What's The Difference Between Magnesium Glycinate vs Citrate?

On This Page

    When it comes to magnesium supplements, there are two popular forms: magnesium glycinate and citrate. The difference between the two lies in their absorption.

    Are you looking to supplement your diet with magnesium but can’t decide between magnesium glycinate and citrate? If so, you're in the right place! In this article, we'll explore the differences between the two forms of magnesium. We'll discuss their potential benefits, side effects, and how they compare with one another. We’ll also explain what factors you should consider when choosing between them.

    What is magnesium?

    Magnesium is an essential mineral that contributes to over 300 enzymatic processes in the body. It’s a macromineral, which means that the body needs it in larger quantities to stay healthy. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for adults is between 320-420 mg per day. Magnesium is found in foods like veggies, seeds, nuts, fruits, and grains, but supplements can be used to bridge the gap between what is missing from the diet and what the body needs for optimal functioning.

    Magnesium supplements come in several different forms known to support a variety of symptoms. In this article, we will discuss two of the most popular forms: glycinate and citrate.

    What are the benefits of magnesium?

    Magnesium is an important mineral that is vital for many bodily functions. It has a wide range of benefits that can help improve overall health. Magnesium plays a major role in cardiovascular health, helping to regulate heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels that are all already within normal range.

    In addition to its role in cardiovascular health, magnesium is also beneficial for bone strength and nerve transmission in muscles. It helps strengthen bones by stimulating bone growth while at the same time providing minerals necessary for bone formation and maintenance. Magnesium also works by facilitating muscle contraction which helps with both nerve function and muscle activity. This is why it is common for individuals who have magnesium deficiency to suffer from occasional muscle cramping and tension.

    What is magnesium citrate and its role in the body?

    Magnesium citrate is a type of magnesium supplement, usually found in the form of a powder, liquid, or tablet. It’s the form of magnesium supplement most commonly used to support digestive health. It is widely known for its ability to boost the regularity of bowel movements.

    High doses of magnesium citrate can increase the release of intestinal peptides such as CCK (cholecystokinin), NOS (nitric oxide synthase), and more. These intestinal peptides can have a laxative effect. Additionally, another study indicated that consuming this type of supplement can promote bowel movements because of its ability to increase water in the intestines.

    Magnesium citrate is also preferred due to its high bioavailability and absorption. Recent findings show that magnesium citrate is better absorbed than its oxide form, which is another form of magnesium supplement that is used in digestive health.

    Overall, magnesium citrate is safe to take at lower doses on a daily basis. High doses over an extended period of time should be avoided to prevent potential loose stools, which can cause dehydration over time if unaddressed. If you experience loose stools chronically please talk to your doctor as it may be a sign of serious underlying health issues.

    What is magnesium glycinate and its role in the body?

    We already discussed the citrate form of magnesium, so let’s dive into another version – magnesium glycinate. Magnesium glycinate is made up of two things: magnesium and the amino acid glycine. This combination creates a form of magnesium that is both highly absorbable and has a calming effect on the body.

    Glycine helps make it easier for the body to absorb magnesium so that it can be put to use where it's needed most. This study reports that magnesium glycinate is highly absorbable with a lower risk for loose stools with higher doses.

    Magnesium glycinate may also exert calming effects due to its glycine attachment. Glycine is a well known amino acid associated with several benefits. These calming effects may reduce stress levels and contribute to improved mood.

    What is the difference between magnesium citrate and magnesium glycinate?

    Let’s break down the differences between magnesium citrate and magnesium glycinate so you can better determine which one is best for you!

    Magnesium citrate, made from an organic combination of citric acid and magnesium carbonate, is known for its effectiveness in helping to relieve occasional constipation or functioning as a laxative due to its ability to draw water into the intestines.

    On the other hand, magnesium glycinate is created by combining magnesium ions with a tiny amino acid called glycine, which is also known to have several beneficial properties. Magnesium glycinate has been found to be even more soluble than citrate and oxide versions.

    Magnesium glycinate has been associated with improving sleep quality because of glycine’s ability to help lower core body temperature. Magnesium glycinate’s relaxation properties may promote a calming effect on both body and mind. Furthermore, glycine is a necessary component for the body to be able to synthesize glutathione. Glutathione is a major antioxidant that plays a central role in the body’s natural immune defenses.

    Is magnesium citrate or magnesium glycinate better?

    With so many forms of magnesium on the market, it can be difficult to decide which one is right for you. So which should you choose? To decide between magnesium citrate and glycinate, it's important to consider their differences in absorption rate, cost, side effects, and bioavailability. Both forms can both be effective depending on your health goals and tolerance. This study reports that all types of magnesium can be effective in healthy people.

    Magnesium citrate is absorbed quickly by the body, but can cause some unwanted gastrointestinal side effects, including abdominal cramping or diarrhea. In contrast, magnesium glycinate is known for its high bioavailability – meaning it's easily absorbed into the body – but may not provide fast or significant relief from digestive symptoms. Magnesium glycinate is more commonly used for its effects on stress, sleep promotion, and immune health.

    Which form of magnesium is best absorbed?

    When it comes to absorption, not all forms of magnesium are created equal. While there are three common varieties — glycinate, oxide, and citrate — research suggests that glycinate may be best absorbed when compared with the other two forms of magnesium.

    We recommend magnesium from Irish seawater (magnesium hydroxide) since it has high solubility and contains 72 naturally occurring minerals to boost absorption.

    How to know if you're getting enough magnesium from your diet

    While magnesium can be found in a variety of foods, it's not always easy to know if you're getting enough of this important nutrient from your diet.

    Fortunately, there are a few simple steps that can help you track your intake of magnesium-rich foods and ensure that you're receiving the recommended dietary allowance for this important nutrient. First, familiarize yourself with some common sources of magnesium such as spinach, nuts, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, beans, and grains. Then make sure to include these items in your meals on a regular basis.

    How to supplement magnesium

    Unfortunately, many people don't get enough magnesium in their diets and must supplement it from other sources. Here are some tips for supplementing magnesium to ensure optimal health:

    The best way to start supplementing magnesium is by eating foods high in the mineral, such as green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Another option is to take a daily oral magnesium supplement. Choose a quality product that has been tested by independent laboratories to ensure its safety and effectiveness.

    Recommended magnesium dosage

    For individuals who choose to supplement with magnesium, it is important to read the label and follow instructions carefully as different forms of magnesium can interact differently with your body. Additionally, it's always a good idea to discuss any dietary changes or supplementation plans with your doctor before starting them. This will ensure that you get the right dose of this essential mineral for your individual needs while avoiding any potential side effects or interactions with other medications you may be taking.

    Potential side effects and risks from taking a magnesium supplement

    The form of magnesium that you choose will affect its solubility in the body, which will determine how much of it is absorbed by the digestive system. For instance, it is more likely to experience digestive discomfort and bowel changes with low solubility forms, like citrate and oxide in comparison to glycinate, hydroxide, chloride, or threonate versions.

    It’s crucial to consult with a doctor or nutritionist before starting any kind of supplementation program so they can recommend the optimal form and dose for your individual needs.

    You're unique. Your supplements should be too.

    Take the quiz
    Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS
    Medical Content Manager
    Dr. Montrond-Correia is a licensed naturopathic physician and a certified nutrition specialist (CNS). She holds degrees from University of Bridgeport, Georgetown University, and University of Saint Joseph, and supplemented her education with internships in the health and wellness space. She's focused on research, herbal medicine, nutrigenomics, and integrative and functional medicine. She makes time for exercise, artistic activities, and enjoying delicious food.
    Jordana Tobelem, RD
    Freelance Contributor
    Jordana Tobelem is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys helping others become the best versions of themselves through proper nutrition education. Jordana is passionate about promoting lifestyle changes through nutrition, physical activity, and behavior to create a superior quality of life. She uses her experience in the clinical field of dietetics to provide consulting services to an array of healthcare brands and companies. Jordana loves finding the most current research in nutrition to create meaningful content to share with her clients. Jordana has been a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics since 2018 and also holds certifications in both Personal Training and Health Coaching.