When you think of magnesium supplements, you might only think about muscle cramps. But magnesium is an essential mineral that helps our body complete hundreds of processes. For some people, magnesium supplementation is a game-changer.
Since magnesium plays so many roles in the body, it can be challenging to know the best time to take magnesium supplements. Let’s explore the answer to this critical question.
The Best Time To Take Magnesium: Just the Facts
Magnesium is an abundant mineral in the body, and it has many functions. As Americans eat more processed foods, their consumption of magnesium-rich vegetables has decreased, prompting the need to obtain adequate amounts of this mineral through supplementation.
Magnesium is beneficial for a variety of conditions, including insomnia, high blood pressure, blood sugar regulation, migraine headaches, and more. When you use magnesium to reduce high blood pressure or to help with other chronic diseases, take it in the morning and possibly again later in the day. If you are using magnesium for insomnia, taking magnesium closer to bedtime is more effective.
Overview of Magnesium
Magnesium is a mineral found everywhere throughout the environment and living things. This mineral plays a part in over 300 different chemical reactions in the body, which are necessary to convert food into energy, control muscle relaxation, create neurotransmitters in the brain, and more.
What Does Magnesium Do in the Body?
Magnesium is involved in many chemical reactions, so it should come as no surprise that significant medical conditions can arise when there is an inadequate intake of magnesium in the diet and insufficient magnesium stores in the body. The chemistry can be complex, and without a background in chemistry, it’s difficult to make sense out of the importance of this microscopic substance. The importance of magnesium becomes easier to understand when you look at which conditions can be improved when you take magnesium supplements.
The following conditions have research to support the benefits of magnesium supplementation:
- Blood pressure
How Much Magnesium Do I Need?
You may be asking yourself, how much is enough daily magnesium? The answer to this question depends on several factors.
To understand how much magnesium you need to be healthy, nutritional researchers perform clinical studies. They look at the amount of magnesium required to avoid outward signs of deficiency.
From here, they come up with the Recommended Daily Allowance, or RDA for magnesium, which identifies the amount for adult men, adult women, and different age groups. This amount is 320 milligrams per day for adult women, and 420 milligrams per day for adult males. Keep in mind that the RDA is based on the amount needed to avoid deficiency signs, so it may not be the ”optimal” amount of magnesium.
Factors that affect the amount of magnesium you need include:
- Sex: Males often require more daily magnesium because, on average, they have more muscle and bone mass than females.
- Bone mass/bone growth: More than 50% of your total magnesium is stored in your bones. The growth of bones in children or the break down of bones, such as in osteoporosis, changes the amount of magnesium that needs to be consumed.
- Medical diseases: Kidney diseases, diabetes, hyperparathyroidism, and other diseases can cause magnesium to become either deficient or too high in the blood.
- Nutrient interactions: Specific nutrients can interact with both magnesium absorption and utilization in the body. Some nutrients that can affect magnesium include zinc, protein, fiber, vitamin D, and calcium.
Taking Magnesium for Sleep Issues
Sleep is something that many people take for granted, until they don’t get it. A lack of sleep is linked to many health concerns, including diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and more. With so many significant medical conditions related to insomnia, it’s essential to take sleep seriously.
How magnesium causes sleep is not entirely understood, but there is evidence that magnesium reduces N-Methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA) and increases gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. NMDA is a chemical in the brain (neurotransmitter) that excites neurons and causes alertness. Conversely, GABA is a neurotransmitter that decreases the excitability and alertness of the brain.
A specific type of magnesium that is effective in the brain is magnesium l-threonate. You should choose this type of magnesium for sleep-related concerns. This type of magnesium should be taken half an hour to an hour before you plan on going to bed, to allow enough time for it to travel from your intestines to your brain when you take it in pill form.
What Are the Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency?
Since magnesium plays so many roles in the body, a magnesium deficiency can cause a variety of symptoms.
Common signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency include:
- High blood pressure
- Muscle fasciculations (twitchy muscles)
Which Foods Are High in Magnesium?
Many foods contain magnesium, but an easy way to eat high magnesium foods is through lots of leafy green vegetables or nuts and seeds. Both contain high amounts of magnesium.
Here are some examples of high magnesium foods:
- Pumpkin/squash seeds
- Brazil nuts
Why Is It Hard for Some People To Get Enough Magnesium from Food Alone?
Magnesium deficiency is common because many people do not consume enough magnesium in their diets. Magnesium supplements have become popular on the shelves of health stores and online.
The standard American diet (SAD) consists of highly processed foods deficient in vegetables in general, and magnesium specifically. This is one reason why the average American does not obtain enough magnesium in their diet, and is forced to turn to magnesium supplementation.
Research is finding that supplementation with magnesium is helpful for some common medical concerns. Since this mineral is the second most abundant in the human body, it is not surprising that inadequate intake can cause adverse symptoms.
Magnesium levels in the body are commonly tested through your blood. Some doctors use specialized tests like the SpectraCell micronutrient test to obtain a more accurate reading of your vitamins and minerals. People frequently decide to skip laboratory testing and start supplementation based on their symptoms.
When Is the Best Time To Take Magnesium?
The best time to take magnesium depends on the condition for which you are taking it. Let’s explore some common conditions people take magnesium for and the best time to take it for each.
If you are looking to decrease anxiety or stress levels, it is best to take magnesium before the time you might experience these symptoms.
If you are struggling with insomnia, it is best to take magnesium before bedtime, as it helps to calm the brain and body and promote restful sleep.
For people with restless legs at night, again, taking magnesium before bed is your best bet. If you also experience muscle cramps during the day, you may want to divide your doses and take it midday as well.
Magnesium can also help pull water into the bowels and promote healthy bowel movements. Our bowels are most active in the morning, so it is best to take magnesium before bed to allow the body to pull water into the large intestine through the night for easy bowel movements in the morning.
People who take magnesium for cardiovascular health benefit from taking it throughout the day. Keep in mind that our digestive tract can only absorb so much at a time, so dividing the doses and spreading them throughout the day will help deliver a continuous supply.
What Type of Magnesium Is the Best?
If you search through store shelves or online, you will see a variety of magnesium supplements. There are various forms of magnesium, and they are not all created equal.
In most cases, the difference between functions of magnesium arises from the kinds of molecules that are attached to it.
For example, if you want to decrease anxiety, the magnesium you use would have to cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB), which is the protective barrier that separates your brain from the rest of your body. Lipophilic (fat-loving) substances can cross this barrier much more easily than hydrophilic (water-loving) substances. Ingesting a molecule that is hydrophilic has minimal to no effect on your anxiety.
Common types of magnesium that can be purchased include:
- Magnesium citrate
- Magnesium orotate
- Magnesium oxide
- Magnesium sulfate
- Magnesium glycinate
- Magnesium L-threonate
Magnesium L-threonate is a form of magnesium that easily crosses the blood-brain barrier. If you want to use magnesium to address symptoms of anxiety, depression, stress, or other mind-based issues, this type of magnesium will give you the best results.
Magnesium sulfate, which is what composes Epsom salts, is excellent for soothing sore muscles in a hot bath.
Magnesium citrate has a high bioavailability, meaning that when you take it, large amounts can be found in the bloodstream and become available for cells to use. This type of magnesium is also reasonably priced, so it’s a good option if you are looking for the non-brain benefits of magnesium.
Magnesium hydroxide is the type of magnesium that is found in some laxatives, such as Milk of Magnesia.
Magnesium oxide is excellent at drawing water molecules to itself, and does not have a high absorption rate in the body. Also, it is known to cause digestive upset in some people.
Magnesium glycinate is a highly bioavailable form of magnesium. Some believe that this form of magnesium is the gentlest on the body for absorption, which is one reason why magnesium glycinate is frequently prescribed to patients after undergoing bariatric surgery.