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Supplements Descriptions

by Gary F. Zeolla

ZMA stands for "zinc-magnesium aspartate." The idea behind this supplement is that many athletes are deficient in zinc and/ or magnesium. And such deficiencies can hinder performance, along with one's health in general. This supplement purports to provide these minerals in the most absorbable forms possible. Specifically, the zinc is in the form of aspartate and monomethionate. The magnesium is in the form of aspartate. These are supposedly highly absorbable forms of these nutrients. This product also contains vitamin B6, which is supposed to aid in absorption of the two minerals.

Specifically, three capsules contain:
Zinc: 30 mg
Magnesium: 450 mg.
Vitamin B6: 10 mg.

There has been much buzz about this supplement in the weightlifting world. The main reason for this is that ZMA is purported to elevate testosterone levels. And it is true that zinc is involved in the formation of testosterone. As such, if one is deficient in zinc, then that could depress one's testosterone levels, and supplementation with zinc would cause an improvement.

Meanwhile, magnesium is involved in muscle contractions and many other functions in the body. It is even involved in the sleep process. Thus again, a deficiency of magnesium would have a detrimental effect on performance and even sleep quality. And in fact, one of the main benefits lifters report from this supplement is that it helps them to sleep better.

Thus overall, this sounds like a worthwhile supplement. However, ZMA is not the only product to provide purportedly highly absorbable forms of these minerals. They can be attained from many other supplements. Moreover, ZMA tends to be rather expensive. But the claim is that the proportions of the nutrients in ZMA are in the exact proportions for best absorption.

The directions for taking this product are also rather specific. One is supposed to take it 30-60 minutes before bedtime on an empty stomach. The idea is, that it is best to take it apart from foods and other supplements, especially from anything contain calcium, as it is said that calcium "competes" with magnesium for absorption. But there is little evidence supporting this "prescription." Moreover, I have tried ZMA, but have not found it to be any more beneficial than other products containing zinc and magnesium.

Another concern of mine is that with 30 mg of zinc in ZMA, and 15-30 mg in most multi-vitamin/ mineral supplements, by taking both together, one could easily get too much zinc. Just as a deficiency of zinc is not good, neither is taking too much. An excess of zinc can depress the immune system. The "upper tolerable limit" is only 40 mg, so you can see how you could easily "overdose" on zinc. In addition, excessive zinc can lead to a copper deficiency since copper and zinc compete for the same receptors. Thus there are potential dangers with long-term use of ZMA.

If you believe you need more zinc, it would be better to modify your diet to bring zinc levels up, with red meat intake being at the top of the list of foods to consume, while nuts would be one of your best plant sources for magnesium, as discussed in my God-given Foods Eating Plan and Creationist Diet: Second Edition books. If you feel you still need more zinc, take a multi. Again, those usually have at least 15 mg.

As for magnesium, I doubt seriously the claim that magnesium needs to be taken separately from calcium. Of all of the calcium and magnesium products I have tried, Twinlab's Calcium Citrate Caps works the best, and it contains both calcium and magnesium. In fact, I would recommend it if you feel you need more magnesium. But again, it is best to get your magnesium from food. Dark greens, nuts, and whole grains are all good sources of magnesium.

All that said, if you are intent of taking ZMA, it should also be noted that not all products labeled "ZMA" contain the exact formula that has been used in research studies. But Twinlab's product is one brand that the "inventor" of ZMA has stated does contain the exact ingredients used in the studies. As such, if you're going to use ZMA, Twinlab's ZMA Fuel would be one of the best brands to use.

ZMA - Supplement Descriptions. Copyright 2004, 2008, 2014, 2017 by Gary F. Zeolla.

Twinlab's ZMA is available at Amazon.
Other brands of ZMA are also available at Amazon, along with at iHerb
For iHerb, when checking out, use referral code HOP815 to receive $5.00 off your first order.

The above article was posted on this site May 31, 2004.
It was last updated June 21, 2017.

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