Magnesium is a key mineral that plays a key role in regulating everything from sleep quality and anxiety levels to heart health and testosterone levels.
Despite its importance, many people do not get enough magnesium naturally in their diet.
If the quality of your diet isn’t quite what it should be, you might be deficient in magnesium, especially if you are over 50.
Boosting your magnesium intake, whether with nutrient-dense foods rich in magnesium or with a supplement, is a great strategy if you want to improve both your physical and mental wellness.
Want a run-down on the biggest benefits of magnesium? Our research team has dug into the nutritional research to highlight the most important ways magnesium contributes to health and wellbeing. Read on for more.
1. Magnesium helps you produce energy, keep up testosterone production, and sleep well
When your body does not get enough magnesium, you might have muscle cramps or weakness, fatigue, insomnia, and general malaise. These symptoms of magnesium deficiency are very diffuse and generic, in part because magnesium contributes to so many different biological functions.
2. Insufficient magnesium intake is very common
Almost half the population does not get enough magnesium (1). That’s no surprise, given that the foods that are high in magnesium are not in high supply in the typical person’s diet: whole grains, leafy greens, legumes, and almonds are not big parts of the typical Western diet.
3. Older men are particularly vulnerable to magnesium deficiency
As you get older, your ability to absorb nutrients from your diet decreases, and alongside this decrease there is a concomitant increase in magnesium deficiency with age.
In men, testosterone declines with age too, and scientific research suggests that one reason might be decreased blood magnesium levels (2).
4. Taking magnesium can elevate testosterone in athletes
Research on martial artists found that a magnesium supplement can boost testosterone levels after your workouts, making it a valuable addition to your post-workout stack (3). This research adds further evidence to magnesium’s role in androgen production.
5. Magnesium may help improve sleep quality
A high-dose magnesium supplement (500 mg) taken before bed can improve feelings of insomnia and help you fall asleep quicker, according to one study (4).
6. Magnesium might help treat restless leg syndrome
A study by German researchers showed magnesium taken before bed can cut restless leg syndrome by over 50% (5).
7. Magnesium can calm feelings of anxiety
A recent review study cites the potential of magnesium supplementation to reduce feelings of anxiety and nervousness among people who are prone to anxiety disorders (6).
Magnesium side effects
Magnesium is safe at low to moderate dosages. As a water-soluble nutrient that’s ubiquitous in many kinds of foods, the human body is well-equipped to tolerate a range of magnesium intakes.
Some stomach discomfort can occur if you take a lot of magnesium on an empty stomach. You can avoid cramping and nausea by taking magnesium with food (7,8), and the Mayo Clinic cautions that only people with healthy kidney function should take a magnesium supplement (9).
Insoluble forms of magnesium oxide can upset your stomach. Cheaper magnesium supplements that rely on magnesium oxide can neutralize stomach acid and cause an upset stomach.
Fortunately, high-quality supplements only use soluble forms of magnesium so you won’t have to worry about this side effect if you choose a good product.
If you have kidney problems, you should not supplement with magnesium. People with kidney problems can’t eliminate magnesium from their system as easily, so they should talk with a doctor before taking a magnesium supplement.
Scientific studies suggest you should aim for 300 to 500 mg of magnesium per day. Most of the studies cited above use daily magnesium dosages within this range.
Magnesium works best split up into smaller doses taken a few hours apart. One study reports that magnesium’s bioavailability is quickly saturated, so taking 100 to 200 mg at a time will maximize absorption throughout the day (10).
Magnesium benefits FAQ
Q: How does magnesium help sleep?
A: Low magnesium levels are associated with poor sleep quality and the development of sleep disturbances including restless leg syndrome.
The reason might be chronic inflammation, according to one study (11). People with low magnesium intake have high levels of biomarkers for chronic inflammation, including C-reactive protein.
Magnesium also interacts with neurotransmitters like GABA which also contributes to its role in promoting restful sleep (12).
Q: Can you overdose on magnesium?
A: Yes, it is possible to overdose on magnesium, but only with extremely high dosages. According to the Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health, supplemental intake of magnesium is safe at levels of at least 350 mg of magnesium per day (13).
Cases of magnesium overdose have been reported after acute ingestion of around 5000 mg, which is so much magnesium that it overwhelms your body’s ability to eliminate excess magnesium.
Q: What causes low magnesium?
A: The root cause for most cases of magnesium deficiency is insufficient dietary intake.
A low quality diet that is lacking in nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables is likely to cause magnesium deficiency.
Certain health conditions, like obesity, may also cause low levels of magnesium through chronic inflammation.
Q: Can magnesium supplements help with migraines?
A: Some experimental evidence suggests a connection between decreases in magnesium levels and migraines (14).
Related: Our best magnesium picks
Magnesium’s role in such a broad range of functions in your body mean that it contributes to everything from testosterone levels, sleep quality, and anxiety levels.
Because of the limits on your body’s ability to absorb magnesium, it is best to take smaller doses of magnesium throughout the day, as opposed to a single larger dose once per day.
If your diet doesn’t include much in the way of magnesium-rich foods, or if you are older and are worried that your magnesium levels might be dropping, you might consider taking a magnesium supplement.