Magnesium Types

Magnesium Glycinate vs Citrate – Which is best?

If you’re looking for magnesium supplements, you’ll come across many different types like magnesium glycinate and magnesium citrate. The range of options can be quite overwhelming, so in this article, we’re going to help you figure out which type of magnesium is best for you: magnesium citrate or magnesium glycinate? 

What is magnesium and why are there so many types?

Magnesium is an essential mineral that your body depends on for hundreds of different functions. These include things like: 

  • Heartbeat
  • Muscle function
  • Nerve function
  • Bone synthesis (creation)
  • Blood sugar control
  • Blood pressure regulation
  • Immune regulation
  • Energy production
  • DNA and RNA synthesis
  • Protein synthesis

When you buy magnesium as a supplement, it’s usually bound to another substance, like an acid, that acts as a carrier. That’s why you’ll see labels with names like “magnesium glycinate” (made with glycine) and “magnesium citrate” (made with citric acid). 

There are lots of different types of magnesium, each with its own unique benefits and drawbacks. You can find out more about the many types of magnesium here, but for now, let’s look at two in more detail: magnesium glycinate and magnesium citrate. 

What is magnesium glycinate? 

Magnesium glycinate is a supplement made up of magnesium and glycine, an amino acid. Glycine is used by your body to make proteins for building and repairing tissues, such as collagen for healthy skin, joints, and bones. It’s also used to create essential enzymes, hormones, antioxidants, and neurotransmitters.

What is magnesium citrate?

Magnesium citrate is a supplement made up of magnesium and citric acid, an organic acid naturally found in citrus fruits. Citric acid is an essential ingredient in the cycle of chemical reactions that turn food into energy, helping to power every single cell in your body. 

Magnesium Glycinate vs Citrate – Which is best for…

Magnesium supplements of all kinds, including magnesium citrate and magnesium glycinate, are known for health benefits like heart function, blood pressure control, blood sugar regulation, immune function, cognitive function, and brain health. (You can read all about these in our article 12 Evidence-Based Benefits of Magnesium Supplements.)

Whether you choose magnesium glycinate or magnesium citrate will depend on the specific benefits you’re looking for. Here, we’ll look at various reasons you might want to take a magnesium supplement and find out which magnesium supplement is best: glycinate or citrate. 

Magnesium deficiency/general supplementation  

WINNER: Magnesium glycinate (but only by a fraction!) 

When you’re choosing a magnesium supplement, an important thing to factor in is its bioavailability. This refers to how much of the magnesium is actually absorbed and used by the body. The better the absorption, the higher the bioavailability, and the greater the benefits. This is especially important if you’re taking a supplement to treat magnesium deficiency. 

Magnesium glycinate and magnesium citrate are both known to be very well-absorbed with high bioavailability. In fact, some studies suggest that magnesium citrate is the better absorbed of the two. So why did magnesium glycinate win this round? 

If you’re taking a magnesium supplement to increase your overall magnesium levels, you want a type that you can take comfortably at higher doses. 

Magnesium citrate is not as well-tolerated as magnesium glycinate, which means that some people experience digestive side effects with smaller doses. In fact, magnesium citrate is commonly used to treat constipation thanks to its laxative effects (more on that later!). 

Because magnesium glycinate is easier on your digestive system, you’re less likely to experience digestive side effects. That’s why experts also recommend magnesium glycinate for people with sensitive stomachs or digestive issues.


WINNER: Magnesium citrate 

Magnesium is a popular natural supplement for fighting fatigue. To understand why magnesium citrate is even better, let’s first have a quick primer on energy metabolism. 

You probably know that glucose is your primary source of energy. However, your cells actually go through a series of complex processes to turn glucose into a form of energy they can use, called ATP. Collectively, these processes are called cellular respiration.

One major stage of cellular respiration is called the Krebs cycle, but it’s often referred to as the citric acid cycle. That’s because it depends on citric acid to activate and maintain the cycle. In order to keep a steady supply of energy, then, you need citric acid.

Based on this, lots of people use supplements with citric acid to fight fatigue. Some sources say that your body makes all the citric acid it needs and taking supplements won’t help, but there’s definitely evidence that suggests otherwise. In this study, for example, people who took a citric acid supplement showed much less physical stress and fatigue than those who took L-carnitine, another popular energy supplement. 

Either way, we do know for sure that ATP can’t actually be used by the cells unless it’s bound to magnesium. If you’re looking for a supplement to boost your energy levels, then, magnesium citrate comes out on top! 


WINNER: Magnesium glycinate

Magnesium has many roles relating to emotional health. For example, it’s needed to create serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate mood and sleep. Research even shows that magnesium deficiency significantly increases your risk of depression and may contribute to anxiety

With this in mind, it’s no surprise that magnesium supplements have been shown to help with mood regulation. However, magnesium glycinate stands head and shoulders above other types when it comes to emotional health. 

In one review of patient case histories, magnesium glycinate was found to improve symptoms of depression, anxiety, addiction, and several other mental illnesses. In one of the case studies, a patient famously recovered from major depression in just seven days after taking magnesium glycinate and another form, magnesium taurate. 

Obviously, this doesn’t mean that magnesium of any type is a replacement for professional mental health treatment, nor does it mean that everyone will experience such dramatic results. However, it does support the popular idea that magnesium glycinate can be a helpful addition to a wider treatment plan. 


WINNER: Magnesium glycinate

Magnesium deficiency is closely associated with insomnia. When we consider all the ways it’s involved in the sleep cycle, that makes perfect sense. Magnesium:

  • Helps the body clock to “keep time” and maintains the sleep-wake cycle. 
  • Creates serotonin, which is turned into melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone. 
  • Activates the parasympathetic nervous system to put you in a restful, sleep-ready state. 
  • Binds to receptors for GABA, a neurotransmitter that relaxes the body and brain. 

So it’s easy to see why magnesium is a popular sleep supplement, but why is magnesium glycinate the better option for catching those zzz’s?

Glycine on its own is known to calm the brain and improve sleep quality in insomniacs. People also say that it reduces mental fatigue and sluggishness the next day and helps them to feel more lively and clear-headed.

Taking magnesium and glycine together means double the sleep benefits. Evidence shows that this dream combo improves

  • Sleep time.
  • Sleep onset latency (how quickly you fall asleep). 
  • Sleep efficiency (the proportion of your time in bed that you spend asleep).

So if you want deeper sleep and a clearer head the next day, magnesium glycinate is the clear winner. 

Learn more about magnesium for sleep in general or more specifically magnesium glycinate for sleep.

Heart health 

WINNER: Magnesium glycinate

Magnesium is an electrolyte or an electrically charged molecule, and so it’s essential for your body’s electrical “circuit”. That includes your heart, so it’s no surprise that magnesium is essential for healthy heart function. Magnesium supplements of various kinds have been shown to lower heart disease and stroke risk, “bad” LDL cholesterol levels, and high blood pressure.

So what makes magnesium glycinate stand out? Well, this amino acid is also essential for healthy heart function, and it’s been shown in various studies to reduce cardiovascular disease risk factors like cholesterol and inflammation (as shown here, here, and here). Glycine also helps your body to use nitric oxide, a chemical that relaxes and widens the blood vessels. This may be why one study found that higher glycine levels were associated with a lower long-term risk of heart disease and heart attack.

Blood sugar 

WINNER: Magnesium glycinate

If you’re hoping to improve your blood sugar, then magnesium glycinate wins yet another round! Persistently high blood sugar can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes or make existing diabetes harder to control, increasing the risk of complications like heart disease and blindness. 

Both magnesium and glycine are associated with lower type 2 diabetes risk thanks to their positive influence on blood sugar regulation. Magnesium helps to lower blood sugar and restore insulin sensitivity, and it may prevent pre-diabetes from progressing to type 2 diabetes. Meanwhile, glycine has been shown to improve responsiveness to insulin in diabetic and non-diabetic people, a key factor in preventing or controlling the disease. 

If you’re at risk of type 2 diabetes, you already have pre-diabetes, or you have diabetes and want to gain better control of your blood sugar, ask your doctor about magnesium glycinate. Diabetes can affect how your body maintains its magnesium levels, so it’s a good idea to run it by a professional first. 


WINNER: Magnesium citrate 

As we’re seeing with many health conditions, migraines are more likely in people with magnesium deficiency. We’re still not entirely sure what causes these often-debilitating attacks, but we know that lots of people have had success with magnesium citrate in particular. 

In one systematic review, where researchers examined all of the available studies, they found evidence that magnesium citrate could reduce the number of migraine attacks people suffered. Another study found that people taking magnesium citrate had a 41.6% reduction in migraine attacks, and another found that magnesium citrate reduced both the frequency and the severity of migraines. All concluded that magnesium citrate could be a safe and effective way to manage migraines. 

Muscle, bone, and joint health 

WINNER: Magnesium glycinate 

Magnesium helps to maintain the structure and strength of your bones, which is why around 60% of your body’s magnesium is found here. It also helps your muscles — including your heart — to relax after contracting. 

For these reasons, magnesium is often recommended as an essential supplement for healthy bones and muscles. Why do we recommend combining it with glycine? Because this amino acid is also key for healthy bones and muscles, not to mention ligaments, cartilage, and skin. 

All of these tissues contain large amounts of collagen, the most abundant protein in your body. Collagen keeps the tissues strong and healthy, but collagen production naturally slows down with age. That’s one reason why your skin starts to sag, your bones and muscles get weaker, and your joints start to ache as you get older. 

Collagen is extremely high in glycine, so your body needs plenty of this amino acid to maintain healthy bones, joints, and skin. A supplement like magnesium glycinate can support collagen production, keeping you looking and feeling great. 

Magnesium glycinate is also the better option if you’re experiencing muscle pain or cramps, as both magnesium and glycine relax the muscles. Pregnant women are often given magnesium glycinate to help with leg cramps, and it’s also been shown to be helpful in cases of chronic muscular pain

Digestive Health 

WINNER: Magnesium citrate 

One of the most popular uses of magnesium citrate is to treat constipation. In higher doses, it’s a very effective over-the-counter laxative that works by pulling more water into the intestine and softening the stool. 

Magnesium citrate is also found in lots of over-the-counter acid reflux remedies. Acid reflux is usually caused by the failure of a sphincter, or “gate”, in the stomach, which causes stomach acid to flow back up into the esophagus. Magnesium citrate can help to relax the pyloric sphincter (between the stomach and small intestine) to prevent the stomach contents from “backing up”. It can also help to neutralize excessive acidity in the stomach, reducing the risk of reflux and easing any associated discomfort. 


WINNER: Magnesium glycinate 

Inflammation is a normal part of your body’s response to injury or infection. However, we’re learning that chronic inflammation, when the inflammatory response seems to carry on over long periods for no obvious reason, can be very harmful. It’s thought to play a major role in serious conditions like: 

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Periodontal disease 
  • Diabetes
  • Osteoporosis
  • Autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and celiac disease
  • Obesity

A major cause of chronic inflammation is an excess of free radicals, a type of unstable molecule that can cause premature aging and damage to cells and tissues. While that sounds bad, free radicals can be easily neutralized by molecules you’ve probably heard of — antioxidants. 

One of the most powerful natural antioxidants made by your body is called glutathione. In order to create it, you need — you guessed it! — plenty of glycine. So if you’re looking to hold back the effects of inflammation or free radical damage, magnesium glycinate wins this final round. 

Are there any negatives or side effects? 

Both magnesium glycinate and magnesium citrate are generally safe for healthy people when used as directed. Below is the recommended magnesium dosage from the National Institutes of Health:

Birth to 6 months30 mg*30 mg*
7–12 months75 mg*75 mg*
1–3 years80 mg80 mg
4–8 years130 mg130 mg
9–13 years240 mg240 mg
14–18 years410 mg360 mg
19–30 years400 mg310 mg
31–50 years420 mg320 mg
51+ years420 mg320 mg

*Adequate Intake (AI)

Also, keep in mind that the daily dose might consist of more than one serving and/or be spread throughout the day, so check the label carefully

Taking a bit more than the recommended dose isn’t necessarily dangerous for a healthy person, but it will increase your risk of digestive side effects like nausea, bloating and diarrhea. This might happen at a lower dose with magnesium citrate, which is why it’s such a great laxative! 

If you’re not taking magnesium supplements for laxative effects, any digestive trouble should resolve fairly quickly if you stop taking the supplement or just lower your dose. 

If you are taking magnesium citrate as a laxative, make sure to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. You should also know that it’s not recommended as a long-term solution. If you have chronic constipation that’s not improving, see your doctor in case there’s an underlying issue that needs to be treated. 

Whether you choose magnesium glycinate or magnesium citrate, it’s important to check with your doctor if you have a health condition or if you’re taking medication. Some health conditions can affect how magnesium is absorbed or removed from your body, and magnesium might affect how well some of your medications work. That doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t enjoy the benefits of a magnesium supplement! But your doctor might need to advise you on how to take them safely, adjust your medication, or monitor you to make sure you’re responding well. 

So what’s the verdict: magnesium citrate or glycinate? 

The choice between magnesium glycinate or magnesium citrate will depend on the specific benefits you’re looking for in a supplement. 

Both types are great options for general supplementation to boost your magnesium levels, but it’s worth noting that magnesium glycinate may be better tolerated. 

Magnesium glycinate is the better option if you’re looking to balance your mood, get better sleep, or fight inflammation. It’s also good for long-term heart and metabolic health, and for maintaining healthy bones, muscles, and joints. 

But if you’re looking to target specific problems like migraines, constipation, acid reflux, or fatigue, then magnesium citrate would be your best bet.