Zinc supplementation is very popular for many athletes today and I wanted to find out why this is the case! Upon investigation the zinc supplements are almost always packaged as ZMA containing Magnesium and Vitamin B6 as well. There must be a reason for this, so this article is to help us discover why…
How does our body use Zinc?
Zinc is an essential mineral which means we must obtain it in our diets (8mg/day for women and 11mg/day for men). Zinc is involved in a number of important metabolic processes including muscle production, immune function, wound healing, neurological function and reproduction.
What foods provide Zinc?
In the North American diet we get most of our zinc from red meat and poultry. However, other good sources of zinc include: oysters, crab, lobster, beans, cashews and yogurt.
Important to note that whole grain breads, cereals, and legumes bind zinc and inhibit its production, therefore the bioavailability of zinc from grains and plants foods is lower than that from animal foods.
Benefits of Zinc Supplementation for Athletes
Zinc’s role in tissue production is a key factor why athletes decide to supplement with Zinc. Every time you are exercising your body is also breaking down muscle tissue and your body reacts by building that muscle bigger and stronger to prevent it from occurring again. If Zinc can help with this tissue repair then its role in muscle production can clearly be seen.
There is one particularly interesting study on NCAA football palyers which showed that Zinc supplementation in the form of ZMA significantly increased free testosterone levels leading to 2.5 times greater muscular strength compared to a placebo group after 8 weeks. Further studies are yet to be done on these findings so take it with a grain of salt, but an interesting result nonetheless!
Why is Zinc packaged as ZMA
Many studies have shown that athletes are deficient in zinc, Vitamin B6 & magnesium (see my video on magnesium deficiency – https://weightlossandtraining.com/migraineheadaches-insomnia). This is one reason they are packaged together but if we look at Vitamin B6 we’ll see that it is also used by our bodies in a number of breakdown and synthesis functions. Additionally ZMA is recommended to be taken before sleep because this is the time our muscles repair and grow themselves so it makes sense to take magnesium as well since it has been linked with helping insomnia and is important for bone repair.
Can too much Zinc be dangerous?
Not likely that you are going to consume that much, but Zinc in the area of 400mg and above range can cause nausea, vomiting, cramps and diarrhea. Supplements typically only contain about 30mg per serving which you take once a day.
If you’re starting out with weight training & exercise and you have a diet rich in red meat and poultry then I would say that zinc supplementation would not provide you with many benefits. However, if you are more advanced and training in the 4-5 days a week range then supplementing with ZMA may help with your muscle recover and growth stages.
Have you taken Zinc (ZMA) and found it to be helpful for you? Please leave a comment below: