ZMA, the supplement that supposedly increases Testosterone levels.
ZMA is a supplement composed of two minerals, Zinc and Magnesium, and a vitamin, Vitamin B6.
It is promoted as a natural anabolic, i.e. theoretically increases testosterone levels naturally. At least that's what the marks say!
In addition in theory can improve recovery, improve sleep quality and also give gains in the level of sports performance.
It really sounds like an amazing supplement, but… will it really be?
We decided to look at these benefits in detail and see if the ZMA really delivers on its promises.
We start by making a small presentation of each of the ingredients in this supplement, and then yes, realize to what extent the ZMA is effective for those who walk in the gym.
Note: Some benefits are intrinsically linked, an increase in testosterone will lead to better recovery. In addition, studies on the ZMA supplement are scarce, so we have also looked at several separate ingredient studies.
Zinc and Magnesium
We started by talking about zinc.
Zinc is one of the 24 micronutrients essential for survival and is found for example in meat and eggs.
Zinc is easily lost with sweat, and can be a smart supplementation in people who sweat a lot in training, or during the summer, when temperatures rise.
The most common dose found in ZMA formulas is 30mg.
We now move on to Magnesium.
Magnesium is also a mineral and is the second most common deficiency in developed countries, surpassed only by Vitamin D.
It is the second electrolyte with the greatest presence in the human body, and in the food it is found mainly in dried fruits and vegetables.
The most common dose found in ZMA supplements is 450mg.
It avoids formulas that use Magnesium Oxide, since it is a less efficient form of Magnesium, and more likely to have laxative effects, and is even used for this feat.
Finally, we have Vitamin B6 which is one of the vitamins in the B vitamin complex.
This vitamin is found mainly in meats and the dose found in ZMA supplements is usually 10.5mg.
It is an important cofactor in the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
Increased testosterone… is it true?
ZMA may actually increase testosterone levels, but… only in some people.
Testosterone as you know is the main male hormone, and with a huge role in anabolism, which in other words means… Gain lean mass!
Zinc deficiency can reduce androgen receptor expression and testosterone synthesis in cells. (1)
What does that mean?
It means that if you are deficient in Zinc, your testosterone levels will drop and may even increase your estrogen levels(1).
yes, estrogen, the main female hormone, you definitely don't want this.
That said, although zinc supplementation in people deficient in this mineral lead to increases in testosterone levels, this apparently does not happen in healthy people without any deficiency.
Let's take a look at some studies.
In this study(2), healthy men who practice regular physical exercise had no increase in testosterone with the use of ZMA.
In another study, this time done in infertile men, those who had low testosterone levels, had an increase in this hormone, while those who had normal levels had no increase. (3)
In another study, they came to the conclusion that zinc supplementation, after four weeks of intense exercise, helps maintain not only normal testosterone levels, but also thyroid levels. (4)
In addition to Zinc, Magnesium may also play a positive role in testosterone levels, although minimal. (5)
Therefore, we can conclude that supplementation with ZMA leads to increased testosterone levels in zinc deficient people, and to a maintenance of testosterone levels to those who exercise intensely.
As for increasing testosterone levels in healthy people, and with a diet that contains sufficient zinc levels, it doesn't seem very likely to happen.
Recovery, endurance and strength
Magnesium helps regulate muscle contraction, and the depletion of this mineral can cause not only caimbriãs but also muscle pain(6), therefore, avoiding a Magnesium deficiency alone is essential for good endurance and muscle strength.
Magnesium is the second most common deficiency in developed countries, but, and you have no Magnesium deficiency?
In a study in active women with magnesium oxide, magnesium levels increased, but there was no significant impact on performance(7).
In another more rigorous study, supplementation with high doses of magnesium four weeks before a triathlon test significantly improved sports performance in these athletes(8).
Finally, ZMA supplementation had no significant impact on strength or anabolism in relation to the group that did not use ZMA over an eight-week period. (9)
Therefore, apparently the benefits of this supplementation at the performance level seem to be somewhat questionable.
To conclude, let's look at the benefits of ZMA in sleep.
Magnesium can have a sedative effect, especially in people with this mineral deficiency, which can facilitate entry into sleep.
In addition, it appears to have a slightly ansiolitic effect, which may in fact make it easier to fall asleep, especially in periods of stress(10).
So if you have problems with insomnia due to a magnesium or stress deficiency, getting it to fall asleep faster will lead to you sleeping longer hours, and consequently better recovery and better hormonal response. That is, indirectly there may be here benefits for testosterone levels.
But and you don't have a problem falling asleep, zma doesn't do anything for you?
You can do it.
Studies that analyze the impact of magnesium on sleep quality are done in older populations, but show that in people with deficiency of this mineral magnesium supplementation actually improves sleep quality, and in healthy people, attenuates the negative impact that the aging process has on sleep. (11) (12)
Attention, these effects are in older populations(55+), so it may not translate into young and healthy populations.
One of the most common comments of those who start supplementation with ZMA, is a deeper and restorative sleep, so here indirectly there can be a positive effect at various levels for those who do gym training.
Finally, Vitamin B6.
Vitamin B6 is the most difficult ingredient to justify in this formula, and does not even appear in the supplement's name as opposed to Zinc and Magnesium.
This vitamin plays an important role in the functioning of certain enzymes, and will help above all in recovery and sleep.
Vitamin B6 is an essential cofactor in the production of various neurotransmitters, including Serotonin and GABA.
It is one of the reasons why certain people with ZMA supplementation report deeper sleep, more intense dreams or higher energy level and good mood during the day, as levels of various neurotransmitters are optimized with this vitamin.
ZMA, yes or no?
ZMA supplementation is done before bed, preferably away from meals, as you should not mix this supplement with foods or supplements containing Calcium or Iron, because they may impair its absorption.
Don't forget to look at the label and opt for a supplement that doesn't use Magnesium in the form of oxide, as it's less effective. Magnesium Citrate for example is a good choice.
Is the ZMA worth it?
It depends on expectations.
If you're looking for a direct and significant testosterone boost, that's only going to happen if you have a zinc deficiency.
However the improvement in sleep quality alone can lead to many benefits, and maintaining testosterone levels for those who do very intense workouts is also a point in favor.
There is no magic synergy between these three ingredients and is far from being considered an essential supplement, although it is useful in some cases.
Have you used it yet? Leave your opinion in the comments.
2 – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17882141
3 – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7271365
4 – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16648789
5 – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20352370
6 – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8754704
7th – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11252079
8 – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9794094
9 – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18500945
10th – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15159129
11 – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21199787
12 – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12163983