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What is ZMA?

ZMA is a combination of the minerals zinc monomethionine aspartate, magnesium aspartate and vitamin B-6. This is a scientifically designed, patent -pending formula. Zinc is an essential trace mineral that is required as a co-factor by more than 100 enzymes in the body, which are important for many biochemical reactions. Zinc is also critical for protein synthesis and tissue repair after injury. Like zinc, magnesium is an essential mineral also involved in numerous enzymatic reactions in the body. Magnesium is important for cardiovascular, metabolic and bone health and helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function. Vitamin B-6 is involved in protein metabolism and assists in releasing stored glucose from glycogen.

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Benefits of ZMA

  • Enhanced testosterone production which may lead to increased muscle mass and strength
  • Improved sleep quality which can improve recovery from exercise
  • Increased libido due to increased testosterone production

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Evidence Behind ZMA

The most well-known research on ZMA's anabolic benefits was a 2000 study performed at Western Washington University (Bellingham). The researchers had NCAA football players take ZMA or a placebo nightly during an eight-week spring-training program. They discovered that the athletes taking the ZMA supplement experienced a 30% increase in both free and total testosterone levels, and about a 4% increase in insulinlike growth factor-I levels, while those taking a placebo had a 10% decrease in both free and total testosterone levels and a 22% decrease in IGF-I. In addition the ZMA athletes made significantly greater gains in strength and power compared to the placebo group. These benefits occurred despite the fact that analysis of the athletes' diets found that they were all consuming well over the recommended intake for zinc.

Besides the Western Washington study, several others also find that zinc and magnesium offer anabolic properties. One of the most recent, a 2007 study from Selcuk University (Konya, Turkey) reported that four weeks of zinc supplementation in men increased both free and total testosterone levels at rest and after exercise. The same researchers found similar results for zinc supplementation on testosterone levels in an earlier study with competitive wrestlers. Researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that zinc depletion decreased muscle endurance in the lower and upper body of subjects. This means that maintaining zinc levels is important to your ability to complete a number of reps with a given weight, especially during a workout consisting of several sets. As far as magnesium goes, the Western Washington University researchers discovered in an earlier study that subjects taking a magnesium supplement while following a seven-week leg-training program increased their leg strength by 20% more than those taking a placebo.

Both zinc and magnesium supplements have been shown to significantly decrease the levels of the catabolic hormone cortisol. A study by researchers at Justus Liebig University (Giessen, Germany) revealed that triathletes taking a magnesium supplement for four weeks had significantly lower cortisol levels at rest and after a triathlon, as compared to athletes taking a placebo. Brazilian researchers also reported that subjects given a single dose of zinc experienced a significant drop in blood cortisol levels within two hours. Keeping cortisol lowered can be critical for muscle growth and strength gains, as cortisol competes with testosterone, decreasing anabolism and enhancing muscle breakdown. Maintaining an anabolic sate is critical to your muscle building success, this is why the recovery process is so important: training in and of itself is a catabolic event which many people don't understand. True, you must stimulate the muscles in the gym but the actual process of growth really begins with recovery. This is the beginning of muscle repair and the replenishing of store glycogen and the beginning of getting the body back to an anabolic state.

In addition to boosting testosterone and IGF-I and blunting cortisol, ZMA may also indirectly enhance growth hormone levels. ZMA aids sleep quality because magnesium can normalize and extend stage 3 and 4 slow-wave sleep. This is critical, as deeper sleep can help to raise GH levels, which peak during the night. Improved sleep quality also aids the recovery process which, as talked about above, is critical to your results. So we see that ZMA has an impact on the natural anabolic hormones of the body and on the recovery ability of the body.

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ZMA Supplements,Timing and Dosage

ZMA supplements come in pill or capsule form, as pure ZMA or as part of a testosterone boosting complex. To a lesser extent ZMA can be part of a natural sleep aid complex. The dosage and proportion is very important: 450 mg of magnesium to 30 mg of zinc to 11 mg of B6. Most ZMA products will have this proportion.

It’s typically taken twice daily, once prior to training and again on a empty stomach before bed. This is important due to it's effects on sleep. On non training days it would be taken in the early afternoon and then again before bed. ZMA is all natural and has no reported side effects. Dosages may vary between products, always follow the instructions on the label.

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