Best magnesium supplement for leg muscle cramps
If you often suffer from muscle cramps in your legs or any other part of the body during the night or daytime, then one of the possible causes of the problem is a nutrient deficiency.
There are different nutrients that are needed for your muscles to function properly, and the most important of these are the minerals calcium, magnesium and potassium. Since studies have shown that the majority of people do not have enough amount of magnesium on a daily basis, it is the most important mineral of the three to focus on when trying to remedy leg muscle cramps.
If you are not able to meet the recommended daily intake of this key mineral from your diet, then you should consider taking a magnesium supplement, which could help reduce leg cramps in case a deficiency in this micronutrient is what’s causing the problem for you.
Recommended magnesium supplements
There are different forms of magnesium available in dietary supplements. Magnesium oxide is one of the most widely used forms and the cheapest, however, it has poor absorption rate and it’s notorious for causing diarrhea more likely than any other form. You probably want to avoid this one unless you are specifically interested in its laxative effect.
Some of the most bioavailable and best tolerated magnesium forms to look for include: magnesium citrate, malate, glycinate, gluconate and aspartate. And if you are going to buy a magnesium supplement to help with muscle cramps, opt for products that also contain potassium. Some products add calcium to the mix, but you probably already consume enough calcium in your diet as most people do.
One of the best brands that makes a quality magnesium and potassium supplement is Integrative Therapeutics. This product contains chelated magnesium citrate and malate, in addition to potassium citrate and malate complex.
Another decent product to try out is from the doctor-trusted brand Pure Encapsulations. Their product contains magnesium citrate and potassium citrate. It’s one of the cleanest magnesium supplements on the market that contains no fillers or unnecessary additives. It offers a relatively low dosage of magnesium per capsule, but you can take more than one capsule per day as needed. Some experts actually recommend taking smaller doses multiple times a day for optimal absorption as opposed to taking one large dose at once.
Is magnesium glycinate better than citrate?
Chelated magnesium glycinate is one of the best-absorbed forms of magnesium that has a high bioavailability compared to non-chelated salts. Unlike other magnesium supplements, the glycinate form does not have a laxative effect and it’s milder on the stomach.
Magnesium glycinate is often used to help combat anxiety and depression linked to magnesium deficiency. It is also used as a sleep aid since lack of magnesium intake is a common cause of insomnia. The glycinate chelate is especially preferred for people with sleep issues because it contains glycine, which is an amino acid with calming and relaxing effects.
As far as muscle cramps are concerned, both the glycinate and citrate forms are effective and both are well-absorbed by the body. Some products (e.g. the one by Integrative Therapeutics above) contain magnesium citrate chelate, which is more rapidly absorbed and less likely to cause diarrhea.
Does magnesium treat leg muscle cramps?
Unfortunately, there is no simple yes or no answer here. The reason is because muscle cramps can be the result of different causes, one of which is magnesium deficiency. So the question you should ask yourself is: Am I getting enough magnesium from my diet?
If the answer is no, then it may very well be what is causing leg cramps for you, and in this case, increasing your magnesium intake could help. You can either do that by eating more magnesium-rich foods or by taking a supplement.
You should note that taking magnesium as a remedy for muscle cramps and spasms is based mostly on personal experiences and has not been clinically proven to be effective. While many people seem to experience improvement, your case may be different and you may not benefit from magnesium supplementation.
Given the general safety of magnesium when taken as directed and without exceeding the recommended daily allowance, you can try it for yourself and see if it works for you or not.
When shopping for a magnesium supplement, choose one that also contains potassium like the two products mentioned above. You may as well be deficient in potassium, which as we discussed earlier, also plays an important role in muscle function. Taking a magnesium + potassium supplement would be a better bet than magnesium alone when dealing with leg cramps.
How to know if you aren’t getting enough magnesium?
Magnesium is one of the most important micronutrients that your body constantly needs to obtain from dietary sources. It is involved in hundreds of biological processes inside the body. Lack of magnesium intake can have several negative impacts on both physical and mental health.
Muscle twitching and cramping are among the most noticeable symptoms of low magnesium intake. Other common symptoms include: muscle weakness and pain, irregular heartbeat, nausea, depression, insomnia, anxiety, migraine headache, and several others.
It is important to note that these are very common and general symptoms that can be a result of many different health issues, so just because you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms does not necessarily mean it is a result of magnesium deficiency. A professional healthcare practitioner can give you a better advice rather than trying to self-diagnose based on what you read on the Internet.
What are the best food sources of magnesium?
The following are some of the foods that are naturally high in magnesium:
- Nuts (almonds, cashews and peanuts)
- Legumes (lima and black beans)
- Whole grains (quinoa and buckwheat)
- Leafy greens (spinach and collard)
- Dark chocolate (70% or more cocoa)
Of course, as any nutritionist would argue, it’s always better and healthier to obtain all the nutrients your body needs from nutritious food and not from supplements. That way, you’ll also be providing your body with numerous beneficial nutrients, especially when opting for plant-based foods.
Supplementation should only be considered as a second option when you are unable to meet the required intake through food or when your doctor has recommended additional intake beyond what you already consume in your normal diet.
And also don’t forget to eat foods that are rich in calcium and potassium, because once again, these two minerals (alongside magnesium) play a key role in muscle contraction and relaxation.
Some of the best food sources of calcium include: dairy products, collard greens, kale and sardines. And some of the foods that are rich in potassium include: lima beans, potato, yam, spinach, bananas, natural orange juice and yogurt. These are just a few examples of many foods that are rich in the said minerals, so feel free to do your own research if you are looking to make healthier dietary choices.
Story by Jim Grogan — a freelance writer and contributor to various wellness blogs and news websites.