Magnesium Glycinate 101: Benefits, Usage, & Side Effects
Magnesium is an essential mineral in the body. According to the NIH, it plays a role in more than 300 diverse biochemical reactions1—everything from energy production and protein synthesis to blood sugar control and blood pressure regulation. Here's what you need about the glycinate form of magnesium and how to take it for vibrant health.
What is magnesium glycinate?
Magnesium glycinate (also called magnesium bisglycinate) is a type of magnesium supplement made by combining the essential mineral magnesium with the amino acid glycine. This form of magnesium tends to be very absorbable and less likely to cause stomach upset and digestive issues. It's often used to help people up their magnesium intake, relax, and sleep better.
Why we need magnesium
Our bodies naturally contain magnesium, but factors like medication interactions, soil depletion2, and diets filled with nutrient-poor processed foods mean that some of us (especially older folks) aren't getting enough of it.
Eating a more magnesium-rich diet is a great place to start. Magnesium is present in some delicious foods like dark leafy green vegetables, legumes and nuts, wheat and other grains, and fish.
Additionally, magnesium can be utilized in other forms—including as traditional supplement capsules, Epsom salts, magnesium oil, magnesium cream, and drinkable powder—that make it easy to incorporate it into your everyday routine.
This versatility means you might have a friend who takes a magnesium supplement to help her sleep, a family member who's an Epsom salt bath enthusiast, or a co-worker who swears by that powdered magnesium she drinks for post-workout muscle recovery.
Magnesium glycinate benefits
It can help you sleep.
Many individuals use magnesium as a sleep aid, and its ability to induce muscle relaxation and ease stress are two of the main ways it's thought to help people fall asleep faster.
In a study, magnesium glycinate supplementation subjectively improved insomnia3. Research shows that magnesium can also help us stay asleep longer by reducing the stress of the nervous system and promoting a steady state of relaxation. Finally, the supplement can promote a healthy circadian rhythm, meaning it can help our bodies get into a more natural sleep cycle and wake up feeling more refreshed.
It can support memory.
Research has shown that magnesium glycinate can help lessen daytime sleepiness and enhance memory. One study found that taking 125-300 mg of magnesium glycinate daily helped with short-term memory and IQ.4
It promotes healthy blood pressure.
Magnesium supplementation has a beneficial impact on blood pressure5 in those who already have a magnesium deficiency. In fact, one study6 found that “after magnesium supplementation, systolic and diastolic pressures were significantly [improved].”
It supports blood sugar control.
Maintaining a normal blood sugar level is no easy task, but magnesium might be a useful tool in doing so. Research has shown that dietary magnesium intake (aka, eating foods high in magnesium) reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This is because magnesium helps break down sugar,7 which in turn decreases insulin resistance.
It is good for your bones.
When it comes to bone health, calcium tends to get most of the attention. But magnesium is involved in bone formation8 and has an influence on parathyroid hormone and vitamin D concentrations, which are also involved in bone formation. This means that having an adequate intake of magnesium is useful for supporting healthy bones.
It provides nutritional support to those who have migraines and headaches
Low levels of magnesium in the blood (aka, a magnesium deficiency9) has been linked to migraine headaches. In addition, supplementing with magnesium has been shown to benefit individuals who have migraines10.
It can help manage PMS symptoms.
Studies, like one double-blinded placebo-controlled trial, have shown that taking magnesium glycinate (at a dose of 250 mg per day) helps manage PMS symptoms11. According to Jolene Brighten, N.D., a naturopathic doctor and female hormone expert, "Magnesium has been shown to be effective in positively helping lower prostaglandins and easing menstrual cramps. Magnesium is also necessary for estrogen detoxification, which is why it can help ease PMS."
It can benefit leg cramps.
Studies have shown that magnesium glycinate can benefit pregnancy-induced leg cramps. In one study, 80 pregnant women participated in a double‐blinded, randomized, placebo‐controlled trial by taking 300 mg of magnesium glycinate daily. The frequency of cramping, as well as the intensity of leg cramping, were reduced by 50 percent compared to the placebo group.
It has fewer unpleasant side effects than other forms of magnesium.
According to Bindiya Gandhi, M.D., an integrative medicine practitioner, "magnesium glycinate has higher bioavailability and is gentle on your stomach, unlike other forms of magnesium."
How much magnesium glycinate should you take?
Supplemental oral magnesium—which includes forms like magnesium citrate, magnesium glycinate, magnesium malate, and magnesium oxide—is safe in the following recommended daily doses12 by the NIH:
- 65 mg for children 1-3 years
- 110 mg for children 4-8 years
- 350 mg for anyone over 8 years old
Forms of magnesium
Magnesium comes in many different forms—and some are more efficient than others. Oral magnesium supplements can be found as capsules, gelcaps, powders, liquids, gummies, and more, and include forms like magnesium citrate, magnesium glycinate (aka magnesium bisglycinate), magnesium malate, and magnesium oxide. (Find our favorites here.)
Magnesium sulfate can be received by injection or by IV in a clinical setting under the care of a doctor for low magnesium and other specific clinical scenarios (e.g., during pregnancy). You'll also find magnesium sulfate in the form of Epsom salts, which you can add to your bath.
You can even find magnesium in a topical form, which includes magnesium chloride "oils" and creams. But, there is some debate whether or not transdermal magnesium really works, and the science isn't entirely clear.
Of all these forms, magnesium glycinate is a favorite among integrative and functional medicine doctors and has been extensively researched in clinical studies.
Magnesium deficiency (hypomagnesemia) is relatively rare; only 2% of the population13 is thought to have it. However, it can be tricky to diagnose, so the true percentage may be higher than this. Normal serum (blood) magnesium levels14 are 0.75 to 0.95 mmol/L, and anything below this range indicates a potential deficiency.
Signs of a deficiency include fatigue, chronic inflammation, unsteady blood sugar, and leg cramps, as well as mood swings, headache, and an irregular heartbeat. If you suspect you have a magnesium deficiency, your doctor can order you a serum magnesium blood test, urinary magnesium excretion test, or magnesium retention to be sure.
The most common way to treat a magnesium deficiency is by taking a high-dose magnesium supplement.
Magnesium glycinate side effects
Clearly, there are many benefits to taking magnesium, especially if you have a deficiency in this important mineral. But are there any downsides to taking magnesium or magnesium glycinate, specifically? The most common side effects of magnesium supplements15 are diarrhea, cramping, and digestive upset. This is more common in certain forms of magnesium—like magnesium oxide and magnesium citrate.
Magnesium glycinate has the fewest side effects16 and doesn't cause digestive upset when taken in a higher dose. It's thought to be a good choice for individuals with gastrointestinal issues17 over other magnesium supplements.
Magnesium glycinate vs. magnesium citrate
Magnesium citrate is one of the other most commonly recommended sources of magnesium. Magnesium citrate has a laxative effect, but in many cases that's actually a benefit since it's used specifically to treat constipation due to its ability to increase gut motility.
Of all the forms of magnesium, magnesium glycinate is least likely to cause diarrhea, and experts also turn to it for the treatment of a magnesium deficiency due to its high absorbency rate. According to Brighten, "Magnesium glycinate is highly absorbable, doesn't cause diarrhea like the citrate form can, and has a calming effect."
Is there anyone who should not take magnesium supplements?
Hypermagnesemia is the name for a magnesium overdose, which is rare but more common in individuals with kidney disease because the kidneys are responsible for excreting excess magnesium18 and work to regulate magnesium balance in the body.
Overdosing on magnesium 19can cause serious side effects, including an irregular heartbeat, low blood pressure, confusion, slowed breathing, coma, and even a few deaths have been reported. Keep in mind that an overdose of this measure would require a person to take thousands of milligrams of magnesium daily, which is well beyond the dose in a typical magnesium supplement.
Although it would be difficult to overdose on magnesium-rich foods or magnesium supplements, magnesium is also the primary ingredient in some prescription and over-the-counter laxatives, and severe hypermagnesemia20 has been reported to occur from taking laxatives that contain magnesium for constipation over a long-term period.
Fatal hypermagnesemia can occur in those with renal problems21 when taking these laxatives because kidneys that are not fully functional are not able to effectively clear magnesium from the body.
Magnesium can also interact with certain medications, for example, with certain types of antibiotics22. It is usually recommended to take antibiotics at least 2 hours before or 4 to 6 hours after a magnesium-containing supplements. Another group of drugs that magnesium tends to interact with is bisphosphonatesm which are often used to treat osteoporosis. Magnesium can interfere with how well this drug is absorbed23, so the supplement should be taken at least two hours before or after these medications."
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you take magnesium glycinate everyday?
Yes, magnesium glycinate is safe to take every day and it's often used as a daily supplement. As registered dietitian Amanda Li, R.D. previously told mindbodygreen, "Most magnesium will stay in the body for anywhere from 12 to 24 hours. So it's not something you can just take once, see results, and then never take again."
What are signs of low magnesium?
Signs of a magnesium deficiency include fatigue, chronic inflammation, unsteady blood sugar, and leg cramps, as well as mood swings, headache, and an irregular heartbeat.
What time should you take magnesium glycinate?
Since this form of magnesium can have a relaxing effect, many people enjoy taking it at night, in the hours leading up to bedtime.
Magnesium glycinate is one of the most absorbable forms of magnesium. For this reason, it is a great option if you are looking to reap the benefits of magnesium supplementation, like sleep support, enhanced memory, and PMS relief.
Gretchen Lidicker is an mbg health contributor, content strategist, and the author of CBD Oil Everyday Secrets: A Lifestyle Guide to Hemp-Derived Health and Wellness and Magnesium Everyday Secrets: A Lifestyle Guide to Epsom Salts, Magnesium Oil, and Nature's Relaxation Mineral. She holds a B.S. in biology and earned her master’s degree in physiology with a concentration in complementary and alternative medicine from Georgetown University.