Magnesium Glycinate vs. Citrate: What's the Difference?

Written by Krista Bugden
Medically Reviewed by Felicia Newell, RD

July 28, 2023

Magnesium is responsible for over 300 processes in the body—from glucose regulation to bone strength to sleep quality and more (1). The RDA set for magnesium is 310-320 mg/day for women and 400-420 mg/day for men. But in recent decades, magnesium deficiencies across America have become the norm—with the average intake for women and men now being 228 mg and 323 mg, respectively (2). (That’s nearly 100 mg less than the amount we need!)

While magnesium is found in foods like nuts, seeds, dark chocolate, and leafy greens, several individuals turn to a magnesium supplement to ensure they’re getting a healthy dose each day. But selecting the right supplement can prove to be more challenging than expected.

The main challenge: there are dozens of different forms of magnesium (3). Magnesium oxide, citrate, chloride, glycinate, sulfate, threonate…you get the point. In this blog, we’ll dive into the two most popular forms of magnesium—magnesium glycinate and magnesium citrate—so that you can make an informed decision on which type is best for you and your health goals.

What Are the Benefits of Magnesium?

More and more health experts are beginning to realize the undeniable importance of this essential mineral. 

A full list of magnesium’s benefits include (1, 3, 4):

  • Energy production and metabolism
  • Muscle function and relaxation
  • Nervous system support
  • Bone health and calcium metabolism
  • Heart health and regulation of blood pressure
  • Blood sugar regulation and insulin sensitivity
  • Improves sleep quality and relaxation
  • Reduces the frequency and severity of migraines (in some cases)
  • Supports cognitive function and brain health
  • May help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression (in some cases)
  • Plays a role in maintaining a healthy immune system

What Is Magnesium Citrate and Its Role in the Body

Magnesium citrate is a supplement form of magnesium that can come in tablet, powder, and liquid versions. It’s made by combining magnesium with citric acid, which helps enhance its absorption in the body.

One of the main roles of magnesium in the body is to support proper muscle function, including the muscles that line the digestive tract. Here are some ways in which magnesium citrate, in particular, contributes to digestive health:

  • Constipation relief: Magnesium citrate is commonly used as a laxative to relieve constipation. It works by attracting water into the intestines, softening the stool and promoting bowel movements (5, 6).
  • Bowel regularity: Adequate magnesium levels in the body help maintain regular bowel movements. It supports the movement of food through the digestive tract, helping to prevent issues like bloating and discomfort.
  • Digestive enzyme regulation: Magnesium is involved in the activation of various digestive enzymes. These enzymes help break down food and facilitate nutrient absorption (7).
  • Acid reflux relief: Magnesium citrate is believed to help alleviate symptoms associated with acid reflux, such as heartburn (6). It may help relax the lower esophageal sphincter, preventing acid from flowing back into the esophagus.
  • Kidney stone prevention: Magnesium citrate may help prevent the formation of certain types of kidney stones. It can bind to oxalate in the urine, reducing its concentration and preventing the formation of calcium-oxalate stones (8).
  • Heart health support: Adequate magnesium intake, including from magnesium citrate, has been associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attacks and strokes. Magnesium helps regulate blood pressure, promotes healthy heart function, and supports the relaxation of blood vessels (9,10).
  • Migraine prevention: Some research suggests that magnesium supplementation, including magnesium citrate, may help in the prevention or reduction of migraines. It is believed to have a relaxant effect on blood vessels and may influence neurotransmitter activity related to migraine attacks (11).

It’s important to note that while magnesium citrate can be beneficial for digestion, overdosing can lead to diarrhea and electrolyte imbalances. It is advisable to consult a healthcare professional before starting magnesium citrate supplementation or using it as a laxative. They can provide guidance on the appropriate dosage and usage based on individual needs.

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What Is Magnesium Glycinate and Its Role in the Body?

Magnesium glycinate, on the other hand, contains magnesium and the amino acid glycine. This match made in heaven produces a highly absorbable supplement and—for those seeking a higher state of peace and tranquility in their life—a very calming effect.

Compared to magnesium citrate, magnesium glycinate isn’t likely to create loose stools or cause dehydration (12). Instead, the majority of it is absorbed in the body (thanks to glycine!) and used where it’s needed.

While magnesium itself is calming, glycine adds a whole other layer here. Oral supplementation of glycine can reduce stress throughout the body, potentially improving your mood and helping you stay level-headed (13).

In addition to these calming benefits, magnesium glycinate plays an important role in the following (4, 14, 15):

  • Muscle and nerve function: Magnesium is crucial for proper muscle and nerve function. It helps regulate muscle contractions, including the relaxation of muscles after contraction. It also supports the transmission of nerve impulses (16).
  • Energy production: Magnesium glycinate participates in energy production by assisting in the breakdown of glucose and the synthesis of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which provides energy for various cellular processes (14).
  • Protein synthesis: Magnesium glycinate is involved in the synthesis of proteins, which are essential for the growth, repair, and maintenance of body tissues (17).
  • Bone health: Magnesium glycinate contributes to the metabolism of calcium and vitamin D, both of which are vital for strong and healthy bones. It helps maintain proper calcium levels in the body and supports bone density (18).
  • Heart health: Adequate magnesium levels, including from magnesium glycinate, play a role in maintaining a healthy heartbeat and normal blood pressure (9). It helps relax blood vessels and supports overall cardiovascular function.
  • Mental health: Magnesium glycinate has been studied for its potential benefits in promoting relaxation and supporting mental well-being. It may help reduce symptoms of anxiety, stress, and improve sleep quality (13).
  • Improved sleep quality: Magnesium glycinate is often recommended as a natural sleep aid (19). It has calming properties that can help relax the body and mind, potentially promoting better sleep quality and duration.
  • Mood regulation: Magnesium is involved in the regulation of neurotransmitters, which play a crucial role in controlling mood and emotions. Supplementation with magnesium glycinate may help support a balanced mood and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety (20).
  • Support for metabolic health: Magnesium glycinate supports various metabolic processes in the body, including carbohydrate metabolism, insulin sensitivity, and glucose regulation. Adequate magnesium levels may contribute to maintaining healthy blood sugar levels (21).
  • Anti-inflammatory effects: Research suggests that magnesium glycinate, like other forms of magnesium, may have anti-inflammatory properties (22). It may help reduce systemic inflammation, which is associated with various chronic conditions, including cardiovascular disease and certain autoimmune disorders.
  • Migraine prevention: Some studies have indicated that magnesium supplementation, including magnesium glycinate, can help reduce the frequency and severity of migraines (23). Magnesium is believed to have a stabilizing effect on blood vessels and may regulate neurotransmitter activity associated with migraines.

So Which Should I Take: Magnesium Citrate or Magnesium Glycinate?

When it comes to choosing a magnesium supplement, two popular options are Magnesium Glycinate and Magnesium Citrate. While both provide the essential mineral magnesium, there are some key differences to consider:

Bioavailability: Magnesium Glycinate is known for its high bioavailability, meaning it is easily absorbed by the body (24). This makes it an efficient choice for individuals who may have difficulty absorbing nutrients or have digestive issues. On the other hand, Magnesium Citrate also has good bioavailability but is generally considered more rapidly absorbed, often resulting in a laxative effect that can help relieve constipation.

Gastrointestinal Benefits: Due to its gentle nature, Magnesium Glycinate is often preferred for those with sensitive stomachs or those looking for a magnesium supplement that is less likely to cause digestive discomfort or loose stools. In contrast, Magnesium Citrate is commonly used as a laxative due to its ability to draw water into the intestines, promoting bowel movements 5, 6. This can be beneficial for individuals struggling with occasional constipation.

Muscle Relaxation: Both forms of magnesium can aid in muscle relaxation, but Magnesium Glycinate is typically favored for this purpose. The amino acid glycine, which is bonded to magnesium in this form, has calming properties that can help reduce muscle tension and promote relaxation (16, 17). This makes Magnesium Glycinate a popular choice for individuals seeking relief from muscle cramps or overall muscle relaxation.

Personal Preferences and Goals: The choice between Magnesium Glycinate and Magnesium Citrate ultimately depends on personal preferences and health goals. If you are looking for a well-absorbed magnesium supplement with minimal laxative effects and greater potential for muscle relaxation, Magnesium Glycinate may be the preferred option. However, if you require occasional digestive support, such as relief from constipation, Magnesium Citrate may be beneficial.

What Form of Magnesium Is Best Absorbed?

Not all magnesium supplements are created equal. The three most common types—glycinate, citrate, and oxide—have different absorption ratings, with studies indicating magnesium glycinate is the best-absorbed supplement. All of this is to say…Magnesium glycinate is likely the best option for most individuals.

Recharge Your Mind & Muscles

Recharge Your Mind & Muscles

With Native Balance, you’re getting a 3-in-1 magnesium supplement intentionally crafted to elevate mood, relaxation, muscle recovery, and more. 

Shop Magnesium

Frequently Asked Questions

Knowing whether you’re getting enough magnesium can be tricky. 

Symptoms of low magnesium can include:

  1. Muscle weakness and cramps
  2. Osteoporosis
  3. High blood pressure
  4. Inflammation
  5. Trouble sleeping
  6. Feeling depressed or anxious
  7. Increased migraines
  8. Loss of appetite

However, ensuring you have plenty of magnesium-rich foods in your diet can help you get your daily dose. Some magnesium-rich foods include pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate, leafy greens, beans, nuts, chia seeds, and whole grains. 

Taking an oral magnesium supplement is perhaps the simplest way to ensure you’re getting enough magnesium. 

When taking any supplement, always follow the directions and dosage on the label to avoid side effects. Some individuals may further benefit from discussing their options with their doctor before deciding to supplement with magnesium.

Krista Bugden
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Krista Bugden

Krista Bugden is a freelance writer with a BS in Human Kinetics from the University of Ottawa. She spent 5 years working as a kinesiologist, giving her the first-hand experience she needed to write well-researched, scientific, and informative blogs.

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    Medical Disclaimer

    This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Chad Walding nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.

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