Last update: June 11, 2024

Magnesium: The Complete Guide

Explore the crucial role of Magnesium: its muscle and nerve benefits, optimizing intake via diet or supplements, and understanding and navigating potential side effects and medication interactions.

Stephanie Wright

By Stephanie Wright, RN, BSN

Edited by Dr. Dimitar Marinov, MD, MBA, PhD

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Key takeaways

  • Magnesium is essential for muscle and nerve function, helping with fatigue and muscle cramps.
  • There are multiple types of magnesium, each offering different benefits, such as Magnesium Citrate for muscle cramps and Magnesium Glycinate for better sleep and anxiety relief.
  • Include magnesium-rich foods like nuts and leafy greens in your diet for optimal natural intake.
  • If dietary sources aren’t enough, consider magnesium supplements, sticking to recommended dosage levels.

    What is magnesium?

    Magnesium is a vital mineral that supports various physiological functions, including muscle and nerve function, energy production, bone health, heart health, blood pressure regulation, and glucose metabolism [1].

    Your body needs magnesium. It's crucial for health and is involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body [8]. Ensuring adequate magnesium intake through a balanced diet or supplementation is crucial for maintaining optimal health and supporting the body's essential processes.

    Can your body produce magnesium?

    No, your body can’t produce magnesium on its own. You need to get it from food sources or supplements. Magnesium is an essential mineral, so obtaining it through a balanced diet is critical for your health [1].

    There's metal in your body

    Approximately 25 grams of magnesium are found in an adult human body, where 50% to 60% is located within the bones and teeth, and the majority of the remainder resides in soft tissues [8],[9].

    How does magnesium work in your body?

    What are some benefits of magnesium?

    Magnesium is essential for maintaining good health. Here are a few benefits of maintaining sufficient magnesium in your diet.

    1. Supports muscle function

      Magnesium is essential for muscle contraction and relaxation, making it vital for physical performance and supporting the prevention of muscle cramps. Adequate magnesium levels may support your exercise performance and recovery [3].

    2. Boosts nervous system health

      Magnesium is involved in nerve signal transmission, promoting a healthy nervous system. It helps regulate neurotransmitters, contributing to stress reduction and supporting your mental well-being [4].

    3. Contributes to bone health

      Magnesium is a key component in bone mineralization and influences bone density. It works in synergy with calcium and vitamin D to support skeletal structure and the reduction of the risk of osteoporosis [5].

    4. Enhances heart health

      Magnesium is implicated in cardiovascular function, contributing to a regular heartbeat and maintaining blood pressure within the normal range [6].

    5. Supports energy metabolism

      As a cofactor in ATP synthesis, magnesium may play a role in energy metabolism. It helps convert food into energy, supporting various biochemical processes essential for vitality and stamina [7].

    6. Promotes better sleep

      Magnesium's role in muscle and nerve function extends to promoting relaxation, potentially supporting sleep quality. Adequate magnesium levels may contribute to better sleep patterns and overall sleep health [8].

    What are some signs of magnesium deficiency?

    A deficiency in magnesium can lead to a variety of symptoms, some of which can be quite severe. Here are some signs of magnesium deficiency [8]:

    • Loss of Appetite: A reduced desire to eat, which can lead to inadequate nutrient intake.
    • Nausea and Vomiting: Persistent feelings of queasiness and the act of throwing up, which can result in further nutrient loss.
    • Fatigue and Weakness: Overwhelming tiredness and diminished strength that can affect daily activities.
    • Numbness and Tingling: Abnormal sensations, such as a "pins and needles" feeling, which can signal neurological issues.
    • Muscle Contractions and Cramps: Involuntary muscle movements and painful contractions due to magnesium's role in muscle function.
    • Abnormal Heart Rhythms: Irregular heartbeat patterns that can be associated with severe magnesium deficiency.
    • Seizures: Neurological disruptions that can occur in the context of severe magnesium loss.

    Never self-diagnose

    If you feel you may have a deficiency or are concerned or curious about taking this supplement, talk to a doctor or healthcare professional. They can accurately diagnose and recommend the appropriate treatment plan for your specific needs.

    Sources of magnesium

    Magnesium can be obtained from various sources, primarily from foods but also from supplements when dietary intake is insufficient.

    Magnesium-rich foods

    Below is a categorization of various foods based on their magnesium content, helping you to identify sources that can boost your dietary magnesium intake.

    Is food intake always the best?

    Obtaining magnesium from food is generally recommended. However, in cases of significant deficiency, dietary restrictions, or certain health conditions, supplements may be necessary.

    Magnesium supplement formulations

    Magnesium supplements come in various forms, each with unique characteristics and potential benefits.

    1. Magnesium Citrate: Magnesium citrate is commonly available in pill or powder form, known for its high bioavailability.
    2. Magnesium Glycinate: Found in capsule or powder form, magnesium glycinate contains magnesium bound to glycine, offering enhanced absorption and reduced laxative effects. It's a suitable option for those seeking a well-absorbed, gentle supplement.
    3. Magnesium Oxide: Available in tablet or capsule form, magnesium oxide contains a higher percentage of elemental magnesium but has lower bioavailability, making it effective for constipation relief.
    4. Magnesium L-Threonate: Found in capsule form, magnesium L-threonate contains magnesium chelated with threonic acid, potentially crossing the blood-brain barrier more effectively. It's associated with cognitive benefits and neurological support.
    5. Magnesium Chloride: Comes in liquid, tablet, or powder form, magnesium chloride contains magnesium and chloride ions, offering poor absorption. It may be preferred for topical application.
    6. Magnesium Sulfate (Epsom Salt): Primarily used in baths or as a soak, magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt) is for external use and transdermal absorption. It's often chosen for relaxation and muscle soreness, not typically consumed orally.

    Delivery methods

    Magnesium supplements come in various delivery methods, each offering its own set of benefits and ways of consumption. Here's a brief overview of the different delivery methods:

    Choose a method that fits your routine

    Do not overlook the delivery method. Magnesium supplements come in tablets, capsules, soft gel, chewable, powders, and liquid forms—choose the one that best fits your daily routine to stay consistent.

    What to look for in magnesium supplements

    When selecting a supplement, several key factors must be considered to ensure you choose a high-quality product that effectively supports your health goals and overall well-being.

    • Dosage and potency

      The dosage of magnesium in supplements varies, so it's important to choose one that aligns with your specific needs. This includes considering your age, gender, and health status, like pregnancy or existing deficiencies. The magnesium formulation can impact its potency and bioavailability, which affects how effectively your body can absorb and use it.

    • Quantity and delivery method

      The delivery method is crucial. Magnesium supplements come in various forms, including tablets, capsules, powders, chewables, and liquid forms. Your choice may depend on factors like ease of swallowing, convenience for traveling, or personal preference regarding taste and texture. Also, evaluate the quantity of magnesium to determine how long it will last based on your daily requirements.

    • Quality and manufacturing

      Quality is paramount when selecting magnesium supplements. Look for products manufactured under strict quality control guidelines and those that have undergone third-party testing for purity and label accuracy. Certifications from recognized bodies can be a reliable indicator of a high-quality product. Additionally, consider the manufacturer's reputation and transparency in their production processes.


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    How and when should you take magnesium for maximum absorption?

    To get the most out of your magnesium supplement, it's crucial to consider the timing and method of consumption. The following dos and don'ts offer guidance on optimizing absorption, efficiently supporting your health and wellness, and minimizing potential discomfort.


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      Take with meals for better absorption.

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      Pair with vitamin D for potential synergy.

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      Stay hydrated, and use water for intake.

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      Speak with a doctor before taking any supplements.


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      Avoid taking simultaneously with medications as it may interfere with their absorption.

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      Don't mix with high-fiber foods.

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      Don’t take it on an empty stomach.

    Who should take magnesium?

    Taking magnesium supplements has its potential benefits, but it may not be for everyone.

    Recommended dosage

    Magnesium plays an important role in many physiological processes, and getting the right dosage is essential for maintaining optimal health at different life stages. Here are the recommended dosages for magnesium across various age groups.

    Side effects of excessive magnesium consumption

    While magnesium supplements are generally safe when taken within recommended limits, excessive intake can have adverse effects:

    • Gastrointestinal issues: High doses of magnesium supplements may cause diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal cramping.
    • Toxicity risk: Very large doses, particularly from supplements, can lead to magnesium toxicity, with symptoms ranging from hypotension to cardiac arrest.

    Always consult your doctor

    If you're experiencing side effects, consult your healthcare provider. They may recommend a different magnesium formulation or adjust your dosage. Balancing your magnesium needs with any discomfort is crucial and should not be overlooked.

    Health made easy: your go-to resource for essential vitamins and supplements

    Frequently asked questions about magnesium (FAQ)

    Our library of expert-authored articles covers just about every question you might have about vitamins, minerals, and supplements — along with some you might not have known you had.

    Final thoughts

    Magnesium plays an important role in many body functions, affecting bone health, cardiovascular function, and more. Understanding absorption optimization, adhering to recommended dosages by age, and recognizing signs of deficiency or excess are key. Prioritizing magnesium in your health regimen contributes to overall well-being.

    Sources and references

    1. Magnesium - StatPearls - NCBI Bookshelf
    2. Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Muscle Soreness and Performance
    3. The Role of Magnesium in Neurological Disorders - PMC
    4. Impact of magnesium on bone health in older adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis - ScienceDirect
    5. Magnesium for the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease - PMC
    6. Vitamins and Minerals for Energy, Fatigue and Cognition: A Narrative Review of the Biochemical and Clinical Evidence - PMC
    7. The Role of Magnesium in Sleep Health: a Systematic Review of Available Literature | Biological Trace Element Research
    8. Magnesium - Health Professional Fact Sheet
    9. Evaluation of calcium and magnesium contents in tooth enamel without any pathological changes: in vitro preliminary study - PMC.


    Stephanie Wright avatar

    Stephanie brings over 13 years of diverse nursing experience to the table, having honed her expertise in critical care, mental health, and utilization management. Her journey as a registered nurse across these various healthcare sectors underscores her adaptability and deep commitment to patient care.

    Fact checker

    Dr. Dimitar Marinov avatar

    Dr. Marinov has years of experience in scientific research and preventive and clinical medicine. His publications in peer-reviewed journals are on nutritional status, physical activity, and musculoskeletal disorders among adolescents.

    At VitaRx, we're not just passionate about our work — we take immense pride in it. Our dedicated team of writers diligently follows strict editorial standards, ensuring that every piece of content we publish is accurate, current, and highly valuable. We don't just strive for quality; we aim for excellence.

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