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  • mariasylvesterterr

should you take a magnesium supplement?

a plate of whole grain toast with sliced avocado on top and a side of two hard boiled eggs, tomatoes, and spinach

if you know New Orleans, you know it's a chronic construction site. lucky for long-distance runners, that means porta potties abound. #poodat

while training for a half-marathon a couple years ago, i hopped on the magnesium train. you've probably heard it's great for recovery. i suppose that was true for me...

that is, i managed to take a lot of "recovery" breaks in the portaloos on my long runs [don't even start with the pun!). 

here i was, with a graduate degree in nutrition and research experience with mineral intake in athletes, getting sidelined by magnesium. it was supposed to be helping me! what happened?

TL;DR: you need to the right dosage and type of magnesium for your goals, and it's just one part of the recovery equation.

a sturdy girl neither gatekeeps nor girl bosses, so i'm just going to tell you what you need to know along with some of my top magnesium recommendations. 

of course, this information is just that: information. check with your healthcare team before adding a supplement to your routine!

1. wait, do i need a magnesium supplement?

not necessarily. i know the branding for Calm captivates you as you stand in the checkout line at Costco, but the truth is we want to be regularly eating magnesium-rich foods. many folks do not consume the recommend daily allowance (RDA) of 320-420 mg/day. processing of foods unfortunately depletes magnesium by up to 85%.

the highest food sources of magnesium are green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. your heavy hitters of magnesium are pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, almonds, spinach, cashews, soy milk, black beans, peanuts, and peanut butter. do you eat some or all of these foods regularly? you're off to a great start!

for folks with nut allergies or food intolerances to the ones listed above, it may be tough for you to hit magnesium goals with food alone. and, for those curious how magnesium can deliver you extra support, you may be wanting to try supplementation for extra support. 

2. so, if i take one, which type of magnesium should i get?

magnesium supports energy metabolism, muscle contraction, nerve function, bone structure, DNA production, and blood glucose levels. there are SO many forms of magnesium, and some benefit other functions more than others. 

i am only including forms that are backed by substantial research and offer high bioavailability. magnesium can have a laxative effect [see story above], so you want to be sure you're selecting the appropriate form:

  • magnesium glycinate and biglycinate*: for muscle recovery, sleep, and anxiety; FYI: not available in gummy form

  • magnesium citrate: for constipation, GI discomfort, and sleep; widely available and affordable form, typically the source for powdered magnesium products

  • magnesium malate*: for chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, and general intake

  • magnesium threonate: for fatigue, brain fog, migraine 

  • magnesium sulfate or chloride: for muscle pain and aches; topically via magnesium chloride or in a bath via magnesium sulfate [Epsom Salt]

*these 3 options are my top recs for general Mg supplementation that tend to be kind on the GI system

3. what size dose of magnesium should I take?

this totally depends on your needs and goals; you will want a provider to give a specific recommendation for you. if you are new to supplemental magnesium, start with a small dose to see how your GI system tolerates it. 

for example, i was experiencing GI distress at the 420mg/day serving size of Mg glycinate, but 200-300 mg was a much better fit for me.

the tolerable upper limit for magnesium supplementation is 350 mg/day. keep this in mind when starting your supplementation routine. in the world of supplementation, more does not equal faster, better, or stronger. 

4. when should i take a magnesium supplement?

in general, take supplements when you can remember to do so regularly! 

for supporting sleep, recovery, or a hopeful morning poop, a few hours before bedtime can helpful. take magnesium with or close to a meal to help with preventing stomach distress.

5. is there anything i should know about supplementing magnesium?

magnesium supplements are generally considered safe. taking too much supplemental magnesium can lead to side effects like nausea, diarrhea, low blood pressure, muscle weakness, and fatigue. 

look for third-party tested brands that assess for contaminants and have a clearly marked USP, NSF, or GMP certification [sometimes you need to go on the company's website for this]. my top brand recommendations are Pure Encapsulations, Thorne, and MegaFood.

the real recovery game lies in meeting your total intake, practicing consistent nutrition habits, and fostering a flexible mindset around food and movement. 

if any of those 3 factors are challenging for you, i recommend Active Appetite group coaching which runs twice each year for 8 consecutive weeks! learn more here.

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