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Magnesium Glycinate Vs Citrate: What’s The Difference?

It doesn’t take a science degree for most people to know you should be consuming a broad range of vitamins and minerals if you want to be sure you stay healthy. However, when it comes to knowing what each does, what the different types are, and how much you should take, it gets a bit trickier.

A perfect example of this is magnesium. Many of us will have seen it on food and supplement labels and been told it’s good for us but won’t be quite sure what it does. Even fewer people will be able to tell you the difference between the different types of magnesium supplements that are available.

Magnesium is an extremely important mineral that is essential for us to stay healthy and a deficiency can cause a number of problems. A little research will quickly show that magnesium glycinate and magnesium citrate are the most common types used, but how exactly do they differ?

In today’s article, that is exactly what we hope to show you, as we will examine exactly what magnesium does, what different types there are, and all the differences between magnesium glycinate and magnesium citrate.

What Is Magnesium?

Magnesium is an alkaline earth metal that is the 11th most abundant substance in the human body. It is vital for maintaining the health of the cells found throughout our body and can also be useful for boosting the production of more than 300 enzymes that are needed for our system to function correctly.

What Are The Benefits To Taking Magnesium?

There are a number of extremely popular health benefits linked to magnesium supplements.

These include better sleep quality, improved exercise performance, greater mental focus, reduced cramping and inflammation, optimal blood pressure and sugar levels, improved heart, nerve, and muscle function, greater nail, skin, joint, bone, and hair health, relief from migraines and headaches, and reduced risk of diabetes, depression, heart disease, and digestive issues.

What Is Magnesium Glycinate?

Magnesium glycinate is the most frequently used type of magnesium that you will find in dietary supplements. One of the most prominent reasons for this is that magnesium glycinate has a very high rate of absorbency while being both relatively cheap and safe. 

It is a perfect choice for people with low levels of magnesium in their blood. That said, magnesium glycinate can sometimes cause an upset stomach and you should aim to take it with food where possible, to try and prevent this. 

Magnesium Glycinate Uses

There are a number of reasons why people may want to take magnesium glycinate rather than another form of magnesium.

This includes its ability to help in the maintenance of a normal, healthy heart rhythm and blood glucose levels, reduce the symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome, ease aches, pains, and anxiety and its symptoms, and enhance physical performance. 

Magnesium glycinate is commonly prescribed by healthcare providers for patients who appear to have a poor level of absorption for magnesium. It can also be given when other magnesium supplements have failed to restore normal levels of the mineral in their body, due to its higher rate of absorption. 

What Is Magnesium Citrate?

Rather than being a dietary supplement like most forms of magnesium, magnesium citrate is a more medicinal type of saline laxative solution, although it is till usually taken orally. When magnesium citrate is consumed, it is very possible it will increase the amount of fluid in the small intestines.

This effect is what causes people to see an improvement in bowel movements when taking magnesium citrate and why it is often used as a laxative. Some types of magnesium citrate can start working in under half an hour, but some can take as long as three hours before they work. 

Magnesium Citrate Uses

The most common use for magnesium citrate is to help people have easier bowel movements, such as when they are constipated. It is also used In cases where people have to undergo a colonoscopy or radiography in the bowels for similar reasons, as it helps to clean the bowels prior to the procedure. 

Magnesium citrate prescriptions are also given in cases where a patient needs to undergo surgery that affects the bowels. There are also milder versions of the supplement available for home use.

What Other Forms Of Magnesium Are There?

While magnesium citrate and magnesium glycinate are perhaps the most popular and effective types of magnesium found in supplements, they aren’t the only ones.

We will now look at the other forms of magnesium that are available and what they do, to determine how they compare and if they may be a better option for your personal needs.

Magnesium Chloride

Magnesium chloride is a salt that contains magnesium and chlorine. It has a better absorption rate than some other forms of magnesium, especially in the digestive tract, but usually contains only 12% magnesium. It is most often used in creams and lotions but can also be taken as an oral supplement.

Popular benefits linked to magnesium chloride include easing muscular pain, constipation, and heartburn. There are reports that it can cause side effects in the digestive system though.

Magnesium Lactate

Magnesium lactate is a salt made up of magnesium and lactic acid which can be easily absorbed by the gut when taken orally. It is easier on the digestive system than most other types of magnesium, so is a good choice for those who have a sensitive stomach or are taking large doses of magnesium.

It is unfortunately slightly less effective at offering many of the benefits associated with magnesium, which is why it isn’t commonly used in supplements. However, it can offer a unique benefit of being able to help ease stress and anxiety.

Magnesium Malate

Magnesium malate is a combination of magnesium and malic acid. Its source of magnesium is among the most bioavailable and easy to absorb, especially in the digestive tract, and rarely causes issues when ingested by humans.

It usually contains around 15% magnesium and has the unique selling point of potentially being able to help with conditions like chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia.

Magnesium Orotate

Magnesium orotate is a combination of magnesium and orotic acid that is easily absorbed and doesn’t cause the laxative effect seen with high doses of some other types of magnesium.

It is unique in the fact that it increases energy production while improving the health and function of the blood vessels and heart tissue. Its rarity stems purely from it being the most expensive type of magnesium, with many believing there are other supplements that do the same job for less.

Magnesium Oxide

Magnesium oxide is a salt formed by exposing pure magnesium to oxygen. It has the highest amount of magnesium of any magnesium supplement at 61%, yet it is also one of its least bioavailable forms.

The main selling point of magnesium oxide is that it is slow release, so can offer gradual benefits over time. Always sold as an oral supplement, it can be used to treat digestive issues like constipation, heartburn, indigestion, and may even be able to both prevent and treat migraines.

Magnesium Sulphate

Magnesium sulphate is a mix of magnesium, sulphur, and oxygen (the last 2 making sulphate) and is more commonly known as Epsom salts. Containing roughly 10% magnesium, it can be taken orally but is almost always used as a topical ointment or as crystals dissolved in water that you soak in.

It is primarily used to soothe aching muscles, bones, and joints, heal damaged skin, and draw foreign particles out of wounds. When taken orally, it can also ease constipation, relieve stress, and provide digestive support.

Magnesium Taurate

Magnesium Taurate is the combination of magnesium and the amino acid taurine. Its main selling points are the belief that it can reduce blood pressure and the risk of heart disease, improve the health of the heart and protect it from damage, and regulate blood glucose levels.

However, of all the forms of magnesium, magnesium Taurate has been studied the least, so more evidence is required before the results are considered conclusive.

Magnesium L-Threonate

Magnesium l-threonate is a salt formed from magnesium and threonic acid, a by-product from the breakdown of vitamin c. Usually containing 7.2% magnesium, its unique selling point is that it is able to cross the blood brain barrier.

Being able to enter the brain makes it the only type of magnesium that can offer benefits like repairing brain cells and managing mental disorders like dementia and depression.

What Are The Best Sources Of Magnesium?

While magnesium supplements are a quick and easy way to up your magnesium levels, there are plenty of great natural sources of magnesium as well which you can use to boost your magnesium intake.

Legumes and seeds like black beans, edamame, lima beans, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, and squash seeds are great options, as are nuts such as almonds, cashews, and peanuts. Whole grains such as of oatmeal and whole wheat are particularly good, as is tofu and certain types of fatty fish, like tuna.

Vegetables including avocados, kale, spinach, and many other leafy greens contain a great deal of magnesium, as do carbs like brown rice. Those with a sweeter tooth will also be happy to hear that dark chocolate and yoghurt are high in magnesium as well, and so are fruits like bananas.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS)

Before we conclude our analysis of the differences between magnesium citrate and magnesium glycinate, I want to go over a few of the most frequently asked questions people have on the subject. This should ensure everyone is completely clear on the matter by the time we are done.

What Type Of Magnesium Is Easiest To Absorb?

It is largely accepted that magnesium glycinate is the easiest form of mineral for the body to absorb. Beyond this, magnesium malate, magnesium chloride, magnesium lactate, and magnesium orotate all have very high rates of absorption.

How Do You Know If You Are Low On Magnesium Or Have A Magnesium Deficiency?

There are a number of signs and symptoms that can be a clear indicator that your body’s levels of magnesium are low.

Common signs are allergies, anxiety, blurry vision, constipation, chronic pain and inflammation, high blood pressure, depression, diabetes, digestive issues, dizziness, erectile problems, fatigue, muscle cramps and stiffness, rashes, fibromyalgia, headaches, heart palpitations, insomnia, tiredness,  issues concentrating, irregular menstrual cycles, nausea, vaginal dryness, weakness, and weight gain.

How Do You Choose A Magnesium Supplement?

When choosing a magnesium supplement, it is important you select the right one for you. There are a number of factors that play a role in determining both if you will stick to using it and if it will help you to achieve the desired results, and all of these need to be carefully considered.

You need to consider what symptoms you are trying to treat, what type of magnesium a supplement contains, how much magnesium it contains, how much the item costs, whether you need an oral supplement or topical ointment, and how easy and pleasant it is to take.

Are Magnesium Supplements Safe/Do Magnesium Supplements Cause Side Effects?

Magnesium supplements are largely considered safe for use by the majority of people, provided they keep within the safe levels. That said, there are a number of side effects you could possibly experience if you use too much or have an intolerance to the mineral.

This includes confusion, diarrhea, dizziness, hallucinations, headaches, muscle weakness, trouble breathing or urinating, kidney problems, heart arrhythmias, lethargy, nausea, stomach aches, vomiting, and even seizures, and certain other serious health issues.

What Dose Of Magnesium Should You Use?

The amount of magnesium you need to take each day can vary based on things like your age, weight, gender, any health issues you have, if you have a magnesium deficiency, and how much magnesium you are getting from the foods you eat in your diet.

That said, for the majority of adults, a supplement containing around 350 mg of magnesium will be optimal. It is important to remember though that this refers to the amount of elemental magnesium your supplement needs to contain, so check what the magnesium content of your chosen magnesium source is.

Final Thoughts

Magnesium is a really important mineral and both magnesium glycinate and magnesium citrate have their own specific uses. This article will hopefully have helped you to establish what each is best for, when to use it, and which choice is the right one for you.

Magnesium glycinate is the best choice to help combat a magnesium deficiency, while magnesium citrate is better suited for use as a laxative to battle constipation or before a medical procedure. Both are fantastic, you just need to know when to use them.

Now you know what type of magnesium you need to use, all you have left to do is settle on just how you are going to take it. Magnesium gummies and tablets are a really popular option, while multivitamin tablets and vitamin gummies often contain magnesium as well.

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Steve is a retired professional wrestler with over 10 years of experience in the personal fitness industry. He is a certified personal trainer working with a wide variety of athletes as well as a fitness writer.

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