ZMA Supplement: Benefits, Side Effects


ZMA is zinc magnesium aspartate. It is a popular supplement among fitness enthusiasts, bodybuilders and athletes. It has a combination of three ingredients – Vitamin B6, magnesium, and zinc. Manufacturers claim that ZMA can boost muscle growth and strength and it improves sleep quality, recovery, and endurance. If you are on a bodybuilding diet and you want to lose weight, then ZMA supplements can play a role in it.

You should talk with your doctor about the recommended dosage for your bodybuilding body. ZMA supplements are widely used by people who want to improve their body muscle mass, but you need to take care of how much you use them, so you will avoid possible side effects. It is very important to have enough Vitamin B6, zinc, and magnesium in your body for all processes to work effectively.

What is ZMA?

This is the popular supplement that typically contains the following:

  • Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine): 10 – 11 mg, which is 650% of the RDI
  • Magnesium aspartate: 450 mg, 110% of the RDI
  • Zinc monomethionine: 30 mg, 270% of the RDI (reference daily intake)

But, some manufacturers produce ZMA supplements with alternative forms of zinc and magnesium or other added vitamins and minerals. These nutrients are playing an important role in the body.

  • Vitamin B6: This is a water-soluble vitamin that is needed for processes, such as nutrient metabolism and making neurotransmitters.
  • Magnesium: This mineral is supporting hundreds of chemical reactions in the body, including muscle and nerve function and energy creation.
  • Zinc: This is a trace mineral that is necessary for more than 300 enzymes involved in the immunity, digestion, metabolism, and other areas of your health.

Fitness enthusiasts, bodybuilders, and athletes often use ZMA. Manufacturers say that increasing your levels of these three nutrients can help to increase testosterone levels, build muscle and strength, improve sleep quality, and aid exercise recovery. But, the research behind ZMA in some of these areas is mixed and it is still emerging.

When you consume more zinc, magnesium, and Vitamin B6, it can provide you with many other benefits, such as improved mood, blood sugar control, and immunity. Especially, this applies if you are deficient in one or more of the aforementioned nutrients.


ZMA and athletic performance

It is said that ZMA supplements can enhance athletic performance and build muscle. In the theory, ZMA might enhance factors in those who are deficient in zinc or magnesium. The deficiency in either of these minerals can reduce the production of testosterone, which is a hormone that can affect muscle mass, as well as IGF – 1 (insulin-like growth factor), which is a hormone that affects cell growth and recovery. Also, many athletes may lower zinc and magnesium levels and this can compromise their performance.

Lower zinc and magnesium levels can be the result of strict diets or losing more zinc and magnesium through urination or sweat. Nowadays, there are only a few studies that have looked into whether ZMA can improve athletic performance. In one 8 – week study, 27 football players showed that taking a ZMA supplement on daily basis can significantly increase testosterone levels, IGF – 1 level, functional power, and muscle strength. In another 8 – week study, 42 resistance-trained men found that taking a ZMA supplement on daily basis did not raise IGF – 1 level or testosterone levels when it was compared to a placebo.

Also, it did not improve the body composition or exercise performance. In another study done with 14 healthy men who exercised regularly showed that taking a ZMA supplement on daily basis in a period of eight weeks did not raise total or free blood testosterone levels. Individually, both magnesium and zinc have been shown to reduce muscle fatigue and either raise testosterone levels or prevent a fall in testosterone due to exercise, but it is not clear if they are more beneficial when they are used together. It is not clear if the ZMA can improve athletic performance, so more studies need to be done in the future.

ZMA dosage and recommendations

You can buy ZMA online and in health food and supplement stores. It is available in several forms, including powdered or capsule. The typical dosage recommendations for the nutrients in ZMA are next:

  • Vitamin B6: 10 – 11 mg, 650% of the RDI
  • Magnesium aspartate: 450 mg, 110% of the RDI
  • Zinc monomethionine: 30 mg, 270% of the RDI

This is typically the equivalent amount of taking three ZMA capsules or three scoops of ZMA powder. But, most supplement labels advise women to take two scoops of powder or two capsules. You should avoid taking more than the recommended dose because too much zinc can lead to side effects. It is often advised to take ZMA supplements on an empty stomach for about 30 – 60 minutes before going to bed. This is preventing nutrients like zinc from interacting with others, such as calcium.

Benefits of ZMA

Vitamin B6, zinc, and magnesium are playing an important role in your immune health. ZMA has many health benefits, such as

  • May elevate your mood: Vitamin B6 and magnesium, both of which are found in ZMA, can help to elevate your mood. In one study was found that 8900 adults, who are under 65 ages with the lowest magnesium intake, have an increased risk of developing depression by 22%. In another 12 – week study in which were participating 23 adults was shown that taking 450 mg of magnesium on daily basis can reduce depression symptoms as effectively as an antidepressant drug. In several studies are said that Vitamin B6 can improve depression, but there need to be done a lot more studies to approve this.
  • May help improves your sleep: It has been shown that the combination of magnesium and zinc can help to improve your sleep quality. In some studies are found that magnesium can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for helping your body to feel calm and relaxed. It has been shown that supplementing with zinc can improve sleep quality in both human and animal studies. In one 8 – week study, done in 43 adults with insomnia, was shown that taking a combination of melatonin (a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle), magnesium, and zinc on daily basis can help people fall asleep faster and improved the sleep quality compared to a placebo.
  • May aid blood sugar control: Magnesium and zinc can help people with diabetes to control their blood sugar levels. One analysis of 25 studies in which were participating over 1,360 people with diabetes has shown that taking a zinc supplement can reduce the fasting blood sugar, post-meal blood sugar levels, and hemoglobin A1c. It was found that supplementing with zinc can lower the HbA1c (it is a marker for long–term blood sugar levels) to an extent that is similar to that of metformin, which is a popular diabetes drug.

Also, magnesium can help to improve blood sugar control in people who suffer from diabetes by improving the body’s ability to use insulin, which is a hormone that moves sugar from your blood into cells. An analysis of 18 studies was found that magnesium is more effective at reducing fasting blood sugar levels than a placebo of people with diabetes. Also, it can reduce the blood sugar levels in people who are at risk for developing diabetes.

ZMA side effects

At this moment, there are no side effects from the supplementing with ZMA reported from people that have used it. ZMA is giving moderate to high doses of zinc, magnesium, and Vitamin B6. When they are taken in high doses, then these nutrients can have side effects, such as

  • Vitamin B6: It can cause nerve damage and pain or numbness in the hands or feet.
  • Magnesium: This can cause stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea.
  • Zinc: It can cause different side effects, such as reduced immune function, nutrient deficiencies, dizziness, headaches, copper deficiency, stomach cramps, loss of appetite, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea.

But, this should not be an issue if you do not exceed the dose listed on the label. Both magnesium and zinc can interact with a variety of medications, such as blood pressure medicine, diuretics, and antibiotics. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or if you are taking any medications, then you need to talk with your doctor before you take ZMA supplements. Also, you should avoid taking more ZMA than the recommended dose listed on the label.


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