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Magnesium Citrate vs Glycinate: A Detailed Comparison

By PureHealth Research Dec 25, 2023

Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by Our Experts

Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by Our Experts

Medically reviewed by 14 min read

Medically reviewed by 15 citations

Two types and colors of medical pills bought. Magnesium.

Navigating the landscape of magnesium supplementation involves understanding key choices, such as magnesium citrate vs glycinate, each offering unique benefits and considerations for optimal health. This mighty mineral is integral to the proper functioning of enzymes that facilitate energy production, blood glucose control, blood pressure regulation, and several other processes. Moreover, magnesium is a key player in bone structure, DNA synthesis, and the body’s ability to detoxify.

It’s no exaggeration to state that magnesium is indispensable in the intricate machinery of the human body. From the cellular level to the systemic scale, this mineral is a silent protagonist, ensuring the smooth operation of various bodily systems. Despite its significance, the body does not produce magnesium naturally, necessitating a reliance on dietary sources or supplements to meet daily requirements.

As we navigate the landscape of magnesium supplementation, the choice between different forms becomes pivotal, each variant offering unique characteristics and potential benefits. Among these, the argument of magnesium citrate vs glycinate often emerges, as these two forms are both popular choices, each harboring distinct qualities that cater to specific health concerns and preferences. In this article, we will unravel the intricacies of these two forms to help you make an informed decision about supplementing your body with this vital mineral.

Key Article Findings

  • Considering that it oversees 300 biochemical reactions, magnesium stands out as crucial for energy, muscle function, bone health, and more.
  • Despite its importance, the body doesn’t produce magnesium naturally, emphasizing the need for dietary or supplemental intake.
  • Magnesium citrate boasts good bioavailability and is commonly used for its laxative properties and to address deficiencies.
  • Magnesium glycinate is known for enhanced absorption and how it supports sleep, anxiety relief, muscle relaxation, and mood stabilization.
  • Both forms have unique advantages, with citrate excelling in constipation relief and glycinate in promoting relaxation.
  • Signs of deficiency include muscle cramps and fatigue. To avoid these symptoms, an adequate intake of magnesium-rich foods is crucial.

What Is Magnesium?

Magnesium (symbolized as Mg on the periodic table) is a mineral that stands as a cornerstone for the proper functioning of the human body. While it may not receive as much attention as other nutrients, we should not forget how significant it is. This essential mineral takes part in a myriad of biochemical processes, acting as a cofactor for various enzymes that drive crucial physiological functions. From energy production to muscle and nerve activity, here are some vital roles of magnesium:

  • Energy Production – This mineral is crucial for producing and transferring energy, as it acts as a cofactor for adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the primary energy currency of cells. Without sufficient magnesium, the process of ATP synthesis falters, impacting the body’s energy metabolism.
  • Muscle and Nerve Function – The mineral is integral to the contraction and relaxation of muscles. Additionally, magnesium is involved in nerve transmission, as it helps regulate the electrical impulses that allow communication between nerves and muscles.
  • Bone Health – While calcium often takes the spotlight in discussions about bone health, magnesium is equally crucial. It works alongside calcium to ensure proper bone formation and density. Deficiencies in magnesium can compromise bone integrity, leading to conditions like osteoporosis.
  • Heart Health – Magnesium contributes to cardiovascular health by regulating blood pressure and maintaining a steady heart rhythm. It helps relax blood vessels, easing blood flow and reducing the risk of hypertension.
  • DNA Synthesis and Repair – Magnesium is crucial in DNA and RNA synthesis, playing a vital role in the genetic instructions that guide cellular functions. It also participates in DNA repair mechanisms, contributing to the maintenance of genetic integrity.

What Is Magnesium Citrate?

Girl exercising with hula hoop on the beach close up.

Magnesium citrate is a popular bioavailable form of magnesium that has gained recognition for its versatility and efficacy in addressing various health concerns. This high-solubility compound consists of magnesium bonded to citric acid, which makes it readily absorbable by the body. Combining magnesium and citrate makes magnesium citrate an efficient and well-tolerated supplement.

Studies have shown that magnesium citrate is among the more bioavailable forms of magnesium, allowing for efficient absorption in the digestive tract. This attribute is beneficial for individuals seeking to address magnesium deficiencies promptly. Among some common uses individuals could take advantage of this compound, we can find:

  • Laxative Properties – One of the primary applications of magnesium citrate is as a laxative. Since it has the ability to draw water into the intestines, it softens the stool and promotes bowel movements. This characteristic makes magnesium citrate a go-to choice for individuals dealing with occasional constipation. Avoiding excessive use of magnesium citrate as a laxative is important as it can cause electrolyte imbalances.
  • Magnesium Deficiency – Magnesium citrate is an excellent choice to address magnesium deficiencies, a prevalent concern in modern diets. Research indicates that magnesium citrate supplementation can effectively raise magnesium levels in the body. This aspect is particularly relevant for individuals with conditions or lifestyle factors that may compromise magnesium absorption or increase its excretion.
  • Kidney Stone PreventionSome studies suggest that magnesium citrate may play a role in preventing the formation of kidney stones, particularly those composed of calcium oxalate. The increased solubility of citrate in urine may contribute to this protective effect.
  • Muscle Cramps and Spasms – Individuals prone to muscle cramps and spasms may find relief through magnesium citrate supplementation. The mineral’s role in muscle function and its potential to alleviate muscle tightness have been explored in scientific literature.

What Is Magnesium Glycinate?

Woman taking pills from nightstand indoors, closeup.

Magnesium glycinate is a chelated form of this mineral that is attached to the amino acid glycine. This specific molecular structure enhances magnesium absorption in the intestines, making magnesium glycinate an attractive option for individuals seeking optimal bioavailability. Now, let’s uncover the unique benefits of this compound and understand how it stands out in the magnesium citrate vs glycinate debate: 

  • Enhanced Absorption – The chelation of magnesium with glycine in magnesium glycinate contributes to its increased absorption in the intestines. Studies have indicated that this compound has higher bioavailability than other forms of magnesium, making it an efficient choice for supplementation. This characteristic is advantageous for individuals with gastrointestinal issues that may impede the absorption of the crucial element.
  • Sleep Support – Magnesium glycinate has garnered attention for its potential to promote better sleep quality. Research suggests it has an essential function in regulating the sleep-wake cycle and may influence sleep quality. Additionally, the calming effects of glycine, an inhibitory neurotransmitter, contribute to its potential as a sleep aid.
  • Anxiety Reduction – Some studies propose a connection between magnesium levels and anxiety and how magnesium glycinate’s ability to enhance magnesium levels in the body may have anxiolytic effects. While the relationship between this mineral and anxiety is complex and multifaceted, magnesium glycinate’s calming influence on the nervous system could contribute to stress and anxiety reduction.
  • Muscle Relaxation – Magnesium, in general, plays a crucial role in muscle function, and magnesium glycinate is no exception. The glycine component in this chelated form adds to its muscle-relaxing properties, potentially alleviating muscle tension and reducing the likelihood of cramps.

While magnesium glycinate is generally well-tolerated, those considering supplementation should be aware of potential side effects and take precautions. A selection of the most common ones some individuals may face include:

  • Gastrointestinal Upset – In some cases, excessive magnesium intake can lead to diarrhea or nausea. It is advisable to begin with small doses and gradually increase to assess individual tolerance.
  • Kidney Function – People with impaired kidney function should exercise caution when supplementing with magnesium, as the kidneys play a role in magnesium excretion. High doses may lead to accumulation in the body, posing a risk for those with compromised kidney function.
  • Allergies to Glycine – Though rare, individuals with allergies to glycine should avoid magnesium glycinate. Allergic reactions, either mild or severe, and consultation with a healthcare provider is the way to go in these cases.

Magnesium Glycinate vs Citrate: A Comprehensive Comparison

Holding 2 white pills in hand. Zoomed in.

Choosing between one or the other is a decision that hinges on specific needs and preferences. Let’s unravel some differences between magnesium glycinate and citrate, the key players in the magnesium citrate vs glycinate dilemma.

1. Bioavailability

Magnesium Glycinate

Magnesium glycinate boasts superior bioavailability, surpassing many other magnesium forms. Its chelation with glycine not only enhances absorption but also positions it as an effective option, particularly for individuals with digestive concerns.

Magnesium Citrate 

Magnesium citrate’s commendable bioavailability ensures efficient absorption in the digestive tract, further heightened by the enhancing presence of citric acid. This dynamic combination promotes swift incorporation into the bloodstream for optimal efficacy.

2. Specific Uses

Magnesium Glycinate

  • Sleep Support – This compound has an excellent potential to improve sleep quality due to the soothing effects of glycine.
  • Anxiety Reduction – It has anxiolytic effects, contributing to stress and anxiety reduction.
  • Muscle Relaxation – The glycine component enhances muscle-relaxing properties, making it beneficial for individuals prone to muscle tension.

Magnesium Citrate

  • Laxative Properties – Primarily known for its role as a laxative, magnesium citrate helps promote bowel movements by drawing water into the intestines.
  • Magnesium Deficiency – Professionals often recommend this form of magnesium for addressing deficiencies in the body.

3. Side Effects

Magnesium Glycinate

  • Gastrointestinal Symptoms – High doses may cause gastrointestinal symptoms, but these are generally milder compared to magnesium citrate.
  • Allergic Reactions – Individuals with allergies to glycine should avoid magnesium glycinate to prevent allergic reactions.

Magnesium Citrate

  • Gastrointestinal Upset – Excessive intake may lead to diarrhea or nausea, particularly if consumed in large amounts.
  • Electrolyte Imbalance – Prolonged and excessive use as a laxative may lead to electrolyte imbalances.

Are You Getting Enough Magnesium in Your Diet?

Ensuring an adequate magnesium intake through your diet is vital for maintaining excellent overall health and improving your well-being. Let’s explore the signs of magnesium deficiency, magnesium-rich foods, and considerations to prevent potential side effects.

Magnesium deficiency, also known as hypomagnesemia, can show up in various ways, and recognizing these signs is pivotal for addressing potential deficiencies. Some common indicators include:

  • Muscle Cramps and Spasms – Magnesium is integral to muscle function, and low levels may lead to cramps and spasms.
  • Fatigue and Weakness – Inadequate magnesium can contribute to feelings of fatigue and weakness, impacting overall energy levels.
  • Nausea and Vomiting – Magnesium deficiency may result in gastrointestinal symptoms, including nausea and vomiting.
  • Abnormal Heart Rhythms – Magnesium is crucial for maintaining a steady heart rhythm; low levels can lead to irregularities.

Magnesium-Rich Foods

Ensuring a balanced diet that includes magnesium-rich foods is a proactive way to maintain optimal levels. Some excellent dietary sources of this mineral include:

  • Leafy Greens – Swiss chard, kale, and spinach are all abundant sources of magnesium.
  • Nuts and Seeds – Almonds, cashews, and pumpkin seeds provide magnesium along with essential nutrients.
  • Whole Grains – Brown rice, quinoa, and oats are wholesome grains that contribute to magnesium intake.
  • Legumes – Beans, lentils, and chickpeas are excellent sources of not only protein but also magnesium.
  • Fish – Salmon and mackerel are fatty fishes that offer magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, and other health benefits.
  • Avocado – This creamy fruit provides not only magnesium but also healthy fats.
  • Bananas – Apart from being a potassium-rich fruit, bananas contain plenty of magnesium.

Side Effects and Precautions

While magnesium is crucial for health, excessive supplementation can lead to side effects. For this reason, it’s critical to know about potential issues and take precautions:

  • Gastrointestinal Symptoms – High doses of magnesium supplements, especially certain forms like magnesium citrate, may cause diarrhea or stomach cramps.
  • Kidney Function – People with impaired kidney function should be cautious with magnesium supplementation, as the kidneys play a role in magnesium excretion.
  • Medication Interactions – Magnesium supplements may interact with certain medications, including antibiotics and drugs for heart conditions. Checking with a healthcare professional is crucial for those on medication regimens.
  • Allergic Reactions – Individuals with allergies to specific forms of magnesium, such as magnesium glycinate, should avoid those variants.

What Are the Benefits of Magnesium?

Magnesium is a fundamental element for various physiological processes in the human body. From supporting muscle function to contributing to energy production, magnesium plays a crucial role in maintaining overall health. Let’s delve into specific benefits that underscore the importance of this essential mineral.

Supports Muscle Relaxation

Magnesium’s role in muscle function is paramount, especially in facilitating muscle relaxation. Adequate amounts of this mineral regulate calcium, a key player in muscle contraction, promoting the balance necessary for muscles to relax effectively. Moreover, magnesium’s muscle-relaxing properties extend beyond physical performance. Research has explored its potential in alleviating stress-related muscle tension, further emphasizing its role in promoting relaxation.

Supports Bone Health

While calcium often comes first in discussions about bone health, magnesium is equally crucial for maintaining strong and healthy bones. Magnesium aids in bone formation and helps regulate calcium levels, contributing to overall skeletal integrity.

Supports Teeth Health

Magnesium’s influence on dental health goes beyond its role in bones. Research has explored the relationship between magnesium intake and dental health, suggesting that magnesium, along with calcium and phosphorus, helps in the formation and maintenance of tooth enamel, emphasizing its significance for oral health.

Calms the Central Nervous System

Magnesium functions as a natural relaxant for the central nervous system, influencing neurotransmitter function and mitigating stress responses. Evidence suggests that magnesium supplementation has an effect on stress. The calming effect of this mineral on the nervous system contributes to stress reduction and supports emotional well-being.

Helps Convert Food Into Cellular Energy

Magnesium is a crucial cofactor in the process of converting food into cellular energy. It has a role in the activation of ATP, the primary energy currency of cells. Research has highlighted magnesium’s involvement in energy metabolism and its impact on overall cellular function. Adequate levels of this mineral are essential for the efficient production and utilization of ATP, ensuring the body has the energy needed for various physiological processes.

Can You Take Magnesium Citrate and Magnesium Glycinate Together?

Taking magnesium citrate and magnesium glycinate together is generally considered safe and may offer complementary benefits due to the distinct characteristics of each form.

  • Absorption Synergy

Magnesium citrate, known for its high solubility and absorption rate, can enhance the overall absorption of this element when taken with magnesium glycinate. At the same time, magnesium glycinate’s chelation with glycine supports efficient absorption, and combining it with magnesium citrate may further optimize the absorption process.

  • Balanced Effects

Magnesium citrate’s laxative properties make it effective for addressing constipation, while magnesium glycinate’s muscle-relaxing and calming properties may provide a balanced approach. Individuals seeking a well-rounded magnesium supplementation strategy may find the combination beneficial for both digestive and relaxation purposes.

  • Tailored Dosage

Combining magnesium citrate and magnesium glycinate allows flexibility in the dosage to meet individual needs. This combination enables a more personalized approach for those who require higher magnesium levels for specific health concerns.

  • Considerations

While combining these forms can offer potential synergistic effects, it’s important to consider individual tolerances and preferences. Begin with small doses and gradually increase to assess how the combination affects you, especially if you’re new to magnesium supplementation.

  • Consultation With Healthcare Professionals

Before combining magnesium citrate and magnesium glycinate or any other supplements, it’s important to check with a healthcare professional. They can provide direction based on your health status, potential interactions with medications, and specific health goals.

Conclusion

Combining both forms of citrate and glycinate magnesium can offer absorption synergy, muscle relaxation, bone health support, and a balanced approach to improving one’s well-being.

How Long Does It Take for Magnesium Citrate to Work?

The onset of action for magnesium citrate, especially when used as a laxative, varies among individuals. In general, it can start working within 30 minutes to 6 hours after ingestion. The time frame depends on individual metabolism, dosage, and specific health conditions. It’s crucial to follow recommended dosages and allow sufficient time for the laxative effect to take place.

How Long Does It Take for Magnesium Glycinate to Work?

Magnesium glycinate may take longer to show noticeable effects. Individuals using magnesium glycinate for these purposes may experience benefits over days to weeks. Consistent and prolonged use is necessary to observe the full impact on sleep quality, anxiety reduction, or muscle relaxation.

What Is the Best Magnesium for Migraines?

Many researchers have conducted studies on magnesium for its potential in migraine prevention. Analysis suggests magnesium citrate may be more effective in migraine prevention due to its higher bioavailability and absorption rate. However, individual responses may vary. Speaking with a healthcare professional can help determine the best magnesium form and dose for managing migraines.

Does Magnesium Help With Bloating?

Magnesium may have a role in alleviating bloating for some individuals. This mineral can act as a natural laxative, promoting bowel movements and reducing water retention in the intestines. Magnesium’s muscle-relaxing properties may also contribute to relieving abdominal discomfort associated with bloating. However, excessive intake can lead to diarrhea and worsen bloating in some cases. As with any digestive concern, consulting with a healthcare professional is the best route to follow.

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