ZMA And Testosterone: Expert Guide to Zinc Magnesium Aspartate
By Ali Kuoppala | Last reviewed Tue 25 September 2018
Medical Review by Gerardo Sison, PharmD
ZMA (Zinc Magnesium Asparate) is a somewhat simple supplement that contains 15-30 mg’s zinc (monomethionine and aspartate), 350-500 mg’s magnesium (aspartate), and 10-20 mg’s vitamin B6 (pyridioxine hydrochloride).
It was invented by the ex-bassist of the band Tower of Power – Victor Conte – Who since then has been linked to various doping scandals and has even served time in prison due to steroid distribution…
In case you’re wondering, ZMA has nothing to do with doping or steroids, even though it was invented by a guy who has a history with such substances.
ZMA is sold primarily as a recovery enhancer and testosterone booster for bodybuilders, gymnasts, and various other athletes. That’s also how ZMA originally caught my attention. It was the first “testosterone booster” that I ever tested.
But the big question is, does it work?
ZMA, Testosterone, and Muscle Recovery
ZMA is probably the most popular non-herbal testosterone booster on the market.
And it’s not a surprise that the claims of its benefits are sometimes greatly exaggerated. After all, it’s just zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B6.
So I hate to burst the bubble, but if you were expecting steroid like benefits from the supplement, then you can keep on dreaming.
That being said, ZMA can still be very useful in terms of testosterone production and recovery.
a) We already know that zinc consumption increases testosterone levels, at least if you’re deficient in the mineral, to begin with, a condition which applies to a huge chunk of the population (study, study, study, study)
b) We also know that magnesium increases free testosterone levels via lowering SHBG (study, study, study)
c) Vitamin B6 is in ZMA because it improves the absorption of both minerals. Furthermore, it will also lower prolactin levels.
d) Zinc and magnesium are both linked to improved sleep quality (study, study, study), and better sleep is directly linked to increased testosterone production and muscle recovery.
c) Only a few human studies have examined zinc, magnesium, and B6 (ZMA) in combination. This one saw a 30% increase in testosterone and some pretty incredible strength gains when compared to placebo (keep in mind that it was sponsored by a ZMA manufacturer).
So at least from the scientific perspective, ZMA is pretty well covered and it seems to do exactly what it’s sold for. My personal experiences with ZMA are in line with the science presented above.
But can’t I just buy zinc, magnesium, and B6 as separate supplements?
Yes, you most certainly can, and that’s what I personally do and recommend as you can get better quality, price, and absorption if you purchase them separately.
Why are all the ingredients of ZMA in aspartate form, does this matter?
That’s because it’s believed that aspartates improve the message sending between cells and hormones, which would improve the testosterone boosting effects of the supplement.
However, the amounts of aspartate in ZMA are so minimal that you shouldn’t worry about that. Aspartates don’t have that good of a bio-availability in the body when compared to orotate, glycinate, or citrate.
I’ve heard that zinc and magnesium battle for absorption and shouldn’t be stacked?
It’s true that zinc, magnesium, calcium, and iron all bind to the same receptors inside the body, however, the receptors can uptake around 800 mg’s of minerals at a time, so unless you’re megadosing on all of them simultaneously, you should be fine in terms of absorption.
Do the dosages have to be the same as in ZMA supplements for separate minerals and B6?
Nope, not really. Those are just recommendations invented by Victor Conte, and they’re just that, recommendations.
Does ZMA work for everyone?
I doubt that it has any significant effects on people who can maintain optimal levels of zinc and magnesium in their serum on a day-to-day basis. However, this isn’t the case for most people due to the fact that modern-day foods are mostly processed to the point where most minerals and vitamins are destroyed. Furthermore, you also have to keep in mind that magnesium and zinc both evaporate through sweat and we don’t have a storage system inside the body for them.
ZMA is a legit supplement that does what it’s mainly marketed for (although some companies hype the supplement up a bit too much).
To get the benefits of ZMA, you can also supplement with zinc, magnesium, and B6 as separate supplements. This would give you better options in terms of price, quality, and absorption as explained above.
In case you would like to buy ZMA instead of separate minerals and B6, then this brand is the one that gets my recommendations.