ZMA is a nutritional supplement consisting of zinc monomethionine aspartate, magnesium aspartate, and vitamin B6 widely used by athletes, gymnasts, and bodybuilders. There are claims that the substance can raise strength levels, enhance hormone profiles in the body, and help provide a deeper level of REM sleep. ZMA was developed by Victor Conte, founder of BALSo Laboratories in Burlingame CA.
The study most often cited to support claims of ZMA’s beneficial hormone effects is one conducted by Dr. Lorrie Brillo at Western Washington University involving 12 NCAA division II football players who received the supplement, and another group who received a placebo. The group using the supplement experienced muscle strength gains two and one half times greater than those receiving the placebo, 11.6 % gain versus 4.6%. The ZMA group also had a 30% increase in testosterone levels, as opposed to a 10% increase for those on the placebo. It should be noted, however, that one of the scientists involved in this study holds the registered trademark for ZMA, and it was his company which funded the research.
ZMA is not a testosterone booster. Although it has the added benefit of helping athletes maintain levels of this most important muscle building hormone, its primary benefit is that it is the most efficient way to supplement your nutrition with two very important minerals, zinc and magnesium. Zinc is an essential mineral with antioxidant properties. It increases the activity of many enzymes in the body which are important in many biochemical functions. Zinc is also an important factor in protein synthesis, the process leading to muscle recovery and growth. Magnesium is also an essential element to the body, important to maintaining cardiovascular health, metabolic rate, and bone health. Working together, these elements offer advantages in building a strong physique and enhancing physical performance. Many studies demonstrate that these two minerals help enhance muscle size and strength, contribute to fat loss, and contribute to our overall health and well-being. Zinc, especially, is known to maintain a healthy metabolic rate, thereby maintaining a beneficial level of calorie burn. It can also boost the immune system, contributing to general health.
Athletes in particular may experience a zinc deficiency. This is probably due to excess loss of the mineral through sweat during heavy training, and urine. In addition, zinc may be rapidly depleted as it is used to build and maintain muscle structure and performance, even as the individual consumes a diet well above daily requirements of the mineral. Supplementing your diet with ZMA is arguably better, although slightly more expensive, then supplementing with simple zinc and magnesium, as the chelate form of the minerals contained in ZMA is more easily absorbed in the body, and the addition of vitamin B6 will make the magnesium more easily utilized.
One more added benefit of ZMA is that it can provide deeper levels of REM sleep, and deeper sleep provides for enhanced muscle repair and growth. Not to mention the rest and relaxation needed to provide a fresh start for the next day’s workout.
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