Taking magnesium: the most important questions and answers

Einnahme von Magnesium: Die wichtigsten Fragen und Antworten

Magnesium is involved in many vital functions in the human body. This special mineral is not only responsible for preventing your calves from cramping, but also contributes to over 300 other metabolic reactions. This is why taking magnesium is so important. However, when taking magnesium, there are many doubts about what is right and when magnesium needs to be taken at all.

If you've often wondered whether you should be taking magnesium, this article is for you. Because in this article we will answer all your questions about magnesium intake and what else is important to know about it.

the essentials in brief

  • Magnesium has many different jobs in our body. For example, magnesium is essential for energy production and nutrient metabolism.
  • Your magnesium requirements can be met with a healthy and varied diet. If your diet does not meet your needs adequately, it makes sense to take magnesium to prevent the negative consequences of a magnesium deficiency.
  • Pregnant women, breastfeeding women and athletes have an increased need for magnesium. For other groups of people, the need for magnesium changes with age. And men from the age of 11 have a slightly higher need for magnesium compared to women.

Magnesium intake: what you should know

Magnesium is the 4th most common mineral in the human body. To prevent a deficiency, you need to consume magnesium regularly. The need for magnesium can vary greatly from person to person (1).

That is why there are many doubts and questions when it comes to taking magnesium. For this reason, we have collected important questions for you and will answer them in detail in the next sections.

What is magnesium responsible for in the body?

If magnesium were employed, it would be putting in long hours and working on every front, for magnesium has many vital functions to perform. Magnesium is involved in over 300 metabolic reactions. These metabolic reactions include, for example, protein synthesis, muscle and nerve transmission, neuromuscular conduction, signal transduction, glycemic control and blood pressure regulation.

These different functions can be summarized in the following roles (1):

  • energy production
  • enzyme activation
  • Calcium antagonist/NMDA receptor antagonist
  • cardiovascular system
  • function of the membranes
  • Structural Roles
  • nutrient metabolism

How do I know I should be taking magnesium?

There are different symptoms of a magnesium deficiency. We will list the most common symptoms below. We would also like to point out that you should consult a doctor if one or more symptoms occur (1.2">.

  • muscle weakness
  • muscle cramps
  • Increased irritability of the nervous system (e.g. tremors or muscle cramps)
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea and vomiting
  • fatigue and weakness
  • cardiac arrhythmias

Incidentally, a lack of magnesium is also called hypomagnesemia. If you get hypomagnesemia, it can have different causes. This does not always have to be due to the insufficient intake of magnesium.

woman jogging

Exercising can lead to an increased need for magnesium. So that you don't get calf cramps, you should make sure you are getting enough magnesium. (Image source: unsplash / Andrew Tanglao)

Possible causes of hypomasgnesemia (3,4)

  • alcoholism
  • Poorly controlled diabetes
  • Malabsorption (e.g. Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, short bowel syndrome, Whipple's disease)
  • Endocrine causes (eg, aldosteronism, hyperparathyroidism, hyperthyroidism)
  • Kidney disease (eg, chronic renal failure, dialysis, Gitelman syndrome)
  • Taking medication (e.g. antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs, diuretics and proton pump inhibitors)

What are the consequences of a magnesium deficiency?

Since magnesium is necessary for many essential functions in our body, a deficiency has serious consequences. For example, magnesium deficiency and cardiovascular disease are closely linked. In addition, an insufficient intake of magnesium can lead to high blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmias, heart failure, arteriosclerosis, diabetes mellitus, preeclampsia and metabolic syndrome. Additionally, neurological symptoms can be exacerbated in people with magnesium deficiency (1).

What is the daily requirement of magnesium?

The daily requirement of magnesium varies from person to person. The German Society for Nutrition (DGE) recommends different dosages for people according to gender and age (5):

Old Daily requirement (in mg) female Daily requirement (in mg) male
0 - 4 months 24 24
4 - 12 months 60 60
1 - 4 years 80 80
4 - 7 years 120 120
7 - 10 years 170 170
10 - 13 years 250 230
13 - 15 years 310 310
15 - 19 years 350 400
19 - 25 years 310 400
25 - 51 years 300 350
51 - 65 years 300 350
65 years and older 300 350
pregnant women 310 -
breastfeeding 390 -

The DGE also mentions that the daily dosage given for infants under 4 months is an estimate. If a girl under the age of 19 is pregnant, the stated daily requirement for magnesium changes from 310 to 350 mg.

In what form is magnesium best absorbed?

You can take magnesium in different dosage forms. You should be able to get these in most pharmacies without any problems. If not, there is also a large selection of different dosage forms on amazon or in online pharmacies. The following dosage forms are often found:

  • Tablets : are among the most common forms of administration. Are easy to store and easy to take. If necessary, you can also dose them individually.
  • Capsules : Along with tablets, capsules are the most commonly encountered dosage form. They are also easy to take and easy to store. If required, they can simply be dosed individually.
  • Effervescent tablets : Especially good for people who have difficulty swallowing tablets. The magnesium is already dissolved in the water and can therefore be absorbed by the body a little faster.
  • Direct Granules : Perfect for on the go as it can be taken without water.
  • Drinking Granules : Can be dissolved using water. Similar to the effervescent tablets, it can be absorbed into the body faster.

What do I have to consider when taking magnesium?

We have put together 5 tips for you on how to take magnesium correctly.

Tip 1 - The right dosage

When dosing magnesium, you should definitely follow the reference values ​​from the German Society for Nutrition (DGE). If you are unsure about your needs or have the feeling that you have an increased need, please contact your trusted doctor.

Tip 2 - Know important interactions

Undesirable interactions can occur if certain medications are taken at the same time as magnesium. These drugs include laxatives and antibiotics. They lower the magnesium status. Zinc, when taken at the same time as magnesium, may also have lowering effects on magnesium status (6).

Still other drugs, including glucagons, calcitonin, potassium-sparing diuretics, and doxercalciferol, increase magnesium levels (7).

Magnesium interferes with the absorption of iron. Therefore, these two minerals should be taken 2-3 hours apart (8).

This information won't be new to most, but coffee can lead to increased urinary output and therefore increased elimination of minerals, including magnesium.

Tip 3 - Take at the right time of day

At what time of day you take magnesium is up to you. However, if you suffer from calf cramps at night, it is advisable to take magnesium before going to bed. If this is not the case for you, you can also take magnesium in the morning. High doses of magnesium are better tolerated in connection with food. So if you need to take a high dose of magnesium, it's best to do it with a meal. A frequently asked question is also when athletes should take their magnesium. If magnesium is taken before or during training, side effects can follow. That is why the recommendation to take magnesium after exercise is usually made.

Tip 4 - Use magnesium correctly in connection with sport

Because of magnesium's involvement in muscle function, magnesium is a well-researched topic in the context of exercise. Studies in the past have found negative consequences for athletes with magnesium deficiency.

Exercising in a strenuous manner causes a lot of urine and sweat to be lost. As a result, the need for magnesium can increase by 10-20%. From human experiments it is known that athletes should consume no less than 260 mg/day and female athletes no less than 220 mg/day. If less than this amount of magnesium is supplied to the body, a magnesium deficiency can result (9).

Conclusion : Athletes with a magnesium deficiency experience an increase in performance through the intake of magnesium. It has not yet been scientifically proven whether there is an increase in performance through magnesium supplementation in athletes with sufficient magnesium (9).

Tip 5 - Drink enough water

If you drink a lot of water, you kill three birds with one blow. You don't get dehydrated, enjoy the benefits of having enough water in your body, and you can meet your magnesium needs up to 10%.

cold water with a piece of orange

Water is a source of magnesium. Especially with a lot of sport, it is important to replenish the lost amount of water and thus also magnesium by drinking water. (Image source: unsplash / Jez Timms)

How long do I have to take magnesium for it to work?

Magnesium can show its effect in cramps or other symptoms after just a few days. However, if magnesium is supplemented, you have to be patient. Because it can take 6 weeks for the full effect to show.

The term bioavailability is often used in connection with the effect of magnesium. Bioavailability is how quickly an active ingredient is available to the body. The bioavailability of magnesium depends on numerous different factors. These include, for example, the dosage, form of administration, interactions with other active substances, age, activities, fluid intake and physical condition (11).

Magnesium contained in mineral water is 50% available. If this mineral water is then ingested with a meal, the bioavailability can be increased by an additional 14% (12.13">.

Is too much magnesium harmful?

The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment for magnesium as a dietary supplement has set 250 mg per day as the tolerable upper limit (14).

Since the specified upper limit is only a recommendation, there are many magnesium supplements on the market that exceed this limit. This can lead to overdoses. You may have noticed that for certain individuals the daily requirement is over 250mg. So why is the upper limit set at 250 mg per day? The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment has only set this upper limit for magnesium as a supplement, but not for the intake of magnesium through natural foods.

Quite a few people exceed their daily magnesium requirement. If you are healthy and have a properly functioning kidney, you can simply excrete the excess magnesium through the kidneys. For people with kidney problems, it becomes more dangerous if not life-threatening due to magnesium poisoning.

It can therefore be said in general that it is relatively safe for a healthy person to supplement magnesium orally. However, due to the water-pulling effect of magnesium, slight side effects such as diarrhea, vomiting and nausea cannot be ruled out.

However, if magnesium infusion is overdosed, diarrhea, drowsiness, hypotension, muscle weakness, cardiac arrhythmia, respiratory depression, coma and even death can result. Conclusion: With a magnesium infusion, an overdose of magnesium is very dangerous (7).

What is important to know about the relationship between magnesium and calcium?

As a calcium antagonist, magnesium is responsible for calcium regulation (1). For a further smooth interaction between calcium and magnesium, there should be no overdosing or underdosing of either.

The correct ratio between magnesium and calcium should be 1:2 (maximum 1:2.4). This means that if, for example, the magnesium requirement increases due to pregnancy, the calcium requirement should also automatically increase (6).

What alternatives are there to taking magnesium as a supplement?

Of course, taking magnesium in the form of a dietary supplement is not the only way to supply your body with magnesium. In the following paragraph you will find out what alternative options there are other than magnesium as a supplement.

  • Nutrition : Magnesium is found in plant and animal foods. There is also tap water, mineral water and bottled water that contain magnesium. Foods high in magnesium include green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. There are also foods fortified with magnesium (15).
  • Avoid magnesium robbers : Unfortunately, there are some magnesium robbers. They prevent or reduce magnesium absorption or magnesium status in the body. Common magnesium thieves are alcohol, cigarettes, birth control pills and laxatives.
  • Sport : Profuse sweating from sport or heat leads to loss of sweat. Magnesium can also be excreted with sweat. Therefore, if you exercise frequently, vigorously and regularly, make sure that you supply your body with enough magnesium.
  • Stress reduction : It is well known that stress has a negative effect on our body. But what you may not know is that stress increases magnesium excretion. Therefore, try to avoid unnecessary stress as much as possible (16).

As you can see, magnesium supplements are not the only possible way to meet your magnesium needs.


You have learned that magnesium fulfills important tasks for your body. Without magnesium, many reactions in the body can no longer run smoothly. It is therefore important to meet your magnesium needs and if you do not follow them, you will be confronted with serious health consequences. If magnesium intake is not possible through a natural and varied diet or due to an increased magnesium requirement, you should definitely take magnesium as a supplement.

Taking magnesium is relatively safe for people without kidney problems, since the extra magnesium can be excreted through the kidneys in the event of a possible overdose. People with particular pre-existing conditions or who are taking certain medications should seek advice from their doctor about the correct intake of magnesium.


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