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Nutrition and Diet

ZMA or Zinc: Which one is Better?

ZMA is a patented formula which contains the minerals zinc and magnesium along with vitamin B6.

These three are extremely important for muscle recovery and growth in bodybuilders and athletes.

Because of its reputation as the best mass builder and sleep regulator in the market, ZMA is fast becoming hot property in the fitness sphere today.

Most serious performance athletes swear by ZMA, but there is a miniscule minority of serious body builders who feel that ZMA is overrated and it’s perfectly good for their muscles if they just take zinc and magnesium pills instead of opting for the specially blended ZMA supplement with a premium price tag.

But, who’s right- the ‘ZMA believers’ or those who prefer taking standalone zinc pills?

The ZMA versus Zinc dilemma

What does scientific research say about the advantages of ZMA?

One of the first research studies that put ZMA on the fitness map so- as- to-speak presented a strictly shiny- sunny-side- up picture of ZMA.

It proved that ZMA has significant anabolic or muscle-building benefits as it boosts testosterone levels and also causes a 5-percent increase in levels of the insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) that powers muscle repair.

Other subsequent studies have blunted ZMA’s shine, but not completely.

As things stand today, research predominantly proves that the use of ZMA has no significant effects in increasing testosterone levels in healthy men with optimum zinc levels in their bodies, though it does cause some increase in men with zinc deficiency.

In common speak, this means that ZMA is an excellent sleep aid and a mass builder especially in athletes and body builders with sub-optimal levels of zinc and magnesium only.

ZMA works as a sleep aid because it boosts growth hormone (GH) levels in your body due to its ability to normalize and extend ‘stage 3 and stage 4 slow-wave sleep’.

Most of the ZMA heft comes from its ingredients- zinc and magnesium.

The Miracle Mineral called Zinc

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Zinc is an essential mineral with a number of unique body-building properties like:

It stimulates enzymes that power protein synthesis, the molecular mechanism that leads to more and bigger muscles.

It regulates the production of the thyroid hormone responsible for keeping your metabolic rate high which means increasing your fat-burning capabilities during cutting phase.

Zinc is also critical for maintaining levels of the hormone leptin which keeps hunger pangs at bay and your metabolic rate high.

Zinc also blunts cortisol, a catabolic or body-breaking hormone and supplementing with zinc is linked to maintenance of healthy cortisol balance.

In short, good zinc levels in your body means you can complete the number of reps you want easily.

But what is really alarming is that bodybuilders and athletes are often deficient in both zinc and magnesium due to several factors like zinc getting lost through sweat during training, increased use of zinc by the body for post-workout recovery as well as protein synthesis following training.

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Which one is better- Zinc or ZMA?

While taking a plain zinc and magnesium supplement together may provide you with adequate amounts of these important minerals and cost less than a ZMA supplement, we suggest you still take ZMA.

And we do so for a reason- the form of zinc and magnesium used in ZMA is a chelate known as zinc monomethionine/aspartate and magnesium aspartate and this form is absorbed and used by your body very easily.

Not only this, ZMA contains zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B6 in specific dosages:

  • Zinc- 30mg  or 200% as Zinc Monomethionine and Aspartate
  • Magnesium- 450mg or 113% as Magnesium Aspartate
  • Vitamin B6- 10.5mg or 525% as Pyridoxine Hydrochloride
  • Any other dosage of magnesium or zinc is not ZMA.

So, ZMA provides zinc and magnesium as well as vitamin B6 in the proper dosage.

You should look for ZMA supplements that provide 30 mg of zinc, 450 mg of magnesium, and 10-11 mg of B6, if you are a bodybuilder. A full dose of ZMA is 3 tablets which should be taken one hour before night time.

Some bodybuilders also take just zinc for plugging their low zinc levels but they don’t get the other catabolic effects of ZMA.

So, we suggest that you should you take ZMA, instead of just supplementing with Zinc.

Can you take ZMA and Zinc both?

Zinc is good for you but too much of a good thing can turn toxic. Be warned that, with taking too much zinc —upwards of 50 mg of absorbed zinc— can lead to deleterious effects on the immune system and metabolic rate. This can also adversely impact muscle recovery and growth, something that you would not want at all.

Higher levels of zinc that means more than 60 mg per day through diet and supplementation can cause copper deficiency by interfering with copper uptake.

In other words, the effects of overdosing on zinc are the opposite of what’s intended in the first place.

What about magnesium? Taking more than 450 mg of it can cause harm and actually interfere with optimal sleep, reducing the muscle building ability of your body.

As we have already told you, most successful ZMA products have 11 mg of vitamin B6, 450 mg of magnesium and 30 mg of zinc. So, if you are taking ZMA, you are getting your optimum dosage of zinc and you should not take a zinc supplement along with it.

Having more ZMA pills than recommended or having zinc along with ZMA can cause an overdose of zinc and magnesium which is dangerous for you.

Vitamin B6 toxicity due to an overdose can also cause neurological effects, but this only occurs when amounts exceed 100 mg per day.

One of the most important aspects of supplementing with ZMA is timing. You should take ZMA about an hour before bed and one to two hours after you eat. This way maximum uptake and utilization of ZMA will happen, enhancing sleep quality and boosting muscle recovery.

Got any more questions about ZMA or zinc supplementation? Don’t hold yourself back, just post in the comments section below and we shall answer your queries as fast as possible.

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Shikha Gandhi

The author Shikha Gandhi

has covered health as a TV journalist. She is a health freak with a passion for fitness, diets, and healing. She writes on health and makes programs and focuses on the subject too.
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