Products containingt magnesium layed out on a board with the word magnesium on a chalkboard in the center.

Magnesium Glycinate vs Citrate: What’s Best for You?

Are you making the most of magnesium in your wellness routine? Understanding the ins and outs of magnesium glycinate vs citrate can be a game-changer for your health and energy levels. 

As a Registered Dietitian and Cancer Health Coach, I’ve seen firsthand how the right type of magnesium can transform your health. I often recommend dietary supplements, particularly essential minerals like magnesium, for holistic health management.

In this deep dive, we’ll uncover why magnesium is one of my favorite supplements and how choosing the right type can be a pivotal factor in preventing chronic disease. Let’s decode the secrets of magnesium together, shall we?

But first, what is magnesium exactly?

The Multifaceted Role of Magnesium

This essential mineral actively participates in over 300 biochemical reactions in your body. It’s necessary for heart health, smooth muscle function, and even brain vitality, making it an important part of your daily health regimen.

Energizes Every Cell. Magnesium helps convert the food you eat into energy so you can enjoy a healthy and active life. This role becomes increasingly important as we age, as energy levels often dip in our 40s and beyond.

A Heart-Healthy Mineral. Magnesium reduces the risk of heart disease by helping maintain a steady heart rhythm and effective heart muscle contractions. This is crucial for circulating blood,  oxygen, and nutrients throughout your body (1).  

With an increased risk of heart issues as we age, magnesium’s role in heart health is particularly significant in later years.

Supports Muscle Function. Magnesium aids in muscle contraction. This is vital for everything from major movements to more subtle actions like heartbeat regulation. 

For those experiencing a decline in muscle mass and strength, magnesium is key to maintaining muscle function and mobility.

picture of a 3D projection of a human brain floating between 2 hands.

Brain Health Booster. Magnesium’s impact on brain health, especially cognitive processing and mood regulation, is gaining attention. This is especially helpful if you’re managing the complex emotional and physical changes that come with age (2, 3, 4).  

While the research on magnesium, mood disorders, and brain health is not yet conclusive, it is very promising!

Strengthens Immune Defenses. Magnesium is essential for the proper functioning of your immune system. Ensuring you get enough can be your secret weapon in strengthening your body’s defense against infections.

Magnesium and Workout Recovery. After a good workout, magnesium helps to ease muscle soreness and calm inflammation. Research shows that its anti-inflammatory properties and role in muscle function can help accelerate recovery post-exercise.

Regulates Blood Sugar. Playing a key role in blood sugar control, magnesium helps improve insulin sensitivity. This is particularly beneficial as we age, reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes and supporting overall metabolic health (5). 

Supports Healthy Weight. While magnesium isn’t a weight-loss miracle, it positively influences metabolic health. Proper magnesium levels aid in better insulin sensitivity and metabolic control, offering support in your weight management journey.

Want to learn more about magnesium supplements and weight?
Check out this article: Can Magnesium Supplements Cause Weight Gain or Loss?

Now that we’ve covered the benefits of magnesium, let’s explore the differences between magnesium glycinate and magnesium citrate so you can determine which is best for you.

Exploring Magnesium Glycinate vs Citrate – What Sets Them Apart?

Did you know that about 50% of Americans are deficient in magnesium (6)? Considering how important magnesium is for maintaining health, this is an astounding number. 

Magnesium symbol - Mg. Element of the periodic table zoomed with magnifying glass.

If you’re considering magnesium supplements, you might find yourself weighing the options between magnesium glycinate and magnesium citrate. Each has unique characteristics, and knowing these can help you make the right choice.

Magnesium Glycinate. This popular choice marries magnesium with the amino acid glycine. It’s highly bioavailable, which means your body can easily absorb and use the magnesium. The glycine enhances this absorbability, making it a smart option. 

It’s also gentle on the stomach, which is a comforting thought if you have a sensitive digestive system.

Magnesium Citrate. This blend of magnesium and citric acid (the same natural compound you’d find in citrus fruits) is also well-absorbed. However, it has a mild laxative effect. 

This could be an added perk if you’re looking to support your digestive health along with boosting your magnesium intake.

Let’s dig a little deeper into the unique benefits of each…

Magnesium Glycinate: Your Gentle Companion for Calm and Rest

Let’s cozy up to magnesium glycinate and see why it might just be the soothing companion you’ve been looking for. This form of magnesium is calming and soothing, much like a warm cup of tea or a cozy blanket.

Woman sleeping in bed at home in the bedroom

Improved Sleep. Magnesium glycinate brings together magnesium and the amino acid glycine. It has a calming effect with the potential to improve sleep quality. 

Stress Relief. If you find your thoughts racing at bedtime or feel on edge during the day, magnesium glycinate may offer that sense of calm you’re craving. It’s like a soft, reassuring hug for your nervous system.

Easily Absorbed. Another benefit of magnesium glycinate is its high bioavailability. This simply means that your body finds it easy to absorb and use. So, when you take this supplement, you can rest assured that your body is getting the magnesium it needs.

Easy on Your Gut. Magnesium glycinate is extremely gentle on the digestive system. This makes it a perfect choice if you have a sensitive stomach or have had trouble with other forms of magnesium in the past.

Magnesium Citrate – A Digestive Health Champion

Magnesium citrate steps into the spotlight with its distinct approach to supporting the digestive system. This form of magnesium, which is combined with citric acid, offers a unique benefit that sets it apart from magnesium glycinate.

Woman with stomach pain clutching her stomach.

Promotes Healthy Bowel Function. Where magnesium citrate shines is in its ability to gently encourage digestive regularity. If you’ve ever felt like your digestive system is moving at a slower pace than you’d like, magnesium citrate can help! 

Thanks to its mild laxative effect, magnesium citrate is particularly beneficial for improving bowel movements and managing occasional constipation. It works subtly yet effectively, easing constipation and keeping your digestive system running smoothly. 

Improved Blood Pressure. Magnesium citrate can reduce high blood pressure by helping to relax and dilate blood vessels. This reduces the pressure against your blood vessels, leading to lower blood pressure and improved cardiovascular health (7). 

Understanding Side Effects: A Balanced View of Magnesium Glycinate vs Citrate Supplements

Anytime you add a supplement to your routine, including magnesium glycinate or citrate, it’s wise to consider the whole picture, especially potential side effects. 

Balance scale with a sunset background.

Magnesium Glycinate. Gentle on the stomach, this is a friendlier option for those with sensitive digestive systems. However, like any supplement, taking it in very high doses could lead to less common side effects. 

Side effects might include nausea or, in rare cases, other gastrointestinal discomforts. The key with magnesium glycinate is to stick to recommended dosages and listen to your body’s cues.

Magnesium Citrate. Its mild laxative effect is often the reason for its use. This effect is usually gentle and beneficial for promoting regular bowel movements. 

However, taking larger-than-recommended quantities could lead to loose stools or an overly active bowel. It’s best to find that sweet spot that supports your digestive health without going overboard.

Any Magnesium Supplement. Though rare, side effects of higher doses of magnesium can include imbalances in electrolytes. It’s always a good practice to start with a lower dose and see how your body responds.

Adhering to the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) and consulting with a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement is always wise (more on this later). This is especially true if you have existing health conditions like kidney disease.

Tailoring Magnesium Dosage for Optimal Health

Are you considering magnesium supplements but don’t know how much to take? The RDA for magnesium offers a starting point. 

RDA Magnesium (8

Birth- 6 months30 mg30 mg
7-12 months75 mg75 mg
1-3 years80 mg80 mg
4-8 years130 mg130 mg
9-13 years240 mg240 mg
14-18 years410 mg360 mg400 mg360 mg
19-30 years400 mg310 mg350 mg310 mg
31-50 years420 mg320 mg360 mg320 mg
51+ years420 mg320 mg

Best Ways to Approach Supplementation

With magnesium glycinate, renowned for its high bioavailability, beginning within this recommended range can be a practical approach, allowing you to gauge your body’s response.

Magnesium citrate, particularly due to its mild laxative effect, may require starting with a lower dosage. This approach helps you enjoy the benefits of the supplement while minimizing the risk of digestive discomfort.

For those with specific health conditions, such as kidney disease, consulting with a healthcare provider is essential. They can offer guidance tailored to your unique health situation, ensuring that your magnesium intake is both safe and effective.

Ultimately, the goal of magnesium supplementation is to enhance your bodily functions in a manner that is responsive to your specific needs. Adjust your intake based on how your body reacts and seek professional advice when necessary.

Do I Need a Supplement? Magnesium in Everyday Foods

Considering nearly half of the US population has a magnesium deficiency, it’s a good idea to incorporate magnesium-rich foods into your diet. Fortunately, many common foods offer this essential mineral in abundance. 

A sign with "Mg" surrounded by foods high in magnesium

Let’s take a closer look at these foods and how they can fit into your daily eating habits.

Leafy Greens. Spinach, kale, Swiss chard, and other leafy greens are excellent sources of magnesium. Incorporate into salads, blend into smoothies, or add to your favorite cooked dishes.

Nuts and Seeds. Pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashews, and other nuts and seeds are packed with magnesium. They make great snacks, or you can sprinkle them over salads and meals for added nutrition.

Want to learn more about nuts and seeds? See our articles: 
Brazil Nuts vs Macadamia: Which is Best for Healthy Aging? 
Pepitas vs Sunflower Seeds: What is the Difference?

Whole Grains. Brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat, and other whole grains are good sources of magnesium and dietary fiber. Use them as the base for a variety of meals or incorporate them into your baking.

Legumes. Black beans, lentils, chickpeas, and other legumes are rich in both protein and magnesium. They’re versatile ingredients for soups, salads, and as the main component in many dishes.

Fish. Salmon, mackerel, halibut, and other fish are not only rich in omega-3 fatty acids but also magnesium. They can be grilled, baked, or added to salads for a healthy meal.

Read more about healthy fish choices here: Salmon vs Halibut Nutrition: Which is Better to Eat?

Dark Chocolate. High-cocoa content dark chocolate is a delightful treat that’s surprisingly high in magnesium. Enjoy it in moderation for a sweet magnesium boost.

Avocados. Avocados are great in salads, sandwiches, or blended into smoothies.

Bananas. Bananas are perfect as a quick snack or sliced into cereals and yogurt.

Dairy Products. Yogurt, milk, and other dairy products can offer a boost of magnesium. 

Tofu. Often a staple in vegetarian diets, tofu is a good source of magnesium and can be used in stir-fries, salads, or as a meat substitute in various recipes.

Healthy middle aged woman at home on a sofa.

Choosing Your Magnesium Match – What Suits You Best

I recommend a magnesium supplement to nearly all of my clients, but which type of magnesium depends on their personal needs. This is definitely a case where one size does not fit all.

Picking the right type of magnesium – be it glycinate, citrate, or another type – is a bit like finding the perfect pair of shoes. Each form of magnesium comes with its own set of strengths-matching these to your personal needs and lifestyle preferences is the key to making the best choice.

If a gentle, stomach-friendly option that also supports calm and relaxation sounds right for you, magnesium glycinate could be your ideal pick. Its high bioavailability means your body can make the most out of the magnesium it offers.

On the other hand, if, supporting your digestive health is more what you’re after, magnesium citrate might be your top choice. Known for aiding in regular bowel movements, it’s a go-to for those looking to optimize magnesium levels while promoting digestive comfort.

And if you’re curious, there are different forms of magnesium supplements out there, each with unique benefits. 

For example, magnesium malate may help with muscle discomfort and fatigue, while magnesium threonate is gaining attention for its potential brain health benefits. 

Magnesium oxide, despite being less bioavailable and poorly absorbed, is frequently used for treating occasional constipation and acid reflux.

A chat with your healthcare provider can be super helpful in finding the best type of magnesium supplement for you. They can take a look at your overall health picture and guide you toward a magnesium supplement that resonates with your specific needs.

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