Magnesium and the Chocolate Craving Connection
Every night, for longer than I’d like to admit, I’ve been turning to my husband sometime around 9 at night, and asking him, “Do we have anything sweet to eat?” Dutifully he would rise from the couch and bring back the only thing he knew I wanted.
“Is the 70% ok? I know it’s not as dark as you like…”
“Yes,” I’d say as he would hand me 2, sometimes more of these little babies.
Together we would sit back down and I would eat my chocolate. In less than an hour I would be fast asleep.
Does this sound like a familiar scenario? The unexpected yet intense craving that only chocolate will satisfy. And then, a short while later a feeling, somehow, better…
Now, there likely something else going on here if your chocolate craving encompasses anything and everything that is chocolate at any time of the day or night, or if anything sweet will satisfy your craving. But if you find yourself in my boat – intensely craving dark chocolate, and the only thing that kills the craving is chocolate, then it may be something else entirely your body is desperately trying to get.
There is some truth in cravings. We are biologically designed to intensely want foods that fulfill certain macronutrient (fat, protein, carbohydrate) and micronutrient (vitamin and mineral) needs. The trouble in our current world, is that most of our carvings are driven by the food images we see. And food porn is everywhere! Foods are deliberately shot at certain angles, in certain light, and almost always up close for that larger-than-life effect to elicit a maximum craving effect. To that end, 99% of our cravings can not be trusted.
However, a clear pattern had developed in my food craving. But it wasn’t until I came across a tidbit in a magazine that the pieces started to come together.
What I’ve Been Feeling Lately
My daughter has been sleeping through the night for some time now, but I still struggled with exhaustion. I chalked it up to making up for months of lost sleep but getting out of bed shouldn’t be this hard. Sometimes it would take me an hour to “come up to speed”. I depended entirely too much on coffee to make it through the day. Then, to add insult to injury, I would sometimes have trouble falling asleep at night. I’d lay there, feeling tired, and somehow not able to actually fall asleep. I found this incredibly irritating, which had started to become my default emotion.
By nature I am not a very patient person. Each day all the patiences I could muster was spent on my toddler, which meant there was nothing left for my poor husband. He would come home in the evening to a partner who was frazzled, irritable, exhausted and who snapped at the littlest thing.
All of this began to take a serious toll on our relationship. I mean really, who wants to spend time with an irritated chocolate monster who can’t peel herself off the couch once the baby goes to bed? I knew things were not looking good, but I couldn’t quite get it together to do anything about it because I didn’t know where to start.
It’s funny how life can give you what you need…
There I sat one fine morning, eating my breakfast, reading my husband’s Men’s Journal when these words practically jumped off the page and smacked me in the face:
“Low magnesium levels can lead to symptoms like exhaustion, irritation, and sleeplessness… Good sources (of magnesium) include…dark chocolate.”
Well, didn’t that sound familiar?
Being a scientist at heart, I decided to try an experiment. Without changing anything else I would start a magnesium supplement and see if I started to feel better. After a bit of research on the most bioavailable magnesium supplements, I chose True Athlete ZMA with Theanine.
Traditional ZMA is a combination of Zinc, Magnesium, B6, however the True Athlete brand also includes the amino acid Theanine to promote stress reduction, relaxation, and improved quality of sleep. But, why not choose a straight up magnesium supplement if I was trying to isolate only one variable? Zinc and magnesium work synergistically to help the body recover after exercise. I was, and still am, crossfitting regularly, so I needed all the recovery help I could get. Vitamin B6 makes both zinc and magnesium easier for your body to absorb and use. The recovery benefit, in addition to a bioavailable source of magnesium made this supplement my best choice.
So, I started taking my ZMA at night, on an empty stomach. The first thing I noticed was my improved quality of sleep. Waking up was easier and I didn’t feel like I was dragging myself out of bed. Also, I could leave that second cup of coffee instead of draining the pot and not remembering having done so. The second thing I noticed, which happened gradually, was my evening routine. No longer was I the chocolate monster who needed her nightly fix. At first the amount of chocolate I was consuming decreased. I could feel completely satisfied with just one square instead of needing significantly more. A few days later I noticed that I hadn’t consumed a single square of chocolate. Not one. And I didn’t even want any…
What It All Means
In my case my craving had meaning. My consumption of chocolate was my body’s richest source of magnesium and it was screaming to have its needs met. As soon as I introduced at my body was so desperately calling for, the craving for the food source virtually disappeared.
If you find that you intensely crave a very specific food, and only that particular food satisfies your craving, your body may be trying to send you an very important message. Do some research and find out what nutrient (or nutrients) that food may be a rich source of. How do you look, feel, and perform? Do you have any lingering complaints? Do those complaints match the symptoms of that particular nutrient deficiency? Does adding a richer source of that nutrient alleviate your cravings and improve how you look, feel and perform? Of course, use your common sense. If something really isn’t right, its time to talk to your doctor.