burge. She uses the app to take note of any task or errand she needs to remember in one “master list” – she then sorts through it on a Sunday evening, scheduling them into her week, while the further into the future items remain on the list.  The advantage of the app is if things change and your objectives need to follow suit, you can very easily shuffle things back out of your week and onto the master list without needing to delete them.  Wunderlist also lets you upload files, write notes about your notes (which greatly appeals to my OCD side, but may not quite be as exciting to you) and even share lists with others – and each item is ticked off as complete with a very satisfying “ping”.  I use it to keep my shopping list, my do-to list, and every kind of list you could possibly think of (books and movie recommendations etc).  The written to-do list I keep beside my bed, and look at it first thing in the morning – which accomplishes two things: I focus on the more urgent items that I need to get done, and I get my a*& out of bed very quickly when I remember exactly how much I need to get done before lunchtime.

how to get up on time - the daily glow

Tidy your room
What I really mean by this is organise yourself so you’re not dreading getting up.  For me, this means having a tidy room to wake up in, with whatever I’ve planned for the morning laid out for easy access – so workout clothes, yoga mat or laptop etc.  When I lived in Australia, it used to be – 2 degrees when I woke up in winter (not something I had expected either, especially in a wood framed house with no heating) and found getting up to run almost impossible as all the clothes in my cupboard were freezing – I eventually resorted to putting my running gear into the bed with me overnight, as this was the only way to warm it up.  So while thankfully, this is no longer necessary (I live in a tiny, but wonderfully warm apartment), I still find reducing the amount of stuff I have to do to get up for a run/out the door to work/study on time really makes a difference at that all important will-I-press-the-snooze-button moment.


Put your phone on airplane mode
This one is vital for not starting your day by scrolling through your friend’s cousin’s very stylish girlfriend’s instagram (not guilty), and for going to sleep at somewhere near the time you were aiming for.  Many “sleep” articles advise buying an alarm clock and keeping your phone in another room – I don’t have room for a clock on my bedside locker and find this works just as well.  Airplane mode signals the end of the day for me, and does help in sticking to some sort of sleep hygiene when it comes to screen time before bed.  In the morning, leaving it like that until I’ve had my first cup of coffee allows for a quieter, clearer headspace first thing, and has definitely helped with my productivity.  If I manage to go for a run or do some yoga, I do it with a sense of peace that would make any seasoned yogi proud. And if not (admittedly, 2017 so far has been more not – thank you flu), I can tackle my urgent to-do list, emails and even study much more efficiently.

how to get up on time - the daily glow

This list is not exhaustive, but I have found the above really works for me – have you anything to add?