Magnesium bisglycinate (glycinate) – What you need to know

What is the difference between magnesium bisglycinate and magnesium glycinate?

Let’s clear up something important: Magnesium bisglycinate and magnesium glycinate are 2 names for the same thing. Another (less common) name for the same thing is magnesium diglycinate.

Magnesium bisglycinate is one magnesium atom attached to two glycine molecules.

“Bis” means 2, referring to the 2 glycine molecules, so we prefer to use the name bisglycinate for clarity.

Magnesium – A quick overview

Any magnesium supplement is never “pure magnesium”. It can’t be. The magnesium atom (Mg 2+) on its own is a highly reactive metal. Therefore it is always bound to other atoms to form one of the many different types of magnesium supplements you see in the market.

These forms are all very different. You need to understand exactly which form you should use and why. Let’s dig deeper.

Why is Magnesium Bisglycinate often considered the best form?

One major reason is the high bioavailability, a fancy word for “absorption”.

Most forms of magnesium absorb very poorly into the body.

Magnesium oxide for example, the most common form, absorbs with a rate of less than 4%. The rest of the magnesium draws water into the intestine and then goes into the toilet in the form of diarrhea.

Read Best form of magnesium to avoid diarrhea

In order to experience the benefits, you need to make sure the magnesium is actually absorbing.

In the case of magnesium bisglycinate, two glycine molecules are bound to the magnesium, therefore much less water can attach with the magnesium because the glycine is already taking up the space where the water would normally bind.

Here is one study showing the higher absorption rates of magnesium bisglycinate.

The glycine also helps to decrease the pH level in the small intestine, further helping to increase the absorption.

The second major reason is the glycine itself. Glycine is an amino acid with a wide range of health benefits. It is a very relaxing amino acid and it has been shown to help with sleep quality.

The third reason is that it is very easy on the stomach and entire digestive tract. Many people report they are able to take larger doses because they can tolerate it much better. The side effects are also significantly lower.

In summary, it is often considered the best form for:

  • 1. Reversing magnesium deficiency
  • 2. Helping to alleviate anxiety
  • 3. Helping with leg cramps
  • 4. Helping with restless leg
  • 5. Helping with fibromyalgia
  • 6. Helping with migraine
  • 7. Helping with sleep

We have a magnesium bisglycinate supplement that is non-buffered with no fillers. It is the purest form we have seen on the market.

Are all magnesium bisglycinates the same?

No! We already said that glycinate and bisglycinate mean the same thing, which is true, but now we need to discuss the major differences between different brands.

Although it may be surprising, the reason is very simple:

Important: The majority of brands will label a product as magnesium glycinate or bisglycinate, but it will actually be a mixture containing a large amount of magnesium oxide. They won’t mention that they are selling a buffered form.

When magnesium bisglycinate is mixed with magnesium oxide it is called “buffered”.

It is possible to know if a product is buffered or non-buffered only if you are able to understand the back of the supplement label. More on this below.

What is “buffered” magnesium bisglycinate?

As mentioned above, in the case of magnesium bisglycinate, a “buffered” form means that some other molecule – generally magnesium oxide – has been “mixed in” with the pure magnesium bisglycinate.

Most forms on the market are buffered, but you won’t know that unless you make sure you are getting a non-buffered form.

What is “elemental” magnesium?

This is an extremely important question, and it really gets at the heart of the dosage question below and the concept of “buffering”.

Simply put, elemental magnesium refers to only the magnesium atoms in a compound. The amount of elemental magnesium in a supplement is the number of milligrams the magnesium atoms weigh in a magnesium compound. It is the actual weight of the magnesium atoms themselves.
Remember, supplemental magnesium is never 100% magnesium because that would be a metal. Magnesium supplements are always together in some molecular compound. Eg. Bisglycinate, oxide, citrate, aspartate, chloride, etc.

We need to go back to early basic high school chemistry for a second – Let’s use the example of magnesium oxide because of its simplicity.

This is one magnesium atom bound together with one oxygen atom. It is “MgO”. An oxygen atom has a molar mass of 16, and a magnesium atom has a molar mass of 24. The entire molecule has a molar mass of 40 (16 +24).

So in one molecule of magnesium oxide, we have 16/40 or 40% oxygen, and 24/40 or 60% magnesium.

So 100 mg of pure magnesium oxide has 60 mg of “elemental” magnesium.

As a side note, it also has 40 mg of “elemental oxygen”, but we don’t care much about the amount of oxygen we’re getting from this molecule.

So again, the elemental magnesium is the mass of the “pure” magnesium inside a molecule, once we strip away the rest of the molecule.

Magnesium bisglycinate is a more complex molecule, but the same logic applies. If you look at the entire molecule and do some simple math, you will see that the magnesium portion of the molecule is only about 10% “elemental” magnesium. The rest of the molecule is the glycine.

That means you need 1 gram (1000 mg’s) of pure (non-buffered) magnesium bisglycinate to attain 100 mg of elemental magnesium.

Even though the % of elemental magnesium is much higher in magnesium oxide, or even in buffered forms of magnesium bisglycinate, the absorption rates and the overall effects on the body make non-buffered magnesium bisglycinate a far superior supplemental form in most cases.

Many companies will sell magnesium bisglycinate in a buffered form to make the amount of “elemental” magnesium appear higher on the label.

The problem is that when you make the elemental magnesium higher by adding magnesium oxide (buffering the bisglycinate) then the magnesium won’t absorb nearly as well, and it will also cause loose stool (diarrhea). We know this to be true not only based on scientific theory, but also based on a ton of feedback from real customers.

In fact when you experience diarrhea from a magnesium supplement, it is your body proving to you that it isn’t absorbing very well (it ends up in the toilet instead of in the body).

What is “chelated” magnesium bisglycinate?

Magnesium bisglycinate is often called “magnesium bisglycinate chelate”. This is the full name. Magnesium bisglycinate is a “chelated” form of magnesium. “Chelated” forms of a mineral mean that an amino acid has been attached to them. In the case of magnesium bisglycinate, 2 glycine molecules have been attached to a magnesium atom.

What is the best dosage to take?

This is an important question with no easy answer. First of all, the amount of magnesium you actually absorb is the important part, and this is dependent on a number of factors, including whether you are male or female, the food you eat and the health of your small intestine (where magnesium is absorbed).

Also, the recommended dosages for magnesium supplements are often dependent on a person’s weight. If you weight twice as much as someone else, you should generally take double the amount of magnesium.

Thirdly, you need to verify if someone is talking about the amount of magnesium bisglycinate, or the amount of elemental magnesium. For example, you may read something like, “Dr. X recommends taking 500 mg of magnesium per day”. This doesn’t make a lot of sense because we don’t know the person’s body weight, we don’t know the form of magnesium, and we don’t know if they are talking about elemental or the weight of the magnesium compound.

The last one makes a huge difference as the elemental magnesium is only 10% of the mass of the molecule for pure bisglycinate.
You can and should check with your doctor for your specific case, but there are benefits in taking anywhere from 20-300 mg of elemental magnesium from pure magnesium bisglycinate (non-buffered) per day, and the real range is likely larger than this.

It’s also better to take smaller doses more often than it is to take one big dose, as magnesium stores get depleted very quickly.

Click here for more detailed information on magnesium dosing

What is supplementing with magnesium bisglycinate good for?

There is so much scientific research backing so many uses of magnesium bisglycinate supplementation. There are many more professional studies being done as we speak. For now, I’ll list just a few of the benefits of supplementing with this:

  • Decrease anxiety
  • Help with sleep
  • Leg cramps at night
  • Lower stress
  • Improve heart and cardiovascular health
  • Control chronic pain problems
  • Reduce migraine frequency and severity
  • Reduce general headache frequency and severity
  • Increase testosterone (both free and total) levels in men and helping women balance their own sex hormones
  • Control blood sugar and protect against type 2 diabetes

This is a very impressive list and is by no means exhaustive. One last little tidbit of information you should find useful is that taking magnesium bisglycinate together with vitamin B6 will improve the absorption of the magnesium.

If you are interested in trying our magnesium bisglycinate supplement that is non-buffered with no fillers and is the purest form we have seen on the market, you can click the above link to buy it.

What are the side effects of magnesium bisglycinate?

If you are healthy and don’t have kidney problems, there are really no side effects from non buffered magnesium bisglycinate if you take anywhere within the recommended dosage range. (Remember that non buffered is absolutely key). Because this magnesium absorbs so well, it is very relaxing, so it’s possible you experience sleepiness. If this happens to you then it is recommended to take more of it later in the day or at night.

With magnesium supplements in general, the main side effect is diarrhea.

Read about the best magnesium to avoid diarrhea. This happens because the magnesium compound draws water into the large intestine, and this water (along with undigested and digested food) comes out into the toilet in the form of diarrhea. Not only is this very annoying, it also shows that the magnesium isn’t absorbing into your body.

Where to buy non buffered magnesium bisglycinate?

Click here to buy our premium non buffered magnesium bisglycinate. We have thousands of monthly loyal customers from all over the world who truly love the benefits they get from our magnesium, and without the side effects.

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Andrew Best

Cofounder - Director of R&D

Andrew educates consumers about the latest scientific research in the natural health supplement field.

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