ZMA: More Than Just A Sleep Supplement


Is ZMA the miracle supplement it sets out to be?

ZMA is a combination of zinc monomethionine/asparate, magnesium asparate and vitamin B6. It is strongly backed up by clinical research to be a great supplement for aiding muscle recovery, boosting muscle strength and size and aiding weight loss.

As ZMA is just a mineral supplement and other supplements such as creatine and NO-boosters promise more, people tend to largely ignore ZMA. After reading below you may change your mind about how effective supplement it can be.

It is not a testosterone booster although it can help athletes maintain testosterone levels during intense training periods, though it is not designed with the muscle-building hormone in mind, it is however a very effective way to supplement with two critical minerals, zinc and magnesium.

Minerals Do Matter

Zinc is an essential mineral with antioxidant properties that stimulates the activity of enzymes in the body, the enzymes are critical for numerous biochemical reactions. Zinc has been studied and found to be critical for protein synthesis, this molecular mechanism leads to muscle growth and recovery.

Magnesium is also an essential mineral which comes into play in various body functions. This is important for your cardiovascular system, metabolic rate as well as bone health. Zinc and magnesium together a wide range of health, performance and physique benefits.


Many people have seen some pretty positive results with the aid of ZMA.

Anabolic Factors

ZMA has been proven to have definitive anabolic effects. A study was performed at Western Washington University (Bellingham) which had NCAA football players take ZMA or a placebo every night fro an 8-week spring training program. Athletes taking ZMA had more than a 30% increase in testosterone levels and a 5% increase in insulin growth factor 1 (IGF-1), whilst those on the placebo had a 10% decrease in testosterone and a greater than 20% decrease in IGF-1.

As well as these improvements, the athletes on ZMA saw greater gains in strength and power as achieving better sleep quality. Better sleep quality also helps to aid muscle recovery after intense workouts. Even though the ZMA group were taking well over their recommended zinc allowance. Other studies have concluded that a mix of zinc and magnesium also offers potent anabolic properties.

In 2007 a study was conducted at Selcuk university in Konya, Turkey and it was reported that 4 weeks of zinc supplementation in men increased testosterone levels at rest and after exercise, researchers got similar results from wrestlers taking zinc supplementation.

The USDA has reported that zinc depletion can cause decreased muscle endurance in certain subjects, maintaining zinc levels is therefore critical to getting the max reps on any exercise.

Another study by the Western Washington University that subjects supplemented with a magnesium supplement whilst on a 7-week leg training program saw their leg strength increase by 205 more than those just on a placebo.

Zinc and magnesium are also suggested to blunt cortisol which is a catabolic hormone. German researchers have also found that triathletes who took a magnesium supplement for four weeks maintained a healthy cortisol level at rest and after a triathlon, this is compared to athletes on just a placebo. Brazilian researchers also found those taking zinc supplements maintained a healthy cortisol balance.

Zma may also boost growth hormone levels  although indirectly. ZMA enhances sleep quality due to magnesium’s ability to normalize and extend stage 3 and 4 slow-wave sleep. A deeper sleep can actually help raise GH levels which tend to peak at night.


ZMA not only aids better sleep, it also helps your workout and reduces recovery times.

Metabolic Muster

Zinc is also important for maintaining a healthy thyroid hormone production, this helps keep your metabolic rate and fat-burning potential up. Being low in zinc can actually limit thyroid hormone production and a compromised thyroid hormone production results in a lower metabolic rate and this makes it harder to drop body fat. Research has already confirmed that when your diet is low in zinc, thyroid hormone levels drop off and your resting metabolic rate suffers as a result.

A study at the University of Massachusetts Amherst found that subjects on a low-zinc diet had lower metabolic rates. When subjects then started taking 25mg of zinc a day for 20 days, their metabolic rate actually got higher than when before the low-zinc diet.

Zinc is not only important for thyroid function but also to maintain the hormone leptin. This hormone is responsible for keeping hunger down and your metabolic rate high. Deficiency in zinc decreases leptin levels.

Immunity Support

It is widely known that zinc is essential for proper immune function. Zinc takes part in multiple aspects of immune system function. Supplementing with zinc helps support a strong immune system.

It is also a powerful antioxidant, this great little mineral activates an enzyme which promotes good overall health and a strong immune system, this can also enhance your post-workout recovery as well, so it not only helps your health but also in the gym.


You can almost gurantee that if you are not already taking ZMA then you will most likely be deficient in zinc and magnesium.

Being Deficient

Research has shown many times over that athletes are both deficient in zinc and magnesium, this is because of several reasons, zinc is lost in sweat during exercise, the increased requirement of zinc by the body after training for recovery and protein synthesis and a lot is lost with urine, sometimes dietary factors are involved too.

Refined sugars and white flour products like white bread can lower your blood of zinc and magnesium. Foods rich in calcium like dairy products, inhibit the absorption of zinc and magnesium in the small intestine. Copper and foods rich in phytates (phospherous compounds found in cereals, whole-grain breads and legumes) also hinder the absorption of zinc into the small intestine. Alcohol also inhibits this as drinking a lot can get rid of it through urine.

You are most likely not taking in adequate zinc from whole foods and losing what you do take in, it is highly worth considering taking a ZMA supplement to maximise muscle mass and growth as well as to support immune systems and lower body fat.

The Do’s And Don’ts

  • Taking a plain zinc and magnesium supplement together might provide enough amounts of these minerals and cost less than ZMA, a proper ZMA supplement is money better spent. Zinc and magnesium used in ZMA is a chelate that is known as zinc monomethionine/aspartate and magnesium aspartate.

This helps reduce the inteference to the absorbtion of both these minerals, this also provide both   zinc and magnesium aspartate in the correct dosage, it also gives you a decent amount of vitamn B6, this aids magnesium uptake and utilization by the body.

  •  A specific dose was found to give positive effects in athletes hormone and strength levels. For men, a ZMA supplement should have 30mg of zinc, 450mg of magnesium and 10-11mg of vitamin B6, you do not need any more or less. For women this should be 20mg of zinc, 300mg of magnesium and 6-7mg of B6. A full dose of ZMA is usually 3 capsules, a womans dose can achieved with 2 capsules. Also it is worth noting that ZMA from SNAC systems should be on the label, anything else is not proper ZMA.
  • With zinc you can have too much of it, taking too much zinc – upwards of 50mg can lead to bad effects on the immune system and hormone levels as well as metabolic rate which can impact muscle growth and recovery and can even lead to reduced levels of HDL (Good cholesterol), copper uptake can also be affected.
  • Taking more than 450mg of magnesium can interfere with sleep.
  • Zma supplementation timing is important, a good rule of thumb is 1 hour before bed and 1-2 hours after eating, this will maximise uptake and utilization, taking ZMA at this time of day will also enhance sleep quality.
  • ZMA should never be taken with food, particularly food rich in calcium like dairy. Zinc and magnesium are not absorbed very well when taken with food, one way to enhance the uptake of ZMA is to take 5mg of BioPerine, a black pepper extract that has been known to enhance absorption.

Be sure to schedule correct supplementation into your diet each day for the best results.

Using ZMA supplements correctly alongside your diet and workouts can really help you achieve not only better workouts and muscle growth, but better sleep, fat burning and overall health.

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