Guide to ZMA

ZMA has commonly been used as a supplement to aid in muscle growth for athletes, bodybuilders, and fitness enthusiasts. It’s thought to boost testosterone levels to help improve the effectiveness of your workouts. Some people who use ZMA also claim it helps improve strength, endurance, recovery after a workout, sleep quality, and your immune system.

ZMA Overview

All ZMA supplements contain some combination of zinc, magnesium aspartate, and vitamin B6. The original formula for ZMA contains 30 milligrams of zinc monomethionine, 450 milligrams of magnesium aspartate, and 10.5 milligrams of vitamin B6. These amounts equate to approximately 270% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of zinc, 110% RDA of magnesium, and 650% RDA of vitamin B6. However, since ZMA is only trademarked, not patented, some manufacturers use alternate forms of the minerals or add different vitamins and minerals. As a trademarked name, any ZMA product with different compositions must use a different name such as SNAC Nutrition’s ZMA-5 which also contains 5-HTP.

Zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B6 all play key roles in the normal function of our bodies. More than 300 enzymes are involved in metabolism, digestion, immunity, and more require zinc to function properly. These effects on your metabolism could be why ZMA helps with your endurance. Magnesium supports the healthy function of hundreds of chemical reactions in the body primarily surrounding energy creation, muscle function, and nerve function. Vitamin B6 is essential for various processes in the body such as nutrient metabolism and the creation of neurotransmitters. However, the research is still unclear whether or not consuming higher than necessary amounts of these vitamins and minerals improve these functions or simply go to waste.

ZMA for Athletic Performance

Improvements in athletic performance make up the primary reason people take ZMA supplements. Despite this being one of the primary use cases for ZMA, very little research into the effectiveness of ZMA on boosting athletic performance has been conducted. The research that has been performed seems to produce contradictory results. However, we can still attempt to derive some information from this research as well as research on zinc and magnesium taken individually.

One study conducted over the course of eight weeks on twenty seven football players taking ZMA daily showed significant increases in muscle strength, testosterone levels, and IGF-1 levels. However, two other studies seem to contradict these results showing little to no difference in testosterone or IGF-1 levels. One of these studies were conducted over eight weeks on forty two resistance-trained men. This study found slightly elevated zinc levels, but no statistically significant difference in strength, testosterone levels, or IGF-1 levels. The other study was conducted on fourteen healthy men with a regular exercise routine over the course of eight weeks. This study only looked at testosterone levels and found no statistically significant changes from the control group and the group that consumed ZMA.

A potential explanation of these contradicting results could be found in whether or not the individuals in these studies were already deficient in either zinc or magnesium. Whether or not the individuals had any natural deficiencies in zinc or magnesium could have impacted the results. This is because other studies have shown that zinc or magnesium deficiencies can reduce the production of testosterone and IGF-1.

Making this issue even more complicated, athletes are particularly susceptible to zinc and magnesium deficiencies. These deficiencies can be caused by strict diets, or excessive urination or sweat. All of these are common in athletes, particularly football players.

Additionally, both zinc and magnesium have also been shown to reduce muscle fatigue and help stabilize testosterone levels throughout exercise in healthy individuals. So, it seems relatively clear that a ZMA supplement could help boost athletic performance particularly for anyone deficient in zinc or magnesium.

ZMA to Boost Immunity

All of the ingredients of ZMA play important roles in your overall immune system. This makes ZMA an effective supplement to ensure your body has enough of each mineral and vitamin for normal, or even enhanced, function of your immune system.

Zinc aids in the development and function of most immune cells. This helps your immune system in several ways. It helps your body combat infections through your immune response and modulate your inflammatory responses. These functions are particularly important in elderly individuals as they tend to suffer more from inflammation and infections. Studies have also shown that zinc aids in the wound healing process.

Magnesium has been shown to help a wide variety of natural immune responses. It also helps reduce inflammation particularly in immunocompromised individuals such as athletes. These effects are likely caused by the way magnesium reduces C-reactive protein levels. C-reactive proteins play a major role in the inflammatory response.

Vitamin B6 helps boost nearly all immune responses. This is because your body requires vitamin B6 to produce white blood cells which form the basis of your immune system. It also helps guide the actions of your white blood cells further enhancing your immune response.

ZMA for Sleep

Another use for ZMA is as a sleep aid. These effects primarily stem from the zinc and magnesium in ZMA without the help of vitamin B6. Magnesium aids with sleep by activating the parasympathetic nervous system helping your body feel calm and relaxed. This same response can also help reduce stress with one study, conducted with 100 participants, found significant reductions in physical and mental stress after daily supplementation of magnesium.

On the other hand, zinc acts as a sleep modulator to help normalize a sleeping routine. It is still unclear exactly what causes this effect, but the correlation exists in a wide variety of individuals. One study found this correlation in ICU nurses, and another one found the same correlation in school children.

ZMA Dosage

Typical dosages for ZMA include 30 milligrams of zinc, 450 milligrams of magnesium, and 10.5 milligrams of vitamin B6. For most capsules or powder, this equals three capsules or three scoops of powder. However, concentrations can vary by manufacturer, so always check the manufacturer’s recommendations provided on the product.

Most of the time, manufacturers recommend women consume approximately ⅔ of the doses outlined above. This is due to women typically having a lower body mass than men which requires a lower dose.

Whenever consuming ZMA, always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations as consuming too much zinc can cause side effects.

ZMA Side Effects

While supplementing with ZMA does not have any reported side effects, each individual vitamin and mineral in ZMA have their own side effects when consumed in large doses. Zinc can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, loss of appetite, headaches, dizziness, and reduced immune function. Magnesium can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. Vitamin B6 can cause nerve damage and pain or numbness in your extremities.

As with any supplement, it’s always best to start with a lower than recommended dose as the manufacturer does not know how much of each ingredient you naturally consume with your food. This can cause you to accidentally consume too much of an ingredient resulting in unpleasant side effects. With that said, ZMA is a relatively safe supplement to consume as zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B6 have all been extensively studied as a supplement on their own.

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