What Is ZMA?
ZMA is a supplement marketed at the sports and fitness industry. It is gaining popularity over the years especially in bodybuilding and sports that involve strength training. It is often used as a recovery aid, developed for athletes that endure high levels of physical stress and intense training regimes and have significant loss in magnesium and zinc – possibly due to sweating or insufficient intake in diet. Studies showing that it may induce deeper levels of REM sleep boost the immune system and may improve the hormonal balance in the body.
ZMA is a blend of 3 compounds: zinc monomethionine aspartate, magnesium aspartate, and vitamin B6. Each of these has an important function to maintaining bodily health, but it the combination in which they are blend that produce the so-called “beneficial effects” for training purposes.
It is not discussed as much as more mainstream supplements, such as creatine and protein powders, but if you want to train effectively, you have to branch out and take note what is available on the market, how these supplements work, and whether they will be beneficial to you and your training.
How ZMA Affect The Body
It is not testosterone booster. Studies have shown that it may help maintain higher testosterone levels during intense training but, rather than boost the primary muscle-building hormone in the body, it may maintain hormonal levels at normal bodily levels, where otherwise it would reduce.
Zinc: Contributes to normal immune system function, macronutrient metabolism, maintenance of normal skin/hair/bones, and contributes to cognitive function.
Magnesium: Contributes to electrolyte balance, maintenance of normal bones and teeth, the normal functioning the nervous system, muscle function (muscle contraction), protein synthesis, and the reduction in tiredness and fatigue.
Vitamin B6: Contributes to normal glycogen and protein metabolism, and normal functioning of the immune system.
How ZMA Effects Training & Performance
A study from Western Washington University took a group of competitive NCAA football players and gave them ZMA nightly for 8 weeks, with a control group given a placebo. The results showed that the group that took the ZMA gained 2.5 times the muscle strength compared to the group that took the placebo. Pre and post leg strength measurements were conducted for the study. The ZMA group had increased muscle strength by 11.6% compared to 4.6% with the placebo group.
Natural Sources of ZMA (Zinc, Magnesium, Vitamin B6)
Zinc: Red meats, shellfish, nuts
Magnesium: Bananas, nuts, whole grain brown rice, spinach, milk
Vitamin B6: Fortified cereals, salmon, potatoes, chicken, bananas
While ZMA may aid recovery and improve physical bodily functions, it may not be necessary if you have a balanced diet.
When And How To Use ZMA
It should be taken 30-60 minutes before bedtime on an empty stomach to improve mineral absorption when asleep and has shown in studies to improve sleep quality.
The quality of sleep can have a huge impact on an athlete’s health and performance. During sleep physiological process increase, such as tissue repair, hormonal production (testosterone) and protein synthesis (muscle growth).
It’s important not to take ZMA with foods or supplements rich in calcium, as zinc and magnesium are poorly absorbed.
There are no known side adverse effects for taking the products however; over-consumption can lead to excessive accumulation of minerals in the body.
Over-consumption of ZMA can lead to nausea, upset stomach, and vomiting due to a high level of zinc.
There is also an increased risk of prostate cancer if you exceed the recommended doses of it. Taking more than 100 mg of zinc daily can increase your risk of prostate cancer.
Should You Use ZMA?
It does seem to have its benefits to those who use the supplement, with few drawbacks. Zinc, a key ingredient in ZMA has been shown to help keep testosterone and higher levels for longer when training. Many athletes can occur deficiencies in zinc possibly due to the high intensity training, so replenishing the loss of minerals could aid in training/performance.
The magnesium compound that is found in ZMA has many physiological benefits and may help improve the quality if sleep. Magnesium deficiency is the key cause of poor sleep.
Why not just take each component (zinc, magnesium, vitamin B6) separately you may ask? Whilst this method is much cheaper, studies (and manufacturers) suggest that it’s the blend that it is made up of that is optimal for absorption in the body.
If you are an athlete then it’s good to know that it is not on the banned substance list for sporting governing bodies. It does’t need to be cycled as its not hormone regulator.
Ultimately it is your choice to use the product and everybody responds differently to it. If you choose to use it, it may be wise to find the sources of the minerals from food sources first, with a dietary plan than meets your needs. A remember, unless you are relatively strict with your training and diet plan, then many supplements – like this one, may not show any beneficial effects.
Remember to never exceed daily recommendations and to consult a doctor when taking a new supplement or if you are unsure how to safely use the product.
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