Losing weight is never as simple as drinking a medication such as magnesium citrate. As a laxative, magnesium citrate may help you lose temporary water weight, but may also have unpleasant side effects.
Laxatives do not help with burning fat and are never a long-term solution for weight loss. If you're trying to drop some pounds, consult your doctor or a dietitian to design a healthy diet and exercise plan that works for you.
While magnesium citrate has some laxative effects, it isn't a magic weight loss elixir.
What Is Magnesium Citrate?
Magnesium is a mineral naturally found in a variety of different foods that your body needs for a number of biochemical functions, as well as to make muscle tissue, and to regulate blood pressure and blood sugar. According to the National Institutes of Health, magnesium is important for nerve health, muscle contraction and heart rhythm.
Magnesium citrate, however, is an over-the-counter medication used to treat occasional constipation. It works by drawing water into the intestines, which helps soften stools and increase transit time. Typically, it produces a bowel movement anywhere from 30 minutes to six hours after you take it, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Bust the Weight Loss Myth
Magnesium citrate is not labeled as a supplement for weight loss. Because magnesium citrate is a laxative, you might believe it prevents your body from absorbing calories from the food you eat, therefore helping you to lose weight. This is not the case, however.
Although drinking magnesium citrate may cause you to have a bowel movement and the number on your scale may go down —the lost pounds are because the bowel movement caused you to lose fluid — and not because your body didn't absorb calories from what you ate.
Laxatives such as magnesium citrate work in the lower part of your intestines, after all the nutrients and calories have already been absorbed.
To top it off, you'll likely regain the weight you lost after your next beverage, even if your next drink is calorie-free water.
Know the Side Effects
Magnesium citrate is not a very good way to lose weight and it may also cause unpleasant side effects, which include stomach cramping, loose, watery bowel movements, nausea, dizziness or increased sweating.
Taking magnesium citrate for purposes other than occasional constipation may also be dangerous. Frequent, loose bowel movements cause you to lose not only water, but also electrolytes. This imbalance may cause weakness, seizures and — in a worst-case scenario — a heart attack.
Also, chronic use of laxatives can lead to dependence on them for regular bowel function, which may cause permanent damage to your colon, according to Cornell Health.
Choose Healthy Weight Loss Options
Instead of turning to a liquid supplement to help you lose the weight, you will be better off going with the route that works: a healthy diet and exercise program. Start by filling your diet with the right foods, eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats, as recommended by the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
When it comes to exercise, the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic activity per week. To lose weight, you might need more than this recommended minimum.
You should also try to include whole-body strength-training exercises twice a week, such as lifting weights or body resistance exercises, to help build and maintain muscle mass.
- National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements: "Magnesium"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Magnesium Citrate"
- Cornell Health: "Laxative Use: What to Know"
- Health.gov: "2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans: Chapter 1. Key Elements of Healthy Eating Patterns"
- Health.gov: "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition"