By Rachel Welch
If you rely on supplements for balanced nutrition, you likely have an assortment of pills for each day and may even have supplements for the morning versus night. Similarly to the power of exercise in the morning versus later in the day, your body’s reaction to certain supplements can also change depending on when you take them. Some vitamins like B-12, iron, and CoQ10 provide energy to the body and are best suited for early to midday consumption. Others, like melatonin and specific adaptogens, may help aid sleep and work best if taken later in the day. The same guideline holds true for magnesium.
In its many forms and variety of benefits, is magnesium most effective in the morning or at night before bed? Let’s explore!
Magnesium, at its most basic, is a mineral that naturally occurs in the human body. Magnesium is one of the many electrolytes the body relies on for proper hydration, and it also plays a pivotal role in other areas. Magnesium supports bone health, tooth health, nerve function, muscle performance, and metabolism. As with any nutrient, it is possible to have too much magnesium (known as hypermagnesemia) or too little (known as hypomagnesemia), which may lead to health issues. However, magnesium is a water-soluble mineral, meaning that as long as you hydrate properly, your body should flush out any excess amounts.
Magnesium is also a helpful weapon against migraines and may support the relief of symptoms from anxiety, depression, and insomnia. However, with its different forms come different functions, so it’s essential to break down a few of the different types of magnesium. Health By Principle’s consultant scientist, Dr. Angela Stanton, recommends taking magnesium for migraines due to something called electrolyte homeostasis.
Magnesium of All Kinds
Aspartate works in the body to help break down protein and is easily absorbed. Chemically, magnesium aspartate binds with amino acids and has proven helpful against fatigue.
Salt and chlorine make up magnesium chloride. (Please note – this is not your cue to go slurp down a glass of swimming pool water). Magnesium chloride is frequently prescribed to treat issues with magnesium deficiency. Its primary function is to boost overall magnesium levels in the body, and it also may provide relief from heartburn, constipation, and sore muscles.
Magnesium citrate is one of the most popularly prescribed varieties due to its helpful benefits. Citrate binds with citric acid (the same as is found in sour fruits) and is highly bioavailable, which means that it is easily absorbed. Magnesium citrate helps relieve constipation, as it is a natural laxative. Additionally, some research supports its potential to encourage calmness and stress relief.
Magnesium glycinate is a popularly prescribed dietary supplement for its ability to help reduce inflammation, and manage certain diseases, like heart disease and diabetes. Also easily absorbed, magnesium glycinate has been studied as a remedy for symptoms of depression, anxiety, and insomnia, and is often prescribed in tandem with antidepressants.
Commonly used as a food additive by manufacturers, magnesium lactate reduces acidity and also serves as a supplement for the digestive system. This form of magnesium is more digestible than others, so is often recommended for patients with magnesium deficiency, who also are prone to digestive issues.
L-threonate is another easily absorbed form of magnesium that is studied for its impact on cognitive and brain health. With this relationship, researchers currently speculate that it may help with memory loss and mental health issues, but that has not yet been confirmed.
Magnesium malate is touted for its fast absorption rate, after a 2019 study confirmed its absorption speed, and strong bioavailability. This form is often helpful at treating digestive issues, and side effects of chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. It also has less of a laxative effect than other forms, so is an appealing option.
Orotate is known for its heart healthy benefits, as it helps to strengthen cardiovascular tissues. It also is popular among athletes for its benefits to muscle development, and has been studied for its potential to reduce the risk of heart disease.
Magnesium oxide is one of the more difficult to digest and absorb. Therefore, it is often used as a temporary relief for certain ailments like indigestion, acid reflux, or migraines. This is also the form of magnesium that you see in “milk of magnesia,” which is a commonly-used, and fast-acting laxative.
If you have ever used epsom salts, you have used magnesium sulfate. Commonly used in baths to help sore muscles, magnesium sulfate is a great option for muscle aches or simply to de-stress. While research is still out on exactly how effectively it absorbs through the skin, it is a popular remedy.
For benefits to blood sugar and blood pressure, look no further than magnesium taurate. Studies on rodents suggest that magnesium taurate has the ability to drastically reduce blood pressure levels and potentially improve heart health.
Of these multiple magnesium forms, the four most commonly used and prescribed are taurate, citrate, glycinate, and malate.
A few additional benefits from magnesium come in the form of lifestyle additions. For instance, magnesium malate is an excellent support for athletes, due to its ability to boost endurance and help overall athletic performance. Some research also suggests its ability to slow down the loss of physical performance that is commonly associated with aging.
Magnesium glycinate is particularly helpful for the treatment of mental health ailments, but also helps to encourage calmness, which is helpful during meditation, and with the goal of pursuing peace and mindfulness in daily life. To add to the benefits against stress, magnesium can be a powerful agent in the brain. While magnesium deficiency can lead to increased stress, a proper amount of magnesium can act as a neurological barrier to the brain’s typical stress response.
Finally magnesium can be made even more powerful when given proper allies in the form of other vitamins. Vitamin D, in particular, is a strong partner of magnesium, and when combined, can lead to stronger immunity against illnesses, and reduced inflammation.
Is Timing Everything?
To address the question of whether or not time of day impacts magnesium's efficacy, it is important to consider its various forms, and the different roles that they play. This is why, when asked “Should you take magnesium in the morning or at night?” the answer has to be, “It depends.” There are several things to take into consideration when selecting the ideal time for your magnesium supplements.
When evaluating your chosen form of magnesium, and any forms it may come with, it’s important to review the potential benefits and side effects, like the ones we covered above. For instance, magnesium citrate and oxide are known to have potent laxative qualities. Therefore, you may need to plan your consumption of them accordingly, and perhaps avoid taking them right before a long meeting, or even right before bed. One way to combat the laxative side effects, if they are not your intended outcome, is to take your magnesium with food, as compared to on an empty stomach.
Another factor to consider when planning your supplement schedule, is that magnesium can have interactions with other drugs and prescribed medications. Current recommendations involve taking magnesium supplements two hours apart from prescription medications. Of course, it is always advisable to check with your doctor before beginning any new supplement, and to research any possible interactions.
Magnesium for Sleep
If your intent behind taking magnesium is to find support with sleep or calmness, it would make sense that taking it near bedtime. But how far before bedtime, and does it matter? A meta-analysis from 2021 helped to narrow this down a bit, and confirmed that magnesium’s health benefits can vary when the supplement is taken at different times. Their study measured the amount of magnesium that was secreted, or lost after consumption at varying times of day, and found that the time of day that resulted in the smallest amount of magnesium loss, was between 8:00 pm and 2:00am.
This could suggest that magnesium is more likely to stay in the body and be absorbed during sleep, but also could be tied to other factors, like the fact that sleeping people don’t go to the bathroom (and therefore secrete) their vitamins as much as when awake. According to the Sleep Foundation, it is advisable to take magnesium supplements one to two hours before bed. Any closer to bed, and the digestion could impair your sleep quality. However, taking it too long before bedtime could leave you too tired, too soon.
Further support for magnesium as a sleep aid comes from a 2021 study which confirmed magnesium’s benefits to sleep via three randomized trials, where some groups took magnesium, and others received a placebo.They found significant improvements in sleep among those who took magnesium, with those candidates falling asleep nearly 20-minutes faster than the placebo groups. They also found a total sleep time improvement of around 16 minutes for the magnesium groups.
Timing for Different Types: Morning or at Night?
With the multiple factors to consider, and the necessary answer of “the timing depends,” here is a somewhat more succinct breakdown that may be helpful: Keep in mind your intent for each supplement, and what timing makes sense for you as you take this guide into consideration.
Aspartate is best in the morning, for its energy benefits
Chloride is best at night or before bed
Citrate is best in the morning, with food (breakfast or lunchtime)
Glycinate is best at night (one-two hours before bed)
Lactate is best a few hours before bedtime, after a meal (reduces acidity and aids digestion)
L-Threonate is best in the morning (may help cognitive performance and mental energy)
Malate is best midday after a meal, and before bedtime
Orotate is best in the morning, perhaps before a workout
Oxide is best in the morning, timed according to its laxative properties
Sulfate is best at night, as a means of relaxing
Taurate is best at night due to its relaxation benefits
Oxide is best early in the day, with food (breakfast or lunchtime)
Malate is best in the morning (before a workout, for its energy benefits)
Consistency is Key
Overall, research supports that the absolute best time to take any form of magnesium is the same, consistent time of day. So, if you choose to mix up a few night supplements for late in the day, and a few energizing supplements for the morning, the most important thing is to maintain consistency and take them routinely every day, around the same time.
Also, remember to consider the supplements’ bioavailability and integrity to ensure you receive a high-quality, and safe supplement for your health.
Luckily, you don’t need to look any further for a safe, scientifically supported magnesium supplement, because Health by Principle has you covered with a special blend of Magnesium Citrate, Magnesium Taurate, Magnesium Glycinate, and Magnesium Malate. Dr. Stanton believes it is best for migraineurs to take Magnesium before 3 p.m.