What Is ZMA?
ZMA is a natural mineral supplement made up of zinc, magnesium aspartate, and vitamin B6. The first ZMA supplement was developed by Victor Conte (founder of BALCO Laboratories in Burlingame, California).
Zinc supports your immune system and muscles. Magnesium plays a role in metabolism and muscle health and helps manage sleep. B6 may boost energy.
ZMA makers claim that increasing these three nutrients in your system can build muscle strength and stamina, speed muscle recovery, and improve the quality of your sleep.
No high quality scientific study has found it to have any beneficial effects on muscle building or strength, and the International Society of Sports Nutrition and the Australian Institute of Sport regard it as having no clear benefits.
So if the studies on ZMA are inconclusive, does that mean it’s a waste of money and not worth taking? Let’s take a look at the individual ingredients and see what role they play in the body and how they could be beneficial to us.
Zinc is an essential dietary mineral that has numerous roles in the body, most notably as a catalytic and structural element in hundreds of metalloproteins.
Some research suggests that when zinc levels are low, insulin sensitivity and testosterone can decrease, and supplementation can bring levels closer to normal.
Zinc lozenges, in high doses, seem to reduce the duration of common colds, though it’s unclear if they reduce the risk of getting colds in the first place or the severity of symptoms. Their effects are largely limited to throat and nasal symptoms, and high doses tend to come with some mild but notable side-effects like nausea and metallic taste in the mouth.
Other areas of note are depression and acne, which can frequently benefit from increased zinc intake if levels are low.
Zinc is lost through sweat, making supplementation very important for athletes that don’t get a lot of zinc through food. Insulin resistance can also decrease zinc levels.
Supplementing with Zinc is a good idea for those who are deficient in the mineral or don’t get enough of it through food. Zinc does play an important role in testosterone production, immune support, and overall well being. Supplementing with zinc won’t give you superhuman results in the gym but it can help you to reach peak performance if you are deficient in it.
Magnesium is an essential dietary mineral, and the second most prevalent electrolyte in the human body. Magnesium deficiencies are common in developed countries. A deficiency increases blood pressure, reduces glucose tolerance and causes neural excitation.
If magnesium is supplemented to correct a deficiency, it can act as a sedative, reducing blood pressure and improving insulin sensitivity
Maintaining healthy magnesium levels is also associated with a protective effect against depression and ADHD.
Supplementing with Magnesium also seems like a good idea since most people tend to be deficient in this mineral due to their diet. Reducing blood pressure, increasing insulin sensitivity and helping to calm the mind are all great ways to increase your quality of life and longevity.
Vitamin B6 is one of the B vitamins that benefits the central nervous system. It is involved in producing the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine,
Other functions of Vitamin B6 include protein and glucose metabolism, and the manufacture of hemoglobin.
Hemoglobin is a component of red blood cells. It carries oxygen. Vitamin B6 is also involved in keeping the lymph nodes, thymus and spleen healthy.
Vitamin B6 plays a critical role in keeping your brain healthy, blood sugars stable, and other organs functioning optimally.
The minimum effective dosage for each vitamin and mineral in ZMA is:
- Men 14+: 11mg/day
- Women 19+: 8mg/day
- Men 19+: 400 mg/day
- Women 19+: 310 mg/day
- Vitamin B6
- Men & Women 19 to 50 years: 1.3mg/day
ZMA Side Effects
No major side effects of ZMA have been reported, but there could be health concerns if the supplements are taken more frequently than the manufacturer suggests.
Too much zinc or magnesium can cause diarrhea, nausea, and cramping, and when taken in high doses over a period of time, zinc can lower the body’s immunity and its levels of HDL, or “good,” cholesterol. One study also found that men who took 100 milligrams of zinc supplements for 10 years were more likely to get prostate cancer, but the reason isn’t clear. Taking supplemental B6 may cause nerve damage.
When ZMA was first developed by Victor Conte (founder of BALCO Laboratories) it was touted as a performance enhancing supplement that could raise natural testosterone levels. Numerous studies have not been able to replicate this claim.
Even though ZMA might not have performance enhancing effects it has other health benefits. The ingredients in ZMA support a healthy immune system, help increase insulin sensitivity, and can even enhance your overall well being by combatting depression and anxiety.
If you think that you are deficient in any of these vitamins or minerals it might be worth taking to make sure that at a minimum, your body is receiving the vitamins and minerals it needs to be able to function optimally.