There’s a whole range of benefits to using magnesium, from improved sleep, an increased metabolism, and even, an improvement in our mood while reducing feelings of depression.
However, the big question is “should you take magnesium before or after a workout?”
Within this article, I’ll discuss what magnesium’s role is in helping training adaptations to take place, and whether or not to use it pre/post, or even both.
Magnesium can be taken at any point in the day. However, there’s something to bear in mind: magnesium ‘pill’ supplements may cause stomach upsets for those who are sensitive to magnesium when taken on an empty stomach, such as first thing in the morning before breakfast.
As for when to use magnesium for training; before a workout with your pre-workout meal with vitamin C will help to increase absorption and its ability to assist in training adaptations (discussed in more detail below).
Furthermore, magnesium can, and potentially should also be taken post workout for optimal results. That is of course, if you train with intensity, or your duration lasts longer than 90 minutes. This is because magnesium is water soluble and is quickly lost via perspiration.
The Role of Magnesium Within Exercise
As I’ve mentioned in my main magnesium article, it’s a mineral that’s responsible for over 300 enzyme systems that regulate diverse biochemical activities throughout the body.
Okay, this is fantastic, but what does this mean exactly?
This means that magnesium can help to deliver nutrients around the body. Helping us to repair and heal at a quicker and more efficient rate.
However, there’s also something that magnesium can do which is going to help to get fitter, faster, and stronger.
Magnesium is needed to help the mitochondria improve and adapt to a new training stimulus. Let me explain:
How Magnesium Improves our Fitness Levels
When we take part in HIIT for example, the mitochondria adapts and becomes more efficient in producing energy. It’s the mitochondria’s role to supply our muscles with adenosine trisphosphate – ATP.
“Mg2+ transporter of mitochondrial inner membrane MRS2 is an essential component of mitochondrial Mg2+ uptake system”. (01)
The better our mitochondria is at producing energy, then it goes without saying… We’ll be able to work-out harder, longer, and our recovery will take place easier than before.
Another interesting thing about the mitochondria, is that is can literally mimic other mitochondria cells in the body.
So, when we increase our fitness via HIIT for example, the mitochondria that have already adapted to the training stimulus, producing more efficient energy, will then pass on its genes to new mitochondria that are being created.
This is where magnesium can help!
We need magnesium to help the mitochondria replicate itself and work more efficiently.
So, with this information in mind, you can now begin to see how and when magnesium may benefit your training protocol.
Best Way To Absorb Magnesium?
Before we take a look at the best time to take magnesium. First, let’s clear up the confusion as to what is the best way to absorb magnesium, along with the best type to use:
- Himalayan Salt: Great for increasing magnesium while also improving your electrolyte stores. This is best taken with food (either in your pre or post meals) or even a pinch of Himalayan salt in the water you drink throughout the day will do the trick.
- Magnesium Pill: Magnesium pill supplements are a convenient way to increase your magnesium stores. You can use magnesium either before, or after you exercise. Alternatively, you can use magnesium first-thing in the morning on an empty stomach to help increase absorption. Bear in mind though, that some people cannot tolerate magnesium on an empty stomach. Therefore, eating a meal beforehand may be a better option. This will all come down to testing how you react.
- Magnesium Spray: Ideal for muscle cramping. Magnesium spray helps to get magnesium into your muscles while increasing the magnesium levels in your body. However, this is only a ‘light’ remedy. Some people will need to ingest 400 mg and upwards of Mg per day, which would be virtually impossible via a spray.
- Epsom Salt Bath: If you have the luxury of having a bath, then adding Epsom salts into your nightly soak is one way to improve your magnesium levels. However, just like with the magnesium spray, this will not be adequate enough to replenish magnesium levels on its own. At least, the kind we need to improve training adaptations.
“Magnesium might be able to get into the lymphatic system beneath the dermis and enter the circulatory system, bypassing the regulation through the GI tract and hereby increasing serum magnesium”. (02)
Magnesium Before or After Working-Out?
Now that I’ve painted a picture as to how magnesium can help improve your fitness goals, the big question is: When should you use it? Let’s now have a look at the different times to take magnesium.
Before A Workout:
Magnesium can help the mitochondria to improve and replicate itself with the use of magnesium, it then makes sense to use magnesium before a workout.
This could be in pill form, or even by adding more Himalayan salt to your pre-workout meal or water bottle. Himalayan salt has numerous trace minerals, one, in particular, that’s important is magnesium.
Fueling up on magnesium pre-workout will help to increase your overall electrolyte balance. This has been shown to not only extend performance, but also, to increase the body’s responses at adapting to new stressors from exercise.
A study which looked at the effects of supplementation with carbohydrate and electrolyte beverage, compared to placebo showed significant training adaptations and increased exercise stamina.
“Subjects displayed longer exercise times when the CHO-E solution was ingested compared with placebo or no fluid groups”. (03)
After A Workout:
As magnesium is a water-soluble mineral, it’s easily lost through sweat and perspiration in general. This means, that if you’ve loaded up on magnetism before a workout, you may have significantly reduced your magnesium stores during your intense workout.
Whether or not to add more magnesium post workout will all depend on your levels of training, and how hard you have just exercised (sweat lost etc), or if you live in a hotter climate where you’ll naturally sweat more.
Therefore, you may need to add more magnesium back into your diet post workout. This is to make sure your muscles and your mitochondria get the help they need – to recover and become stronger and more efficient.
As you can see, as long as you have a plentiful supply of magnesium in your system pre and then, post workout, you’ll be giving your body a fighting chance at adapting to the training stimulus you put on it.
You can take magnesium in pill supplement form (preferred) or you can use Himalayan salts to top-up your magnesium and electrolyte levels even further.
To learn more about magnesium, read this article on magnesium here.
If you want to go the extra mile, why not have an Epsom salt bath. But if you don’t have a bath, you can also use magnesium sprays to help your muscles recover and relax much quicker post workout.
A study which looked at magnesium application via a cream noticed a slight increase as opposed to a placebo group, which highlights that transdermal magnesium application does work.
“After the Mg2+ cream intervention there was a clinically relevant increase in serum magnesium (0.82 to 0.89 mmol/l,p = 0.29) that was not seen in the placebo group (0.77 to 0.79 mmol/L), but was only statistically significant (p = 0.02)) in a subgroup of non-athletes”. (04)
If you have any questions regarding magnesium and how it can benefit your workout performance, please comment below.
(01) Mitochondrial Mg2+ homeostasis decides cellular energy metabolism and vulnerability to stress. (source)
(02) Myth or Reality—Transdermal Magnesium? (source)
(03) The Effects Of Ingesting a Carbohydrate-Electrolyte Beverage 15 Minutes Prior to High-Intensity Exercise Performance. (source)
(04) Effect of transdermal magnesium cream on serum and urinary magnesium levels in humans: A pilot study. (source)
David Mckelvey says
Hi I was gonna start to take magnesium tablets but I was just wondering what type off magnesium tablets to take. And when I should take them. I go to the gym couple off times a week. If u could help thanks.
Mark Henry says
Hi David, I personally use Performance Lab Whole-Food Multivitamin – as this contains the best source of magnesium as it’s nature identical. As for when to take supplements with magnesium, or on its own, it all depends on what effect you’re trying to achieve. But overall, as long as you take it daily if you exercise often, where you’re losing minerals via an increased metabolism, sweat and urination, then you should be good to go. You can also add it into your diet using Himalayan salt. You can read more on Magnesium in my article here: https://www.sportnutritionexpert.com/magnesium/