Magnesium Glycinate vs. Citrate: Which Reigns Supreme?

Written by Salma Younas | Last updated on August 4, 2023

Magnesium is an essential mineral that is vital in various biochemical processes within the human body. It is involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions, contributing to the proper functioning of muscles, nerves, and the cardiovascular system, among others. 

While magnesium can be obtained through a balanced diet, some individuals may require additional supplementation to meet their recommended daily intake.

Magnesium supplements come in various forms, and two popular options are magnesium citrate and magnesium glycinate

These forms of magnesium offer unique benefits and are commonly used to address specific health concerns. 

In this article, we will explore the characteristics, roles, and differences between magnesium citrate and magnesium glycinate.

We will also examine other forms of magnesium and discuss their recommended dosages, absorption rates, and potential applications. 

What is Magnesium Citrate and its Role in the Body?

Magnesium citrate is a form of magnesium that combines magnesium with citric acid. It is commonly used as a dietary supplement due to its high bioavailability and effectiveness in promoting bowel movements [1].

In the body, magnesium citrate plays a crucial role in numerous physiological processes. It is involved in energy production, as it participates in the synthesis of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the body's primary energy currency.

Magnesium citrate also contributes to the proper functioning of enzymes involved in protein synthesis, DNA replication, and nerve transmission [2].

One notable benefit of magnesium citrate is its ability to promote regular bowel movements. It acts as an osmotic laxative, attracting water into the intestines and increasing stool volume. 

This property makes magnesium citrate a popular choice for individuals experiencing occasional constipation or needing to prepare for certain medical procedures or examinations [3].

Moreover, magnesium citrate has been studied for its potential to support bone health.

Adequate magnesium levels are essential for proper calcium metabolism, and magnesium citrate supplementation may aid in maintaining healthy bone density [4].

What is Magnesium Glycinate and its Role in the Body?

Magnesium glycinate is a form of magnesium that combines magnesium with the amino acid glycine.

It is widely recognized for its high bioavailability and its ability to provide a gentle and well-tolerated form of magnesium supplementation [5].

Within the body, magnesium glycinate serves numerous important functions. It is involved in muscle and nerve function, as well as the synthesis of DNA, proteins, and antioxidants.

Magnesium glycinate also supports the production and release of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, which plays a key role in mood regulation [6].

sleeping woman

One of the primary advantages of magnesium glycinate is its excellent absorption and bioavailability.

The chelation process enhances its absorption and reduces the likelihood of gastrointestinal side effects that may occur with other forms of magnesium.

This makes magnesium glycinate a suitable option for individuals with sensitive digestive systems [7].

Another significant benefit of magnesium glycinate is its potential to promote relaxation and support healthy sleep patterns.

Glycine, the amino acid component of magnesium glycinate, has calming properties and may help regulate neurotransmitters associated with sleep and anxiety [8]. 

What is the Difference Between Magnesium Glycinate and Citrate?

Magnesium glycinate and magnesium citrate are both popular forms of magnesium supplements, but they differ in several aspects, including their composition, benefits, and applications.

Understanding these differences can help individuals make an informed choice based on their specific needs and health goals.

Magnesium Glycinate vs. Citrate


The primary distinction lies in their composition. Magnesium glycinate is a combination of magnesium and the amino acid glycine, while magnesium citrate combines magnesium with citric acid.


Both magnesium glycinate and magnesium citrate are highly bioavailable forms of magnesium.

However, magnesium glycinate is often considered to have superior bioavailability compared to magnesium citrate.

This is due to the chelation process that enhances absorption and reduces the potential for gastrointestinal side effects.


Some individuals may experience sensitivity or adverse gastrointestinal effects when taking magnesium citrate, as its laxative effect can be stronger.

In contrast, magnesium glycinate is generally considered gentler on the digestive system and is often better tolerated by individuals with sensitive stomachs.


Both forms of magnesium are suitable for general magnesium supplementation, but their specific benefits and effects may make them more appropriate for certain conditions. 

Magnesium citrate is often chosen when there is a need for bowel regularity or as a preparation for medical procedures.

Magnesium glycinate, with its calming properties, may be favored for supporting relaxation, sleep quality, and mood regulation.

Is Magnesium Glycinate or Citrate Better?

Determining whether magnesium glycinate or magnesium citrate is better depends on individual needs, health goals, and personal preferences.

Both forms of magnesium offer distinct benefits and are suited for different purposes. Let's explore some factors to consider when deciding which form may be more suitable for you:

Digestive Sensitivity

Woman standing with digestive sensitivity and presses her hand on her stomach

If you have a sensitive digestive system or are prone to gastrointestinal issues, magnesium glycinate may be a better choice.

Its gentle and well-tolerated nature makes it less likely to cause digestive disturbances or has a pronounced laxative effect, which can be a concern with magnesium citrate.

Bowel Regularity

Woman using toilet- Bowel Regularity

If your primary concern is promoting regular bowel movements or relieving occasional constipation, magnesium citrate is typically recommended.

Its osmotic laxative properties make it effective in softening stools and facilitating bowel movements.

Sleep and Relaxation

woman enjoys relaxed sleep

If you are seeking support for relaxation, restful sleep, or mood regulation, magnesium glycinate may be the preferred option. 

The presence of glycine in magnesium glycinate offers potential calming effects on the nervous system, making it beneficial for individuals experiencing stress, anxiety, or sleep difficulties.

Individual Response

It's important to acknowledge that individual responses to different forms of magnesium can vary. Some individuals may find that magnesium glycinate works better for them, while others may prefer the effects of magnesium citrate.

It may require some experimentation to determine which form suits your body's unique requirements and yields the desired outcomes.

There is no definitive answer as to whether magnesium glycinate or magnesium citrate is inherently better. It largely depends on your specific needs and goals.

Consulting with a healthcare professional can provide personalized guidance and help determine the most suitable form of magnesium supplementation for you.

Other Forms of Magnesium

In addition to magnesium glycinate and magnesium citrate, there are various other forms of magnesium available as dietary supplements.

Each form has its own unique characteristics, absorption rates, and potential applications. Let's explore some of the commonly used forms of magnesium:

Magnesium Oxide

Magnesium Oxide Powder

Magnesium oxide contains a higher percentage of elemental magnesium, making it an economical choice for magnesium supplementation.

However, its absorption rate is relatively low compared to other forms. It is commonly used as a mild laxative and may be suitable for individuals with occasional constipation [9]. 

Magnesium Chloride

Magnesium Chloride Powder

Magnesium chloride is known for its excellent absorption and bioavailability. It is often used topically in the form of magnesium oil or flakes for transdermal absorption.

When taken orally, magnesium chloride is typically found in liquid or powder form [10]. 

Magnesium Threonate

magnesium threonate powder

Magnesium Threonate is a newer form of magnesium that has gained attention for its potential cognitive benefits. It has been suggested to support brain health and enhance memory and cognitive function.

Magnesium Threonate is believed to have good bioavailability and can cross the blood-brain barrier more effectively [11]. 

Magnesium Malate

Magnesium Malate Powder

Magnesium malate is a combination of magnesium and malic acid, which is involved in energy production within cells.

This form of magnesium is often used to support muscle health, and energy levels, and reduce muscle discomfort. It is also well-absorbed by the body [12].

Magnesium Sulfate

Magnesium Sulfate

Magnesium sulfate, commonly known as Epsom salt, is primarily used externally in baths for its relaxation and muscle-soothing properties.

While it is not commonly used as an oral supplement, it can provide magnesium absorption through the skin during bathing [13].

It's important to note that the recommended dosages provided are general guidelines and can vary depending on individual needs, health conditions, and the advice of a healthcare professional.

Additionally, absorption rates may vary between different individuals and forms of magnesium.

Magnesium Absorption: What Form of Magnesium is Best Absorbed?

The body's ability to absorb and utilize magnesium from different forms varies, and factors such as the form of magnesium, the presence of other substances, and individual factors can influence absorption rates [7]. 

Magnesium Glycinate

Magnesium glycinate is known for its superior bioavailability and absorption rates. The chelation process that bonds magnesium with glycine, helps facilitate its entry into the cells.

This form of magnesium is less likely to cause gastrointestinal side effects, such as diarrhea, that are commonly associated with other forms of magnesium. 

Magnesium Citrate

Although magnesium citrate is generally well-absorbed, its absorption rate may not be as high as magnesium glycinate.

The presence of citric acid may increase solubility but can also lead to a more rapid transit through the digestive system, reducing the amount of magnesium that can be absorbed.

So, if your primary goal is to maximize magnesium absorption, magnesium glycinate may be the preferred option.

Its superior bioavailability and efficient absorption make it an excellent choice for individuals who want to ensure they are getting the most out of their magnesium supplementation.

To optimize magnesium absorption, in any case, it is recommended to:

  • Take magnesium supplements with meals to enhance absorption, unless otherwise directed by a healthcare professional.

  • Avoid taking magnesium with substances that may hinder absorption, such as high doses of zinc or calcium supplements.

  • Follow the recommended dosage guidelines and consult a healthcare professional for personalized advice.

While the absorption rates of different forms of magnesium can vary, it is important to select a form that meets your specific needs and goals.

How to Know if You're Getting Enough Magnesium in Your Diet?

Assessing whether you are obtaining sufficient magnesium in your diet is essential for maintaining optimal health.

While it is recommended to obtain nutrients from a balanced diet, magnesium deficiencies are not uncommon. 

Here are some indicators and methods to determine if you are getting enough magnesium:

Dietary Evaluation

Magnesium Foods

Begin by assessing your dietary habits. Magnesium-rich foods include green leafy vegetables (such as spinach and kale), nuts and seeds (like almonds and pumpkin seeds), legumes, whole grains, and seafood.

If your diet consistently includes these food sources, you may be meeting your magnesium needs [14].

Recommended Daily Intake

woman's hand pours the medicine pills out of the bottle

The recommended daily intake of magnesium varies depending on age, sex, and life stage.

For adult males, it is typically around 400-420 mg, while adult females require approximately 310-320 mg.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women may have higher requirements. It is important to note that these are general guidelines, and individual needs may differ [14].

Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency

Signs of magnesium deficiency can include muscle cramps, fatigue, irritability, irregular heartbeat, and loss of appetite. However, these symptoms are not specific to magnesium deficiency alone and can be related to other factors [15]. 

If you experience persistent symptoms or suspect a deficiency, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and guidance.

Blood Tests

blood test

Blood tests can measure the levels of magnesium in your body. However, these tests may not always provide an accurate representation of your magnesium status, as only a small fraction of total body magnesium is found in the blood.

Therefore, additional factors and symptoms should also be considered when evaluating magnesium status.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is magnesium citrate considered better?

Magnesium citrate is often preferred for its effectiveness as a gentle laxative, making it useful for promoting bowel regularity and relieving occasional constipation.

It is also generally well-absorbed and offers good bioavailability.

Which kind of magnesium is best?

This depends on individual needs and goals. Magnesium glycinate is favored for its high absorption and gentle nature, while magnesium citrate is commonly used for its laxative effect.

Other forms, such as magnesium chloride or magnesium malate, may be suitable for specific purposes, such as relaxation or muscle health. 

What are the cons of magnesium glycinate?

While magnesium glycinate is generally well-tolerated, some individuals may experience mild side effects like gastrointestinal discomfort, although these occurrences are relatively rare.

It is advisable to start with a lower dosage and gradually increase as tolerated.

Which magnesium is best for sleep and anxiety?

Magnesium glycinate is often recommended for promoting relaxation, supporting restful sleep, and potentially reducing anxiety due to the calming properties of glycine.

However, individual responses can vary, and other forms like magnesium threonate or magnesium citrate may also offer benefits in these areas.


  1. Magnesium additive for nutrients, feed, and medicaments. Retrieved from 

  2. The Importance of Magnesium in Clinical Healthcare. Retrieved from 

  3. Medical Treatment of Constipation. Retrieved from 

  4. An update on magnesium and bone health. Retrieved from 

  5. Bioavailability of Magnesium Diglycinate vs Magnesium Oxide in Patients with Ileal Resection. Retrieved from 

  6. Effect of Magnesium Supplementation in Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors Treated Major Depressive Disorder Patients. Retrieved from 

  7. Predicting and Testing Bioavailability of Magnesium Supplements. Retrieved from 

  8. The Sleep-Promoting and Hypothermic Effects of Glycine are Mediated by NMDA Receptors in the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus. Retrieved from 

  9. Magnesium Oxide in Constipation. Retrieved from 

  10. Magnesium Chloride. Retrieved from 

  11. A Magtein®, Magnesium L-Threonate, -Based Formula Improves Brain Cognitive Functions in Healthy Chinese Adults. Retrieved from 

  12. Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Muscle Soreness and Performance. Retrieved from 

  13. Magnesium Sulfate. Retrieved from 

  14. Magnesium. Retrieved from 

  15. Magnesium Fact Sheet for Consumers. Retrieved from 

About the author 

Salma is an experienced community pharmacist who's worked at multiple well-known pharmaceutical companies including Dynatis Limited and Medipak Limited

You may also like