Looking for better muscle recovery, enhanced muscle size and strength, and accelerated fat loss? Among the aisles of supplements that include superstars like creatine and NO boosters, there is a silent contender that deserves recognition. ZMA, which is a combination of minerals zinc monomethionine aspartate, magnesium aspartate, and vitamin B6, is a real game changer.
What Is ZMA?
ZMA is a supplement that is made up of zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B6, all of which are vital for healthy functioning. ZMA was developed by athletes for athletes and bodybuilders as a means to prevent the loss of these vitamins and minerals during vigorous workouts or extended periods of labor.
What Does ZMA Do?
First, let’s clear up one misleading statement: ZMA is not a testosterone booster. Any pro-hormone statements about ZMA are unfounded and under-researched. There is research out there that claims ZMA helps you maintain a higher level of testosterone during longer bouts of exercise or more intense training cycles, but ZMA alone will not boost your level of testosterone. Rather, ZMA supplements stores of zinc and magnesium.
USDA studies have found that less than 70% of Americans get enough zinc and less than 40% get enough magnesium. From a bodybuilding standpoint, zinc is necessary because of its role in testosterone production.
Assuming that you are like most people, you’re deficient in these minerals already. There’s no reason not to take ZMA, especially after considering the advantages.
What Are The Benefits Of ZMA?
The roles of zinc and magnesium in the body are connected to the overall effectiveness of ZMA supplements. Zinc, for one, plays a role in protein synthesis, muscular recovery, and anabolism. It is also a powerful antioxidant that wards off free-radicals and head colds. On the other hand, magnesium supports healthy functioning of the cardiovascular system, supports a fast metabolism, and maintains bones.
The benefits of ZMA are, therefore:
- Muscular strength and power gains,
- Better sleep quality
- Increased metabolism
- Stabilized cortisol levels
- Maintained or heightened levels of testosterone,
- Immune support.
Since we are going to look at the anabolic factors of zinc a little later, let’s first discuss the benefit of better sleep quality, and thus, better muscle recovery. Magnesium plays a role in normalizing and extending those periods of deep REM sleep, where the brain waves slow and the body begins to heal. Deep sleep also contributes to raising growth hormone levels.
Enhanced deep sleep, stabilized cortisol levels, and the appropriate levels of zinc and magnesium are also interlaced with your metabolism. To begin, zinc is integral in thyroid hormone production. The hormones secreted by the thyroid play an important role in your metabolism and the amount of calories you burn throughout the day. In the event that zinc is low, then your thyroid will limit hormone production, dampening the fires of your metabolism and leading to a less than ideal caloric burn—even if you do an intense workout.
A study from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst found that when a test group was place on a low-zinc diet, their basal metabolic rates plummeted. The subjects then took a 25 mg supplement of zinc for the next 20 days. Their metabolic rates experienced a jump that was higher than their original metabolic rate prior to their low-zinc diet. Selcuk University backed up this finding by stating how four weeks of zinc supplementation increased the levels of thyroid hormones in sedentary and athletic men alike.
Anabolic Factors Of ZMA
For those with less than stellar zinc and magnesium levels, your muscular growth might be lacking. Indeed, without zinc and magnesium, your muscles will catabolize instead of getting stronger and bigger, because you lack the fundamental nutrition required to make those gains. This is especially true if you’ve been hitting the iron relentlessly.
Another thing that happens when you are training often is an increase of the stress hormone, cortisol. When your zinc and magnesium levels dip below the essential level, cortisol will hit you harder, interrupting your sleep, recovery, and growth.
Recent studies from Western Washington University found that ZMA resulted in 43.7% higher testosterone levels and 25% more IGF-1 in an experimental group of training athletes and a 2.5 times greater increase in overall strength than those in the placebo group. The duration of the study was 8 weeks, showing that ZMA can help you accelerate muscular growth, even if you are training non-stop.
Another study done by German researchers found that taking a magnesium supplement for four weeks stabilized cortisol levels during and after a triathlon. Around the same time, Brazilian research teams reported that zinc kept cortisol levels in check as well.
The Do’s and Don’ts Of ZMA
An important thing to note is that you cannot take straight zinc and magnesium supplements and get the same effect. You need zinc and magnesium in the aspartate form, not sulfate, citrate, or chelate, which are found in multivitamins. Additonally, the ratio of ingredients needs to be exactly 30 mg of zinc monomethionine aspartate, 450 mg of magnesium aspartate, and 11mg of vitamin B6.
There are some precautions to take when consuming ZMA. Though toxicity is rare, you do want to avoid taking too much ZMA. You should also never take ZMA if you are on a calcium supplement, because calcium blocks the absorption of these minerals; similarly, if a ZMA supplement has calcium, avoid it.
Always take ZMA right before bed and try to have an empty stomach.
ZMA is going to electrify your performance and results, thanks to the unique combination of zinc monomethionine aspartate, magnesium asapartate, and vitamin B6. Although these minerals and vitamins are found in a varied diet, people who regularly train need to replenish zinc and magnesium regularly. Now that you know the pros, cons, and benefits of ZMA, are you ready to give it a try?
Don’t miss anymore useful diet tips! Like our page on Facebook to stay up-to-date on all the latest nutrition, supplementation, and diet tips.