Magnesium is out there with vitamin D and omega 3’s as something almost everyone needs to supplement with. Originally, humans were gaining a lot of their daily magnesium intake from water but nowadays because of industrialization and water filtering most of the magnesium is removed. Some people in rural towns might also have “hard water” problems where minerals destroy the plumbing over time so they remove naturally occurring minerals (including magnesium of course) to preserve the plumbing but harm the minerals in their drinking water! Most likely you are under the RDA for magnesium unless you eat a ridiculous amount of magnesium rich foods such as spinach (my favorite) and are drinking spring water. Even then, most soil is depleted of magnesium which makes it even harder to realistically expect you are getting as much magnesium in your food as you might think from watching a nutrition counter such as http://cronometer.com/. The USDA say that over half of the people living in the US are under the RDA for magnesium which is actually too low to start with.
Also, something that has personally affected me and caused me to often get more magnesium deficiency symptoms is drinking alcohol. At some point I was drinking almost every night and would get a common magnesium deficiency symptom which is night cramps. VERY annoying! You basically wake up with a massive cramp in one of your muscles. For me it’s always either my neck or my calves. For other it might be somewhere else. To remedy is I supplement with at least 450mg of magnesium, especially when I drink alcohol which quickly depletes your magnesium reserves, more on supplementing magnesium later.
Finally, if you use calcium supplements, it’s even more important to make sure you also have magnesium intake/supplements. Without adequate magnesium you might actually be endangering yourself by using too much calcium supplements which can end up actually accelerating heart or stroke risk. As a side note, for those taking calcium supplements (a lot of older women get this recommendation from their doctor) make sure to also have adequate vitamin D levels and ideally supplement with vitamin K2. This is necessary for the calcium to properly be used by your body.
Common symptoms of magnesium deficiency:
General symptoms: Loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and weakness
More specific symptoms of magnesium deficiency are: Numbness, tingling, muscle contractions and cramps, seizures.
These symptoms were taken from the office of dietary supplements. I personally have had for a long time in my life feelings of numbness, tingling and especially muscle contractions/cramps. Once I started drinking alcohol more than a night a week I also was starting to get these symptoms almost daily. This is because alcohol depletes your magnesium reserves as I later learned. I also think this is the reason a lot of drinkers can have sleep trouble ( By the way, I made a post here on how to prevent a hangover), since their magnesium reserves are so low and it’s an important mineral for overall body “calmness”.
Finally, as I mention in my article on ways to help you sleep, magnesium can help you sleep better, especially if taken before bed, which I do every night.
What is the Best Magnesium Supplement?
In the case of magnesium, supplement type/quality is very important. The first available type of magnesium supplement was magnesium oxide which is VERY poorly absorbed by the body. Because of this it’s in most multivitamins and is available everywhere. However, its ineffective. It’s simply less bio available for your body to use. Some research shows it can be as low as 10%. So to be on the safe side it’s best to use the best absorbed magnesium forms of which there are many. Magnesium citrate & Malate are good examples. You can find magnesium citrate in most supplement shops nowadays. If you have to use oxide, make sure to take a higher magnesium oxide dosage to compensate for the lower absorption percentage. UPDATE: Magnesium aspartate might be problematic so I no longer recommend it and switched to only using citrate/malate.
I currently take 450mg of magnesium citrate or malate a day since my tap water is very low in it and it’s mostly what I drink. However I eat a lot of spinach on a daily basis, about 200g which contains about 150mg of magnesium. You basically want to aim to reach at least 600mg each day. While some websites might recommend sources such as whole wheat you should of course avoid it due to it’s high carb load and the fact that it contains phytates which basically binds to the mineral content (such as magnesium) it might actually have, making your body unable to use it (aka it’s not very bio available). Of course wheat in general contains a lot of other toxic elements that those on a paleo diet are familiar with…
When to take magnesium supplements
You can take it anytime but it’s best to take it before going to bed. It will improve your quality of sleep by a lot. I personally mix it with potassium supplements nowadays and just leave both near my bed stand.