8 Types of magnesium: Which one is right for you?

Magnesium is crucial in numerous bodily functions, making it an essential mineral for overall health and well-being.

Research indicates that magnesium supplements can significantly boost exercise performance, especially in older adults and individuals with a magnesium deficiency [1].

Additionally, epidemiological studies suggest that diets high in magnesium are linked to reduced rates of various diseases. However, clinical trials on the effectiveness of magnesium supplements for treating specific conditions have yielded mixed results [2], [3].

The discrepancy may be due to the combined benefits of multiple nutrients found in magnesium-rich foods compared to the isolated effects of single-nutrient supplements.

With various forms of magnesium available, it can be challenging to determine which one best suits your needs.

Which type of magnesium is best?

When choosing the best type of magnesium, the answer largely depends on your specific health needs and goals. Each form of magnesium offers unique benefits, making some more suitable for certain conditions than others.

Let’s discuss eight different types of magnesium, highlighting their key benefits and who they might be best suited for. 

1. Magnesium citrate

Magnesium citrate is a popular magnesium supplement known for its high bioavailability, meaning it is easily absorbed by the body. This form is often used to support digestive health, particularly in relieving constipation [4]. 

Additionally, magnesium citrate can aid in muscle relaxation and overall magnesium replenishment.

FormMagnesium citrate
BioavailabilityHigh
Common usesRelieving constipation, muscle relaxation
Primary benefitsImproved digestion, better magnesium absorption, muscle relief
Who should use itIndividuals with constipation, muscle cramps, or those needing an easily absorbable form of magnesium

2. Magnesium glycinate

Magnesium glycinate is a chelated form of magnesium, meaning it is bound to the amino acid glycine [5]. This combination makes it one of the most bioavailable and gentle forms of magnesium in the digestive system.

It is particularly known for its calming effects, making it an excellent choice for improving sleep quality and reducing anxiety. Magnesium glycinate also supports muscle function and overall relaxation without causing laxative effects.

FormMagnesium glycinate
BioavailabilityHigh
Common usesImproving sleep, reducing anxiety, muscle relaxation
Primary benefitsEnhanced sleep quality, reduced anxiety, muscle support
Who should use itIndividuals with sleep issues, anxiety, or needing muscle relaxation without digestive upset

3. Magnesium oxide

Magnesium oxide is a common and widely used form of magnesium supplement. It contains a high magnesium concentration, making it effective for quickly raising magnesium levels in the body [6].

However, magnesium oxide is less bioavailable than other forms, meaning it is not absorbed as efficiently. Despite this, it is often used for its potent laxative effects and is beneficial in treating short-term magnesium deficiencies and constipation.

FormMagnesium oxide
BioavailabilityLow
Common usesTreating magnesium deficiency, relieving heartburn, laxative
Primary benefitsQuick magnesium supplementation, antacid effects, constipation relief
Who should use itIndividuals with magnesium deficiency, heartburn, or constipation
Photograph: yanadjana/Envato

4. Magnesium chloride

Magnesium chloride is a versatile form of magnesium that is well-absorbed by the body. It is commonly used for both dietary supplementation and topical applications [7]. 

This form improves overall magnesium levels and supports various bodily functions. Additionally, magnesium chloride is often used in magnesium oil sprays and baths to promote relaxation and relieve muscle tension.

FormMagnesium chloride
BioavailabilityHigh
Common usesIncreasing magnesium levels, muscle relaxation, skin health
Primary benefitsHigh absorption, versatile use, muscle and skin benefits
Who should use itIndividuals needing magnesium supplementation, muscle relaxation, or skin health support

5. Magnesium malate

Magnesium malate combines magnesium and malic acid, a natural fruit acid that plays a key role in energy production [8]. 

This form of magnesium is particularly effective for those seeking to boost their energy levels and alleviate muscle pain and fatigue. It is well-absorbed and gentle on the digestive system, making it a suitable option for daily supplementation.

FormMagnesium malate
BioavailabilityHigh
Common usesBoosting energy, relieving muscle pain, daily supplementation
Primary benefitsIncreased energy production, muscle pain relief, gentle on the digestive system
Who should use itIndividuals with low energy, muscle pain, or those needing a daily magnesium supplement

6. Magnesium sulfate

Magnesium sulfate, commonly known as Epsom salt, is a well-known form of magnesium used primarily for its therapeutic properties [9]. It is frequently added to baths to promote relaxation, soothe sore muscles, and reduce inflammation.

While magnesium sulfate can be taken orally, it is most commonly used in its topical form for its detoxifying and muscle-relieving effects.

FormMagnesium sulfate (Epsom salt)
BioavailabilityModerate (topical); Variable (oral)
Common usesMuscle relaxation, detoxification, skin health, laxative
Primary benefitsSoothes muscles, detoxifies the body, reduces inflammation, relieves constipation
Who should use itIndividuals with sore muscles, those needing detoxification, people with skin inflammation, or those requiring constipation relief

7. Magnesium orotate

Magnesium orotate is a unique form of magnesium that combines magnesium with orotic acid, which is thought to support heart health and cellular energy production [10]. 

This form is particularly beneficial for cardiovascular health and enhancing cellular function, making it a preferred choice for athletes and individuals with heart health concerns.

FormMagnesium orotate
BioavailabilityHigh
Common usesSupporting heart health, enhancing cellular energy, improving athletic performance
Primary benefitsSupports cardiovascular health, boosts cellular energy, enhances athletic performance
Who should use itIndividuals with heart health concerns, athletes, those needing cellular energy support

8. Magnesium aspartate

Magnesium aspartate is a chelated form of magnesium combined with aspartic acid, an amino acid that plays a role in energy production and neurotransmitter function [11].

This form is well-absorbed and is particularly effective in supporting athletic performance, reducing fatigue, and enhancing overall physical endurance. Magnesium aspartate is also beneficial for muscle function and recovery.

FormMagnesium aspartate
BioavailabilityHigh
Common usesEnhancing athletic performance, reducing fatigue, supporting muscle function
Primary benefitsImproved physical performance, reduced fatigue, better muscle recovery
Who should use itAthletes, individuals with low energy, those needing muscle support

How do I know which magnesium to take?

Choosing the right magnesium supplement can be straightforward once you identify your specific health needs and goals.

To determine which magnesium is best for you, consider what you are trying to achieve. Are you looking to relieve constipation, enhance sleep, boost energy, or support heart health?

Each form of magnesium has unique benefits tailored to different needs. Let’s discuss the key considerations to help you make an informed decision.

Identify your specific health needs

  • Heart health: Magnesium orotate supports cardiovascular health and is beneficial for individuals with heart concerns.
  • Digestive health: If you struggle with constipation, magnesium citrate or magnesium oxide might be beneficial due to their laxative effects.
  • Sleep and anxiety: For improving sleep quality and reducing anxiety, magnesium glycinate is an excellent choice due to its calming effects.
  • Muscle pain and cramps: Magnesium malate and magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts) effectively relieve muscle pain and cramps.
  • Energy levels and athletic performance: Magnesium aspartate is highly recommended for boosting energy and enhancing athletic performance.
  • Skin and topical use: Magnesium chloride can be used both orally and topically, making it versatile for muscle relaxation and skin health.

Consider bioavailability

Bioavailability is a crucial factor when choosing a magnesium supplement. It refers to how well the body can absorb and utilize the magnesium from the supplement. 

Among the magnesium types with high bioavailability are:

  • Magnesium citrate: Known for its high absorption rate, it effectively increases magnesium levels and relieves constipation.
  • Magnesium glycinate: Highly bioavailable and gentle on the stomach, ideal for improving sleep and reducing anxiety without causing digestive upset.
  • Magnesium malate: Also highly absorbable and beneficial for boosting energy and alleviating muscle pain.
Photograph: msvyatkovska/Envato

Evaluate ease of use and tolerance

When selecting a magnesium supplement, consider how easy it is to use and how well your body tolerates it. Some forms of magnesium are gentler on the digestive system and easier to incorporate into your daily routine than others.

Gentle in the digestive system

  • Magnesium glycinate: This form is known for being gentle and less likely to cause gastrointestinal discomfort, making it a good choice for sensitive stomachs.
  • Magnesium malate: Also well-tolerated and easy on the digestive system, suitable for long-term use.

Strong laxative effects

  • Magnesium oxide: Known for its strong laxative properties, it is effective for relieving constipation but can cause significant digestive discomfort if used frequently or in high doses.

Versatile forms

  • Magnesium chloride: Offers flexibility as it can be used orally and topically. Topical application can be useful for muscle relaxation and skin health without affecting the digestive system.
  • Magnesium sulfate: Commonly used in baths (Epsom salts) for muscle relaxation and detoxification, offering an alternative method of supplementation that bypasses the digestive system entirely.

Consult a healthcare professional

Before starting any new magnesium supplement, it’s important to consult with a healthcare provider, especially if you have underlying health conditions or are taking other medications.

Closing thoughts

Choosing the right magnesium supplement doesn’t have to be complicated. By understanding the specific benefits of each type of magnesium, you can make an informed decision that best suits your health needs.

Whether you are looking to improve digestion, enhance sleep, boost energy levels, or support heart health, there is a form of magnesium that can help you achieve your goals.

FAQs

How do I choose the right magnesium?

Choose the right magnesium by identifying your specific health needs, considering bioavailability, and consulting with a healthcare professional.

Is it better to take magnesium citrate or magnesium glycinate?

Magnesium glycinate is better for improving sleep and reducing anxiety, while magnesium citrate is more effective for relieving constipation.

Which type of magnesium is best for overall health?

Magnesium glycinate is often considered best for overall health due to its high bioavailability and gentle effect on the digestive system.

[1] https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/magnesium-benefits
[2] https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/
[3] https://nutritionsource.hsph.harvard.edu/magnesium/
[4] https://go.drugbank.com/drugs/DB11110
[5] https://www.health.com/magnesium-glycinate-8415806
[6] https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Magnesium-Oxide
[7] https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Magnesium-Chloride
[8] https://draxe.com/nutrition/magnesium-malate/
[9] https://reference.medscape.com/drug/mgso4-magnesium-sulfate-344444
[10] https://www.consumerlab.com/answers/what-is-the-benefit-of-magnesium-orotate-compared-to-other-forms-of-magnesium/magnesium-orotate/
[11] https://www.drugs.com/cdi/magnesium-aspartate.html

Photograph: yanadjana/Envato
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