Magnesium 101

What Time Should You Take Magnesium?

If you’re taking a magnesium supplement, you might be wondering if it makes a difference when you take it. Morning or evening? With a meal or without? The short answer is that, as long as you remember to take them every day, the best time to take magnesium supplements is any time that’s convenient for you. The long answer? There’s no bad time to take magnesium, but the most effective time depends on your individual health status and the benefits you want to gain. Let’s take a look at this in more detail…

The benefits of taking a magnesium supplement 

Magnesium is an essential mineral that’s needed for over 300 processes in the body, including heart, nerve, and muscle function, mood, sleep, metabolism, and digestion. Taking a magnesium supplement can help to support these functions, especially if they’ve been impacted by a magnesium deficiency. The many benefits people report include better sleep, improved focus, a more balanced mood, better exercise performance, faster exercise recovery, fewer migraines, and relief from chronic pain, to name just a few. The best time to take your supplement, then, sometimes depends on which of these benefits you’re hoping to achieve.

When to take your magnesium supplement?

If you’re just looking to combat a magnesium deficiency or improve your overall well-being, it doesn’t really make a difference whether you take your magnesium supplements in the morning, afternoon, or evening. The same is true for general benefits like heart, nerve, muscle, and brain health.

However, if you’re taking magnesium supplements to help with a specific situation, such as sleep, anxiety, or exercise recovery, it makes sense to time your magnesium intake around this. 

When to take magnesium for sleep and anxiety?

Magnesium has a relaxing effect on the body and mind that is helpful for both sleep and anxiety. If you’re taking it for sleep, then around an hour or two before bedtime would be the ideal time to give it a chance to work its calming magic. If you’re taking it for day-to-day anxiety, though, you might want to take it in the morning so that you experience the benefits throughout the day. If you’re taking magnesium for both sleep and anxiety, you might want to split your daily dose into two — half in the morning and a half before bed.

Learn more about magnesium for sleep

When to take magnesium for exercise?

Magnesium is essential for energy production and healthy muscle function. It’s worth noting that your body needs up to 20% more magnesium during a workout and you’ll also lose a fair amount of magnesium through sweat. So if you’re taking magnesium to support exercise performance and endurance, you might benefit from taking your supplement up to an hour before. 

That said, magnesium is also important for muscle recovery, so if you don’t replace lost magnesium, you could end up with muscle cramps and spasms. Some experts say that a good dose of magnesium beforehand is enough to see you through. However, others say that if you’re really going to work up a sweat with an intense workout, then magnesium is a must afterward, too. If this is the case for you, consider splitting your dose into two, taking half before your workout and half after. 

What if your supplement says to take your dose in one?

Some magnesium supplements will split the daily dose into multiple servings throughout the day, while others will tell you to throw the whole dose back in one. If yours is the latter but you want to split your dose up, there’s absolutely no harm in doing so. In fact, some people think this is better as it’s more in tune with how we’d naturally get magnesium from our diets, i.e. smaller amounts from several meals spread through the day. 

This does make sense; we can only absorb so much magnesium at once and the rest is lost, so “micro-dosing” throughout the day could theoretically give us time to absorb more magnesium and keep our levels nicely topped up. However, in most of the studies we’ve encountered, magnesium supplements have been given in one daily dose and still provided benefits. 

TL;DR: There’s no reason why you shouldn’t split your magnesium dose into multiple servings if that’s what you feel will work best for you!

Other considerations for when to take your magnesium supplements

Whenever and however you decide to take your magnesium supplement, there are a few other things you should consider. 

Magnesium supplements, food, and sensitive stomachs

Generally, you can take your magnesium supplement with or without food — whatever works best for you! However, magnesium supplements can sometimes cause nausea and diarrhea, especially on an empty stomach. 

You can usually avoid this by sticking to the recommended daily dosage and choosing a well-tolerated type of magnesium, such as magnesium glycinate, magnesium malate, or magnesium taurate. If you have sensitive stomach or digestive issues, though, you might want to take your magnesium supplement with food to further protect against these effects. 

It’s also important to note that some types of magnesium, particularly magnesium citrate, are known for promoting bowel movements. In fact, magnesium citrate is actually a common ingredient in laxative medications. If you have digestive problems, again it’s best to choose a well-tolerated type and be conscious of this possible side effect when you’re thinking about when to take your supplement. 

Magnesium supplements and caffeine

If you rely on a strong cup of coffee to get you going in the morning, it’s best to take your magnesium supplement later on in the day. Caffeine can slow down magnesium absorption in the gut and, because it’s a diuretic (i.e. makes you pee), it can also speed up magnesium loss through the urine. For best results, try to leave at least two hours between your last cup of coffee (or any other caffeinated drink) and your magnesium supplement.

Magnesium and other supplements

Magnesium works in synergy with lots of other nutrients in your body, but it’s important that they’re all taken in the correct balance. For example, calcium and magnesium work in perfect partnership to control muscles, nerves, and hormones. However, if you get too much calcium and not enough magnesium, your body will not absorb as much magnesium and you might experience a deficiency. Without that magnesium, calcium will also be deposited in the soft tissues rather than the bones, which can cause serious health problems.

It’s important to stick to the recommended daily amounts for all vitamin and mineral supplements, but if you’re taking a magnesium supplement, pay special attention to these ones: 

  • Calcium 
  • Zinc 
  • Phosphorus 
  • Iron
  • Vitamin D

Zinc and vitamin D complement magnesium very well and can be taken at the same time, provided that you don’t exceed the recommended doses. However, it’s best to leave a few hours between magnesium and calcium, phosphorus, or iron. 

Magnesium and other medications 

Magnesium can interact with some medications, with one affecting how the other behaves in your body. Here are some of the more common interactions: 

  • Magnesium can reduce the absorption of bisphosphonates (for osteoporosis), anticonvulsants (for seizures), thyroid medications, and many antibiotics, making them less effective. 
  • Magnesium can increase the absorption of some diabetes medications, potentially lowering blood sugar by too much. 
  • Some high blood pressure medications work by blocking calcium from entering the cells (called calcium channel blockers). Magnesium can also have this effect, so taking the two together can cause low blood pressure. 
  • Magnesium relaxes the muscles, so taking it at the same time as muscle relaxants can increase the risk of adverse side effects. 
  • Magnesium can slow blood clotting, so taking it with anticoagulant or antiplatelet drugs can increase the risk of bleeding. 
  • Diuretics can increase or decrease the amount of magnesium your body gets rid of when you pee.

This is not a complete list, so if you’re taking medication for any health condition, it’s best to speak to your doctor. They’ll be able to tell you how magnesium will affect your medication, whether you can safely take them both at the same time, and, if not, how long you should leave between the two. 

Consistency is key 

Some people take supplements for a few weeks and then give up if they don’t see any results. However, it’s important to know that the positive effects of magnesium supplements are all associated with long-term daily use, i.e. for at least four weeks. That means that if you only take them every couple of days or stop after a week or two, you won’t benefit as much. Regardless of when you choose to take your magnesium supplements, then, the most important thing is to take them consistently.

It’s also a good idea to take your magnesium supplements at the same time every day. If you struggle to remember, try to connect them with a daily habit you already have. For example, if you want to take your supplements in the morning, leave them next to the kettle so you see them when you make your coffee. If you want to take them at night, leave them next to your bedside lamp so you see them when you’re getting ready for bed. If you want to take them twice a day, leave them next to your toothbrush so you see them morning and night.