Zinc and Magnesium (ZMA): Uses, Benefits and Side Effects

Over the years, ZMA has become a popular supplement for athletes, bodybuilders, and fitness enthusiasts alike. It’s also proven to help people with zinc or magnesium deficiencies which can lead to chronic fatigue, weight loss and insomnia (1, 2).

What is ZMA?

In a nutshell, ZMA or zinc magnesium aspartate contains three ingredients: zinc, magnesium and vitamin B6. This combination is believed to boost muscle growth, strength and improve endurance, recovery, and sleep quality.

Magnesium deficiency is the second most common deficiency in developed countries, right behind vitamin D (3)! Zinc and magnesium are two of the seven essential minerals, the others being iron, calcium, iodine, silica and selenium, so it is vital for general health that we get enough of these minerals through our diet or supplements (4). Why not get two in one with ZMA?

  • Zinc: This trace mineral is necessary for more than 300 enzymes involved in metabolism, digestion, immunity, and other areas of your health.
  • Magnesium: This mineral supports hundreds of chemical reactions in your body, including energy creation and muscle and nerve function.
  • Vitamin B6: This water-soluble vitamin is needed for processes such as making neurotransmitters (molecules used by the nervous system to transmit messages between neurons to muscles) and nutrient metabolism ( the chemical process your body uses to transform the food you eat into the fuel) (5).

Can you take zinc and magnesium together?

Absolutely. It’s safe to make both zinc and magnesium supplements together. In fact, they are often combined in ZMA capsules because their functions complement each other so well. Magnesium helps your body regulate its zinc levels, though it should be noted that a high intake of zinc can be detrimental to magnesium absorption. It will only hinder absorption when taken in abnormally high doses (around 142 mg of zinc per day) (6). It should be noted that zinc can interact with other minerals like calcium and iron, so if you are taking other supplements, it’s recommended that you check with a medical professional about what you can and cannot take together.

What are the key benefits of taking ZMA supplements?

Our modern lifestyles can sometimes lead to a deficiency in zinc and magnesium. Strict diets, too much caffeine, alcohol or stress can affect the way in which our body absorbs these minerals so, by increasing your intake, it can have a positive effect on the following:

1. General health

Consuming more zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B6 may provide many general health benefits, such as improved immunity, blood sugar control, and mood. This especially applies if you’re deficient in either zinc or magnesium nutrients.

It’s also proven that zinc is vital in the wound healing process due to its molecular makeup within the blood, and how it reacts with oxygen and bacterial toxins (7).

2. Athletic performance

ZMA is also a very popular supplement with athletes, bodybuilders and general gym goers because of its links to both zinc and magnesium in the reduction of muscle fatigue and rise in testosterone levels or prevent a fall in testosterone levels due to exercise (8).

One 8-week study of 27 football players showed that taking a ZMA supplement daily significantly increased muscle strength, functional power, testosterone and IGF-1 levels (9).

3. Sleep quality

Sleep has a significant impact on your health, both physically and mentally. It helps us maintain a healthy weight and a good balance of hormones, as well as controlling sugar levels. For mental health, a great night’s sleep makes the brain work effectively. The body needs magnesium to maintain a state of rest and low levels can lead to restless muscles that can keep you awake at night. I’m sure most of us have experienced ‘restless legs’ at some point, either when trying to sleep or after being stationary for periods of time, and magnesium plays a large part in preventing this. Magnesium also ensures the GABA receptors in our brain and nervous system are working efficiently. GABA receptors help the brain switch off in preparation for sleep and resting (10).

What doses of ZMA should I take?

For adults, 300 mg (men) or 270 mg (women) of magnesium is the daily limit whilst your body needs much less zinc than this. The recommended daily dosage of zinc is 9.5 mg (men) and 7 mg (women).

When is the best time to take ZMA?

At Prohormones UK, recommend taking German Pharma ZMA on an empty stomach approximately 30–60 minutes before bed. This prevents zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B6 from interacting with other nutrients in your diet. Do not consume more than three capsules.

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