What Type Of Magnesium To Take When?
Magnesium is great. Many people know that supplementing with Mg might be beneficial. However, the question is not just ‘what supplement is of high quality’? But also ‘what type of Mg is right for me?’. With this blog hope you will find the answer to this question.
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in your body.
It’s involved in over 300 metabolic reactions that are essential for human health, including energy production, blood pressure regulation, nerve signal transmission, and muscle contraction (1). Low levels are linked to a variety of illnesses, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, mood disorders, and migraines (2).
Although this mineral is present in many whole foods like green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds, up to two-thirds of people in the Western world don’t meet their magnesium needs with diet alone (3).
To boost intake, many people turn to supplements. However, as multiple varieties of supplemental magnesium exist, it can be difficult to know which one is most appropriate for your needs.
Each form of magnesium has its purpose—some share similar functions, others have totally unique ones. The action of a particular form of magnesium largely depends on the molecule it’s bound to (I’ll explain this more below).
This guide is meant to clear up the confusion and help you: a) understand the importance of magnesium and b) help you decide which magnesium supplement is best for you and your needs. I’m not going to get into every form (there are a LOT), but I will touch on eight of the main ones.
What Magnesium Does In The Body
Magnesium is the electrolyte gatekeeper of our cells—it lets potassium and calcium in to conduct electrical currents that are responsible for our heartbeat, the contraction and relaxation of muscles, nerve firing, neuroplasticity, ATP production, DNA repair, and so much more.
We also need magnesium for vitamin D to be converted to its active form, which serves so many critical functions in the body.
Without magnesium, vitamin D can’t do its job, and low vitamin D levels increase our risk for infection, broken bones, hormonal imbalances, and chronic disease.
Why Are We So Deficient In Magnesium?
The US Food and Nutrition Board recommends 420 mg of magnesium daily for men and 320 mg for women over 30 years old (4). Most people aren’t coming anywhere near these guidelines. Getting enough magnesium from food is tough!
What’s more, the RDA for magnesium hasn’t been updated in over 20 years. Current guidelines don’t account for all the new research that’s out there on everything it’s involved in.
Plus, stress, exercise, coffee, and a diet high in sugar and refined carbs deplete magnesium even further (5).
Anxiety, Headaches, Insomnia, High Blood Pressure, Constipation… or Magnesium Deficiency?
Life throws a lot at us (especially these days), and if we aren’t dealing with our stress, it can wind up causing a whirlwind of negative effects like inflammation and hormone and blood sugar imbalances. One of the more underestimated effects of chronic stress is how it depletes magnesium.
Magnesium helps modulate the stress response by calming the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, increasing GABA (the neurotransmitter that promotes calmness) (6), and inhibiting glutamate (the main excitatory neurotransmitter). In a low magnesium state, GABA and glutamate are out of balance, which shows up as anxiety, panic, depression, fatigue, migraines, and more...
Because magnesium has a calming effect on the body, stressful situations can feel more intense when we don’t have enough.
When we’re stressed, we deplete magnesium, and when we’re magnesium depleted, we get more stressed
— a vicious cycle that makes these symptoms a whole lot worse.
Magnesium is involved in muscle contraction and relaxation, moving glucose into muscles, and getting rid of lactate. Long bouts of exercise deplete magnesium and other essential electrolytes, causing lactate build-up, dehydration, and muscle cramps. Because it’s needed to produce ATP, magnesium gets used up during an intense workout. That, combined with lactate build-up and dehydration, can make your muscles feel fatigued.
What’s more, magnesium deficiency can also contribute to painful PMS symptoms like cramping in women who menstruate.
The Different Types
- Magnesium glycinate: a form of magnesium bound to the amino acid glycine that has a high bioavailability without a laxative effect. It has a calming effect that’s great for anxiety and sleep. For this reason, it’s best to take it at night.
- Magnesium L-threonate: a form of magnesium bound to the amino acid threonine that helps treat anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Magnesium threonate crosses the blood-brain barrier and has been shown to improve cognition, memory, and enhance neuroplasticity (8).
- Magnesium citrate: a form of magnesium bound to citric acid that’s used for constipation relief. Taking high doses of magnesium citrate often isn’t great because it can cause depletion of other essential minerals.
- Magnesium oxide: a form of magnesium bound to oxygen that’s used for heartburn, constipation, and indigestion. Magnesium oxide can also be beneficial for preventing migraines, especially those who experience “aura” or sensitivities to sound and light.
- Magnesium malate: a form of magnesium that’s bound to malic acid that enhances energy production, supports athletic performance, reduces muscle fatigue, and promotes calmness without getting sleepy. This is a great form for athletes and other super active people to take during the day for energy production; it also helps with anxiety.
- Magnesium taurate: a form of magnesium bound to taurine, an amino acid that’s helpful for energy production, muscle recovery, and stabilizing blood sugar. It’s also been shown to regulate blood pressure in animal studies.
- Magnesium orotate: a form of magnesium that’s bound to orotic acid that promotes heart health, calmness, and repairs tissue damage. The evidence for magnesium orotate points toward it being useful in the prevention and treatment of heart disease.
- Magnesium sulfate and magnesium chloride: these forms are absorbed through the skin. Epsom salts are the primary form of magnesium sulfate. They are mainly used for soaking, soothing sore muscles, and to promote a state of calmness and relaxation. Magnesium chloride is also used for soaking and comes in a flake form, but it can be taken as a supplement as well. Be careful and start with a low dosage because this one can also have a laxative effect!
Now that you know a few of the different forms of magnesium and their functions, I have to mention one other critical part about magnesium, especially in the case of severe anxiety and stress. In addition to being used to modulate neurotransmitters that affect depression and anxiety, Vitamin B6 increases magnesium uptake by cells. That means if you are not consuming a lot of Vitamin B6 through your diet, you may want to supplement that as well (9).
Because magnesium is involved in so many biological processes in the body, we need to make sure we’re getting enough of it. Diet is a great way to get your magnesium levels up. However, it can be a challenge for a lot of people to meet the RDA from food alone. If we aren’t eating enough magnesium-rich foods and are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, it might be a good idea to consider taking a magnesium supplement to bring up your levels. A magnesium blend could be the way to go for you or consider your specific needs and supplement accordingly.
In any case check out THESE 10 foods high in magnesium that could also help you bring your levels up ;).
If you have any questions about Magnesium or how/when/if to supplement with it, don't hesitate to contact us!