ZMA - Zinc Magnesium Aspartate.
As the name implies, ZMA is comprised of the minerals Zinc and Magnesium, with an optimal helping of Vitamin B6 too. In their natural form, Zinc and Magnesium have a very low bioavailability, meaning our bodies would struggle to absorb them in this state. Consequently, ZMA supplements contain them in the form of zinc monomethionine aspartate and magnesium aspartate meaning we do not merely pass the nutrients out in our urine. All of the above are essential micronutrients in maintaining our bodies homeostasis (optimal, regulated internal environment), with a particular role in maximising energy levels and optimising physical performance.
Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies in Active People!
Zinc and magnesium deficiencies have been seen in a significant proportion of people undertaking professional and recreational activity. The risk of deficiency is greater still if they are overtraining and sexually active. Zinc, magnesium and vitamin B6 are major players in athletic activity; zinc is needed for energy metabolism and testosterone production, whilst magnesium is needed for cell communication and in the breakdown and use of glycogen and fat. Magnesium also has a direct role in protein synthesis (production) and breakdown, all of which are key processes in the formation and maintenance of muscle (Llewellyn, 2009).
Risk of Under-performance
Vitamin B6 also contributes to the use of protein as an energy source and in muscle formation, whilst being a key mediator in muscle and liver glycogen (stored form of glucose) storage. Therefore any shortage in zinc, magnesium and vitamin B6 could indirectly lead to a decrease in metabolisable (usable) glucose and protein, which are the body’s main energy source and muscle builder respectively, making under-performance an all too real possibility!
Other Consequences of Mineral Deficiencies
High levels of physical activity have demonstrated high urinary mineral concentrations, whilst the increased sweating that accompanies exercise (especially during the summer months or in hot climates) also increases mineral (zinc and magnesium) losses. It has been reported that a direct effect of this is reduced testosterone levels (needed for strength and growth), reduced training adaptation (reduced growth), reduced recovery and muscle synthesis and a hindered sleeping pattern, which can significantly impact on the recovery and growth process.
Will it Work for me?
The research behind zinc, magnesium and vitamin B6, and their role in metabolic functions related to muscle synthesis (growth), amino-acid replenishment, testosterone production, cell communication, sleeping pattern and thus recovery, is strong. Hence, it is feasible that ZMA as a supplement can deliver in these areas for you. The optimum composition of vitamins and minerals give you the best chance of avoiding deficiency, and any associated shortfalls in performance and development as a consequence. Best results have been seen in those who are either starting out with training and exercise, or in those who have reached some sort of plateau. However, vitamin and mineral deficiencies are possible in all of us when participating in intense physical activity, so ZMA can at least serve to replenish this deficit, whilst potentially increasing your gains in muscle size, strength and recovery.