|February 26, 2020

How to Choose the Best Magnesium Supplement for Your Body

By Courtney Sperlazza, MPH
Reviewed by Emily Gonzalez, ND for Scientific Accuracy

How to Choose the Best Magnesium Supplement for Your Body

  • Magnesium supplements come in different forms. Each plays a different role in your body, from mood to metabolism.
  • Read on to learn the effects of magnesium, which magnesium supplement to take and how to add it to your supplement routine.
  • Bulletproof Zen Mode is made with magnesium, plus a blend of adaptogenic herbs and nutrients to help you reach new levels of calm.

Magnesium is one of the most fascinating micronutrients out there. It affects everything from energy to brain function—but most of us are magnesium deficient.[1] That’s where a magnesium supplement comes in.

Not all magnesium supplements are created equal. Some forms are better for energy, while others are better for mood. Read on to find out why magnesium is so important and how to choose the right one.

What are the benefits of magnesium supplements?

Person holding pills and glass of water

Your body stores roughly half your magnesium in your bones. Some of it is in your soft tissues, and minimal levels are in your blood. Traces of magnesium play a critical role in a wide range of bodily functions:

  • Synthesizing proteins
  • Supporting your DNA
  • Nerve function and muscle contraction
  • Regulating blood sugar and insulin sensitivity
  • Energy production
  • Managing blood pressure
  • Controlling neurons
  • Assisting in the activation of vitamin D

You can get magnesium from food. You’ll find it in magnesium-rich foods like cashews, whole grains, leafy vegetables, avocado and dark chocolate (yes, chocolate!).

However, most Americans have low magnesium levels, so magnesium supplementation is an easy and inexpensive way to get more magnesium in your diet.

When you find yourself in the supplement aisle, you’ll be faced with dozens of different magnesium supplements. Not only are there different brands and doses, but different kinds of magnesium do different things.

So, how do you choose the best magnesium supplement?

Magnesium supplements: How do you choose one?

Magnesium pills in bowl

If you’ve decided to take a magnesium supplement, you have a little homework to do. Not all magnesium supplements are the same.

Ask yourself what processes in your body you want to support, and read on to learn what type of magnesium fits the bill. Then, do a little trial and error to find the best magnesium supplement for you.

Plan on staying close to home while you try new magnesium supplements in different doses, just in case you experience side effects. While you are experimenting to find your ideal dose, you could run into stomach problems.

Here are the forms of magnesium you’ll most commonly find on the shelves and how they work in your body.

Relaxation: Magnesium citrate

Magnesium citrate is an essential mineral known to play a crucial role in mood and sleep regulation. Studies show this form of magnesium promotes mental and muscle relaxation.[2]

Supplements containing magnesium citrate are known for their calming properties. That’s why it’s found in Bulletproof Zen Mode.

Zen Mode combines magnesium citrate with adaptogenic herbs and nutrients to reduce stress and improve focus. This daily supplement helps you feel calm and collected, whether you’re gearing up for the day ahead or prepping for a big presentation.

Since magnesium citrate doesn’t pass through you as quickly as magnesium oxide, you’re likely to absorb more of it. If you are sensitive to magnesium oxide, look for a magnesium citrate supplement designed to be taken on a daily basis.

The bottom line: If you’d like a nice dose of mental relaxation, take magnesium citrate. To get the calming benefits of magnesium, plus a science-backed blend of ingredients to help you feel more balanced, try Zen Mode.

Energy and muscle soreness: Magnesium malate

Magnesium malate contains malic acid, which has been shown in rodent studies to improve stamina.[3]

It soothes muscle pain by relaxing tension and has provided substantial relief to fibromyalgia patients in scientific tests.[4]

The bottom line: Take magnesium malate in the morning for increased stamina and muscle relaxation.

Memory and brain function: Magnesium threonate

Magnesium threonate is a favorite if you want a brain boost. That’s because your nervous system quickly absorbs this form of magnesium.

Magnesium threonate is gaining attention for its brain protective properties, especially against cognitive decline from aging.[5] In rodent studies,  magnesium threonate prevents synaptic loss and memory deficits.[6] [7]

The bottom line: Take magnesium threonate in the morning to support your brain and cognitive function. It has been shown to benefit memory and may protect against the effects of aging.

Constipation: Magnesium oxide

If you’re pooping less than once a day, small doses of magnesium oxide throughout the day can act like a laxative. If you’re going once or more per day, you might want to look at other forms. Of all the forms of magnesium, magnesium oxide is the one most likely to deliver laxative side effects like upset stomach and diarrhea.

With that information, you might expect that it’s not the most absorbable form.[8] You end up excreting a lot of it, so you may need to supplement with other forms of magnesium.[9]

The bottom line: If you’re having a BM less than once a day, take magnesium oxide to help your digestion. If you are low on magnesium, add an additional form of magnesium supplement.

Best-absorbed magnesium: Magnesium chloride

You’ll find magnesium chloride “oil” in a body spray. The topical magnesium oil isn’t actually an oil—it just feels a little slippery because magnesium chloride is slightly more alkaline than water. You can absorb a lot of magnesium through the skin with magnesium oil sprays.

Topical magnesium is best for people who have digestive trouble or other health problems, such as low stomach acid or adrenal fatigue. If you have trouble maintaining your mineral balance, you might benefit from magnesium supplements that absorb through your skin.

When you first start supplementing, you may notice a tingle after application. As your magnesium stores build up, that tingle will subside. If the tingle is troublesome, you can rinse it off as soon as it dries—it absorbs that quickly.

If you don’t like the feeling on your skin, you can also get magnesium chloride drops to put in your drinking water.

The bottom line: If you aren’t comfortable ingesting magnesium, use a spray of magnesium chloride on your skin instead.

Muscle relaxation and detox: Magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts)

Your local grocery store and pharmacy carry bags of Epsom salt, which contain magnesium sulfate. Added to the bath, Epsom salts soothe sore muscles. A relaxing Epsom soak also draws toxins out of your pores.

You don’t absorb much magnesium in an Epsom salt bath, but that’s no reason to trade your bath for capsules. Sprinkle in your Epsom salt, add a few drops of your favorite calming essential oils and soak your stress away.

Some people take magnesium sulfate internally, but it’s easy to overdo it. If you ingest Epsom salt, you’re more likely to cause gastric distress than get any benefits.

The bottom line: If you’d rather take luxurious baths to get your magnesium, get a bag of Epsom salts and soak your worries away.

Sleep: Magnesium glycinate

Magnesium glycinate is a highly absorbable form of magnesium.[10] It’s a good choice if you want to raise your levels quickly, and it’s especially a good choice if you get an upset stomach with other forms.

This form of magnesium is bound to glycine, a calming amino acid that in a small-scale test was reported to help people sleep.[11] The glycine content in collagen is the reason a lot of people like to take a spoonful of collagen protein before bed. Learn more about the benefits of collagen protein.

The bottom line: Take magnesium glycinate if you want to raise your magnesium levels quickly. Also, it comes with a side benefit that might help you sleep.

How much magnesium should I take?

Leafy greens with eggs

Every supplement package includes specific instructions on how much to take. Follow the directions, and you should be just fine.

Don’t worry about balancing your supplement with the magnesium you get from foods. Your kidneys keep the right balance by filtering out excess magnesium found in food. But with supplemental magnesium, there is a risk of getting too much and suffering from magnesium toxicity. Before taking any dietary supplement, make sure it’s okay with your doctor.

If magnesium makes you feel anxious, your body might be out of balance with other minerals, like sodium and potassium. You also need adequate levels of B vitamins, boron and other trace minerals, which help to make sure you absorb the right amount of magnesium. Your doctor can order tests to make sure everything is in balance.

The bottom line: Follow the directions on your magnesium supplement bottle, and pay attention to how you feel. Talk to your doctor before you make any changes. And remember—the best magnesium supplements are the ones that are right for you.

Read next: Upgrade Your Energy, Optimize Your Supplements

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