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Introduction

ZMA, also known as zinc magnesium aspartate, is a very popular supplement that is predominantly consumed by athletes and fitness enthusiasts.

In fact it was actually developed by Victor Conte – a man who was found guilty of distributing steroids and money laundering.

The supplement contains a combination of 3 different ingredients — zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B6.

These products are advertised to improve sleep quality and have a variety of performance benefits such as improved strength, endurance, and recovery.

ZMA Health Benefits

May Improve Sport Performance

A deficiency in zinc may impair growth and recovery from exercise by negatively effecting hormone levels such as testosterone and IGF-1 [1].

Magnesium is also essential for the process of energy metabolism and assists with normal muscle functioning.

Therefore, it is logical to assume that correcting any deficiencies of these nutrients via supplementation may have a performance-enhancing effect in certain people.

However, when ZMA has been supplemented in American football players it has failed to influence muscle strength, functional power, and testosterone and IGF-1 levels [2].

Further, ZMA also does not seem to improve body composition or resistance training performance in healthy well-trained gym populations [3] [4].

These findings suggest that extra doses of the micronutrients present in the ZMA do not bring any additional benefits in healthy individuals, at least in regards to body composition, athletic performance and hormone production [7].

Based on this it is not surprising that the International Society of Sports Nutrition has stated that the effect of ZMA on muscle-building is “not known”, and the Australian Institute of Sport has concluded that ZMA is lacking clear proof of its benefits.

The benefits of zinc will likely only occur in people who have been diagnosed with zinc or magnesium deficiencies – but this is yet to be tested.

May Improve Sleep

The combination of zinc and magnesium may improve your sleep quality, especially for individuals that are experiencing sleep problems.

Current evidence highlights that magnesium helps to activate certain parts of the nervous system which are responsible for helping your body relax [5].

There is also a large amount of animal and human studies that associate zinc to improving sleep quality [6].

However, to our knowledge there has not yet been any valid research analyzing the effects of ZMA supplementation on sleep quality.

This being said, a similar supplement, consisting of zinc, magnesium and melatonin has been shown to help people fall asleep faster [7].

Hopefully future research on ZMA can assess its association with sleep to see if it has any direct benefits.

May Lower Inflammation

Magnesium deficiency has been linked to chronic inflammation, which is a key driver of aging and serious diseases such as heart disease and cancer.

Studies have found that magnesium supplements effectively reduce markers of inflammation such as C-reactive protein and interleukin 6 (IL-6) [8]. Lab studies suggest that the primary mechanism by which magnesium has this effect is through decreasing the amount of calcium ions within cells, though to result in a lower inflammatory response.

Similarly, as zinc is a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, zinc supplementation in isolation can decrease oxidative stress biomarkers and decrease the activity of inflammatory molecules in the blood [9].

Taking this into account it is likely that ZMA supplementation can have similar effects on lowering inflammation, however there is currently no research that has directly analyzed this relationship.

How To Take ZMA?

Most ZMA supplements contain the same amounts and ratio of nutrients:

  • Zinc monomethionine: 30mg
  • Magnesium aspartate: 450mg
  • Vitamin B6: 10mg

The best way to take ZMA depends on the purpose of its supplementation. For most people taking it for sleep and recovery benefits, it is recommended to be consumed within the hour period before bedtime and on an empty stomach.

ZMA Safety And Side Effects

ZMA is generally regarded as a safe supplement that does not seem to cause adverse side effects.

However, when taken in large amounts it has been known to cause some issues including:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • loss of appetite
  • stomach cramps
  • copper deficiency
  • headaches
  • nerve damage
  • pain or numbness in the hands or feet.

Conclusion

ZMA is a supplement that contains zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B6.

Research on zinc and magnesium in isolation make it appear as though ZMA supplementation may help with improving sleep quality, athletic performance, and lowering inflammation.

However, due to the lack of direct research on ZMA it is unclear how this supplement impacts health, and to what extent.

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Fact Checked


This article has been reviewed and fact-checked by a certified nutritionist, and only uses information from credible academic sources.