If you’re reading this article, it’s safe to say you’re always looking for an edge in your training and recovery practices. If so, then ZMA seems like a perfect fit. ZMA aids in testosterone production, muscle growth, muscle recovery, and can even improve the quality of your sleep. At the surface, it seems like a miracle supplement. Before you dive right in, let’s take a closer look at the facts behind ZMA and review some of the best ZMA supplements that are available now.
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What is ZMA?
ZMA is a combination of three different minerals and vitamins. This supplement combines zinc monomethionine/aspartate, magnesium aspartate, and vitamin B6.
The ratio of ingredients is extremely important when it comes to ZMA. For the maximum therapeutic benefit, each serving should contain 30mg of zinc, 450mg of magnesium and 10-11mg of vitamin B6.
Another important consideration is the form the minerals are in. The form that these minerals are in is a chelate known as aspartate. As zinc aspartate and magnesium aspartate, the body can absorb the minerals more efficiently. Zinc and magnesium in their other forms, such as magnesium sulfate, for example, are not absorbed as effectively by the body.
When combined, research suggests that ZMA has several positive impacts for athletes and bodybuilders.(1) The primary objective of a ZMA supplement is to increase muscle growth and size, provide quicker muscle recovery, increase testosterone production and facilitate deeper, more restful sleep.(2)
What Does Zinc Do?
For starters, zinc helps our immune system fight off bacteria and viruses. Zinc also helps our bodies make protein and DNA. It’s also a major component of our ability to taste and smell things.
Zinc plays several important roles for athletes as well.(3) The antioxidant properties of zinc help to stimulate many important enzymes in the body. Zinc is also a critical component in protein synthesis which aids in muscle recovery and muscle growth.
Zinc also aids in thyroid hormone production. This is important because thyroid hormone production is critical to maintaining your metabolic rate and your body’s ability to burn fat. Extensive research has confirmed that a low zinc diet decreases thyroid hormone production, leading to a lower resting metabolic rate.
What Does Magnesium Do?
Magnesium helps your cardiovascular system function properly, and also helps to ensure that your bones are strong and healthy. Believe it or not, magnesium plays a key role in over 600 different processes that occur within your body every day.(4)
Magnesium also plays a role in energy production, protein synthesis, gene maintenance and nervous system regulation. In other words, it’s something you need.
What Does Vitamin B6 Do?
Vitamin B6, which may be found in some ZMA supplements as pyridoxine, is a vitamin that also serves several helpful functions.(5) Some of those functions help the body to absorb and utilize the magnesium and zinc in ZMA. Many believe that vitamin B6 serves an important complementary role in testosterone production. Research on the subject suggests that B6 does serve some function in testosterone production, but we do not yet know what that function is.
Why You Need a ZMA Supplement
All of the ingredients in ZMA are critically important to bodily function, and athletes use a lot of them.. While both Zinc and Magnesium are found in lots of different fruits and vegetables, such as seafood, beans, and spinach, many people, especially athletes are deficient in zinc, magnesium, or both.
In particular, over half of all Americans are magnesium deficient.(6) On the other hand, zinc is a mineral that most of us get enough of in our diet. However, since zinc is critical to so many different processes that occur as we train, many athletes are zinc deficient. There are also many other factors that can contribute to zinc or magnesium deficiency.
While there’s usually no instances of side effects when taking ZMA, it’s important to note that if you have too much zinc or magnesium in your system, there can be adverse effects. In other words, if you don’t need a ZMA supplement, or if you’re taking too much ZMA, it may actually have the opposite effect of what you’re hoping for.
The most common side effect reported by ZMA users is more vivid dreams. While we know that magnesium is known to promote grogginess, researchers are unsure as to why ZMA produces more vivid dreams in some subjects.
One theory is that the vitamin B6 is responsible for this effect, as a study completed at City College of New York suggests that test subjects who received vitamin B6 before bed were able to more easily recall their dreams than a placebo group.
Too much zinc in your system (upwards of 50mg) can have the exact opposite effect of what you’d experience at a therapeutic level. This includes a negative impact on your immune system, muscle recovery, and growth. It can also reduce the amount of good cholesterol in your body.
Taking more than 450mg of Magnesium can have a negative impact on the quality of your sleep.
Since vitamin B6 is water-soluble, any unused portion of the vitamin is released through urine, so there isn’t much concern with negative impacts here.
Timing is Everything
Don’t Take ZMA With Food
Bioperine is a black pepper extract that’s sometimes used in small doses with ZMA supplements.(7) It is believed that this ingredient helps to aid in the body’s ability to absorb and utilize zinc and magnesium.
Top ZMA Supplements
There are tons of ZMA supplements on the market. There are also several other magnesium, zinc and vitamin B6 supplements that aren’t actually called “ZMA” due to trademark issues. It can be difficult to wade through the different options to select the best ZMA supplement for you. We took a look at several of the most popular ZMA sups on the market, and here’s what we found.
When evaluating the products below, you’ll probably notice that they are all extremely similar and in most cases, they possess the same ingredients. So, the best ZMA supplement for you boils down to a matter of personal preference.
1. NOW Sports ZMA
2. Optimum Nutrition ZMA
- HIGH-QUALITY FORMS OF ZINC, MAGNESIUM, AND VITAMIN B6
- 30MG ZINC, 450MG MAGNESIUM, 10.5MG VITAMIN B6
- ACTIVE LIFESTYLE FORMULA - your body demands greater nutritional needs to fuel your active lifestyle, ZMA can help fill gaps in your micronutrient intake
This offering from Optimum Nutrition employs a slightly different formula for their ZMA. It’s also perhaps the most popular ZMA supplement on the market.
Each dose contains 30mg of zinc with 450mg of magnesium and 10.5g of vitamin B6. This formulation seems to be the most popular, and you’ll find that most ZMA sups have 10.5g of vitamin B6. You can purchase these in 90 count or 180 count bottles, which offers a bit more flexibility than you’ll find from most other brands. This works out to either 30 or 60 servings, respectively.
3. Primaforce ZMA
- HIGHEST QUALITY: Lab-tested for potency and purity. We use only pharmaceutical-grade, clinically-tested ingredients that are backed by the latest research and development
- INCREASES MUSCULAR STRENGTH AND POWER: Boosts muscle strength and performance, and improves muscle recovery from intense workouts
- INCREASES FREE TESTOSTERONE LEVELS: Elevates testosterone levels at rest, during intense exercise, and after exercise
4. Evlution Nutrition Z-Matrix
- One bottle containing 120 Capsules with 7 active ingredients to help restful sleep without the tossing and turning.
- Z-Matrix is designed to help to increase endurance, muscle healing, growth, performance and restful sleep.
- May increase anabolic output along with strength in advanced athletes.
Unlike the supplements we’ve looked at so far, Z-Matrix from Evlution Nutrition switches up the tried and true ZMA formula in favor of what Evlution hopes to be a more well-rounded supplement.
Z-Matrix features the same 30mg of zinc and 450mg of Magnesium. 11mg of vitamin B6 are added instead of 10.5. This supplement also adds vitamin D, folic acid, L-theanine and Bioperine black pepper extract to aid in the absorption of this supplement.
Considering that Z-Matrix also includes Bioperine, you may want to give this particular formulation a shot, since it’s believed that this ingredient can aid in the body’s uptake and absorption of the other ingredients.
Each bottle contains 120 pills, which works out to 30 servings. This is also a slight departure from other brands. Considering the usual dosage for men and women, other brands make it easy to dose the supplement properly at home (men take three pills, women take two). With Z-Matrix, the recommended dose is four pills for men and 3 for women, which makes for a higher dose supplement for women.
Choosing a Winner
While it’s certainly not as popular as other supplements, such as creatine or NO-boosters, ZMA may be a hugely beneficial supplement to add to your arsenal.
Each of these options we’ve covered makes great options if you’re looking for a ZMA supplement. Many of them are virtually identical in every way. When it comes to deciding which ZMA sup is best for you, you may want to opt for a company whose products you know and trust already. Or, you may choose to go with one of the many options which incorporate other helpful compounds into their ZMA blends, such as Z-Matrix. As with all supplements, you’ll want to look for any positive or negative impacts they have on your workouts and lifestyle in the quest to identify what’s best for you.
Our team at The Fitness Tribe often collaborates together to produce content. When you see “TFT Team” this is because the content was not written by a single author, but rather a team effort.
Last update on 2018-10-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API