When Should You Take Magnesium?

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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Magnesium helps the body manage more than 300 biochemical reactions and is important for maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and muscle and nerve function. It’s also essential for the processes that make DNA, protein and bone. Though you can get magnesium naturally by eating nuts, beans, fish, green leafy vegetables, and whole grains, many people have a magnesium deficiency.

It’s rare to notice symptoms of low magnesium levels, but over time this deficiency can increase the risk of osteoporosis, heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. If you’re concerned about your magnesium levels, ask your doctor for a blood test. Boosting your magnesium intake can provide big benefits if your levels are low. (Always talk with your doctor before adding any vitamin or mineral supplement to your diet.)

Benefits of Magnesium

Adding magnesium supplements to your daily routine is an easy way to up your intake. The recommended dosage is 400 to 420 mg for men and 310 to 320 mg for women. Magnesium comes in a variety of forms, so be sure to check the label before purchasing. Magnesium aspartate, magnesium citrate, magnesium lactate, and magnesium chloride are the forms most easily absorbed by the body. If you’re not sure which one to take, ask your doctor or pharmacist for a recommendation. Even a small amount of magnesium can provide noticeable health benefits, such as:

  • Improved sleep: If you don’t sleep well, you might want to try magnesium. Keeping your magnesium levels high and steady can help relax your body and produce a deeper sleep. Magnesium also helps you maintain healthy levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter that affects sleep.
  • Better heart health: Because magnesium helps regulate muscle function, it’s key to maintaining a healthy heart rhythm. It also helps balance blood pressure levels and has been found to reduce mortality rates in people who have a high risk for developing cardiovascular disease.
  • Stronger bones: As you get older, magnesium can help boost bone density and reduce risk of bone loss. This is especially helpful for postmenopausal women who are at greater risk for osteoporosis.
  • Lower stress levels and enhanced mood: If you experience frequent stress and anxiety, your magnesium levels may be low. A daily dose can help regulate your body’s stress-response system and stabilize your mood.

When to Take Magnesium Supplements

Like many supplements, taking them at the right time of day is important. With magnesium, the timing is based on what type of magnesium you’re taking and the desired effect.

In general, magnesium supplements should be taken near mealtime to avoid an upset stomach. However, if you’re using magnesium as a laxative, it should be taken on an empty stomach with a full glass of water one hour before or two hours after a meal. (Magnesium oxide helps keep moisture in the intestines, so it can help with bowel movements.)

If you’re using magnesium to improve sleep, take it 1 to 2 hours before bedtime to relax and feel drowsy.

One last note: Magnesium supplements work best when you take them daily at the same time of day to keep your magnesium levels consistent. Talk with your healthcare provider about whether a magnesium supplement is right for you and how to maximize its effectiveness.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Aug 17
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  1. Magnesium. National Institutes of Health. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-Consumer/
  2. What you should know about magnesium. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/what-you-should-know-about-magnesium2
  3. I've heard that magnesium supplements have health benefits. Should I take one? Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/magnesium-supplements/faq-20466270