Magnesium is an important nutrient that supports a variety of processes in the body. From regulating muscle and nerve function to maintaining blood sugar levels and blood pressure, the human body couldn't perform as efficiently as it does without this essential mineral.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the recommended daily allowance (RDA) is 310-420 mg of magnesium for adults, depending on age and gender. While most of us meet our daily magnesium needs by following a proper diet, there are times when magnesium supplements can help us reach our daily allowance.
If you find yourself supplementing with magnesium, you may be wondering when you should take it. Most of us assume we should take our vitamins and supplements in the morning, just like we did as kids so long ago, but the best time to take magnesium may surprise you. Below, we'll take a closer look at this key mineral to find out exactly what magnesium is, what it does on behalf of our body, and when we should take it to cash in on the benefits of magnesium.
What Is Magnesium, and Why Is It Important?
Most of us remember magnesium from high school science class as the chemical element on the periodic table nestled between sodium and aluminum. But unbeknownst to many, magnesium also plays an important role within our body.
As we briefly mentioned, it regulates nerve function and helps maintain normal blood pressure, but it also does so much more than we give it credit for. All told, magnesium plays a role in over 300 enzymatic reactions throughout our body, ensuring everything works and performs as it should. Let's take a look at a few of the key ways it influences our body.
Though we often associate strong bones with calcium intake, magnesium also contributes to the health and well-being of our skeletal system. That's because the average adult body contains approximately 25 grams of magnesium, 50-60% of which is stored within our bones. Research shows adequate magnesium intake contributes to better bone density by improving bone crystal formation, and lowers the risk of osteoporosis among women experiencing menopause.
The body needs a constant supply of magnesium to maintain healthy muscles, and that includes the most important muscle of them all, the heart. In fact, a 2018 study found that magnesium deficiency can increase a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease, while those that receive magnesium after a heart attack have a lower risk of mortality. For this reason, it's important to ensure we're receiving enough magnesium to help our muscles operate smoothly.
Research links diets high in magnesium with a lower risk of Type 2 diabetes. Some believe this is because magnesium plays a pivotal role in glucose control and insulin metabolism. Low levels of magnesium, on the other hand, may worsen insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes if left untreated.
A growing body of research suggests magnesium plays a role in mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression. One systematic review from 2017 found that low levels of magnesium can lead to higher levels of anxiety, which is due in part to magnesium's relationship with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, a part of the brain that controls our reaction to stress.
Headaches and Migraines
Magnesium has the capacity to prevent or relieve headaches simply because magnesium deficiency impacts neurotransmitters and restricts blood vessel constriction. Those who experience migraines may have lower levels of magnesium in the blood and body tissues, including the brain. Doctors have begun recommending higher doses of magnesium to prevent migraines, but consider talking with your healthcare provider before consuming magnesium in elevated quantities.
Higher levels of magnesium in the body promote relaxation and, as a result, better sleep. Many choose to use magnesium as a sleep aid over other natural options like melatonin because it also helps maintain healthy levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter in the brain that affects sleep. Consider using magnesium supplementation at night to improve sleep quality.
The Different Types of Magnesium
Even though we often think of magnesium as a singular mineral, it actually comes in different forms, or types, based on how it's consumed. Let's examine the most well-known types of magnesium to understand how they work and why they're beneficial.
Magnesium citrate is a form of magnesium that's bound with the citric acid found in certain fruits. Some research suggests magnesium citrate is the most bioavailable form of magnesium, meaning it's more easily absorbed by your digestive system. When taken in higher doses, magnesium citrate acts as a natural laxative to discourage constipation.
Magnesium oxide is a salt that combines magnesium and oxide. It's found in a powdery white form that can be sold as a powder or in capsules. Unlike magnesium citrate, this form of magnesium isn't easily digested by the body, so most take it to provide short-term relief for digestive issues, heartburn, and indigestion.
Another magnesium salt, magnesium chloride is easily absorbed by the digestive system and, therefore, comes in handy as a multi-purpose supplement. It's used primarily to treat low levels of magnesium, heartburn, and constipation, but some skin creams and lotions harness it to treat sore muscles. More evidence is needed to determine if it has any benefits in topical form.
Magnesium glycinate is derived from elemental magnesium and the amino acid glycine. The body uses this newly created amino acid to make proteins. It’s found in protein- and magnesium-rich foods such as fish, dairy, legumes (like cashews), and leafy vegetables.
When Is the Best Time to Take Magnesium?
Regardless of why you choose to take magnesium, the benefits occur as a result of long-term use. For instance, a 2015 study found that taking a dietary supplement that contained magnesium had the ability to decrease migraine frequency over the course of the three-month program. A separate study found that supplementing with magnesium improved symptoms of depression, with noticeable benefits occurring after just two weeks.
You may read all this and still find yourself wondering when exactly you should take magnesium. But in the end, time of day is unrelated to the health benefits, so long as you take it consistently over an extended period of time. For some, it's easier to take supplements as part of a morning routine, while others prefer doing so before bed. The most important thing we can do is create a schedule and follow it to ensure we're getting the most out of magnesium's various benefits. However, if you plan on using magnesium as a sleep aid, consider taking it 30 minutes before for the best results.
There are some side effects you may experience while taking magnesium that may dictate when you prefer to integrate it into your day. Although the body tolerates magnesium rather well, some individuals report digestive issues such as diarrhea or nausea when taking it on an empty stomach, so consider fitting magnesium into your life around a meal or snack. Additionally, magnesium can interfere with the absorption of other medications, so it's best to seek medical advice before taking magnesium if you already take other medications.
Magnesium and You
As we've learned, magnesium is an essential mineral that helps your body function day and night. From strengthening the nervous system to combating heart disease, this simple nutrient offers far more benefits than you could ever imagine. It comes in various forms through the foods you eat, but it's also found in different types of supplements.
Though no ideal time exists for taking magnesium, the key is to find a time that works for you in your daily life. Sometimes that means taking it with a meal to reduce unwanted digestive problems, while other times it means doing so before bed to promote restful sleep.
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