ZMA complex

Some rave about this sports nutrition supplement, others consider it a waste of money, others generally claim that this drug causes brain damage. So what exactly is the supplement known as ZMA?

What is ZMA?

ZMA (ZMA) is a synergistic combination of two minerals - zinc and magnesium. In addition to them, the composition of this natural supplement includes vitamin B6. These substances are extremely important for the adequate flow of most biological processes in human organisms. But as evidenced by many observations, almost 70 percent of people in developed countries do not get enough zinc, and almost 40 percent of the adult population is deficient in magnesium. In addition, active loss of minerals and vitamins contributes to physical activity, especially for weightlifters. And zinc and magnesium deficiency are the biggest enemies on the way to beautiful muscles.

The combination of these particular chemicals has many benefits, including for muscles and the nervous system, and some researchers claim that the ZMA complex even promotes the breakdown of fats.

The creation of this supplement is credited to the founder of the sports club Balco Labs, Victor Conte. ZMA was developed as a special supplement for athletes to prevent mineral and vitamin deficiencies in the body. The original ZMA formula is believed to be 30 mg zinc, 450 mg magnesium, and 10.5 mg vitamin B6. And this is 200% of the daily value of zinc, 113% magnesium and 525% vitamin B6. But why were these substances chosen for the complex?

Why do we need zinc

The human body does not have a separate "storage" for zinc. But the female and male organisms constantly need this mineral, since important functions are assigned to it. Zinc is important for maintaining the health of the immune system, it takes part in the process of creating new cells, is involved in metabolic processes with the participation of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. The same mineral is indispensable for pregnant women, as well as for children in the period of active development.

Zinc is important for many chemical reactions in the body, including protein synthesis and maintaining cellular energy. Its immune benefit lies in its ability to regulate T-cell production. It also provides essential protection for the liver, supports prostate health, and is indispensable for the healthy functioning of the reproductive organs.

A diet composed of meat, shellfish, dairy products, cereals, and bread usually provides an adult with sufficient zinc. Experts say the best sources of the mineral (with high bioavailability) are meat, eggs and seafood, which also contain amino acids cysteine ​​ and methionine, which improve the absorption of the mineral. And in whole grains, in addition to zinc, phytic acid was found, which inhibits the absorption of the mineral.

But no matter how high the portions of the mineral in the products, however, for bodybuilders and other athletes this is not enough. For weightlifters, zinc plays a crucial role because it is indispensable for protein synthesis, a process that directly affects the recovery and growth of muscle mass.

The daily requirement for zinc is 15 mg, but sports supplements tend to contain more.

Why do we need magnesium

The body needs magnesium for normal growth and to maintain healthy bones, nervous system and muscles. Deficiency of this mineral can disrupt the sleep cycle and cause insulin insensitivity. Biochemists say that magnesium contributes to more than 300 chemical reactions in the body. And this, you see, is already more than an important reason not to allow a deficiency of this mineral. By the way, healthy adult men are recommended to consume about 400 mg of magnesium daily.

Replenishment of this nutrient is usually found in green leafy vegetables, whole grains, legumes, seeds, nuts, and dairy foods. These products contain a sufficient amount of the mineral. Sufficient, but not for people who spend several hours a day in the gym. For heavyweight bodybuilders, dietary sources of the mineral alone may not be enough. The only way to prevent magnesium deficiency is to take supplements.

Why we need vitamin B6

Vitamin B6, which is also part of the ZMA complex, has several key functions. It contributes to the metabolism of proteins and carbohydrates, and also participates in the formation of hemoglobin, which is necessary for transporting oxygen to all cells of the body. Like other components of ZMA (zinc, magnesium), vitamin B6 in the bodies of athletes does a lot of, so to speak, behind-the-scenes work: it supports the cardiovascular system, digestive organs, immunity, promotes the health of the nervous and muscular systems. Interestingly, this vitamin contributes to the production of hormones that affect mood (serotonin, norepinephrine), as well as melatonin, on which the work of the “internal clock” depends. But perhaps the most important reason why B6 appeared in the company of zinc and magnesium was that the vitamin helps the body absorb these minerals more efficiently. Natural sources of B6: sprouted cereals, bananas, salmon fillets, potatoes, turkey, chicken.

Why a supplement is needed

Although zinc, magnesium and B vitamins can be easily obtained from food, for people who exercise regularly, this is not enough. Through sweat and as a result of prolonged muscle contraction, athletes' bodies will use up nutrients faster and in large quantities. The researchers conducted an experiment: they measured in the bodies of athletes before and after a 2-hour workout the indicators of the two most important elements for bodybuilders - zinc and iron (note that magnesium did not participate in this experiment, since it has a slightly different effect, and its losses with sweat are not so great). It turned out that the loss of iron in men was 3 percent, in women - 1 percent. Athletes lost even more zinc: after 2 hours of intensive training, men lost 9% of the mineral, and women lost 8%. And this once again confirmed: athletes, like no one else, need additional intake of zinc-containing supplements. Although the importance of other nutrients should not be underestimated either.

Benefits of ZMA:

  • increases testosterone levels;
  • promotes rapid recovery from training and injury;
  • increases stamina;
  • prevents muscle spasms;
  • improves sleep.

ZMA and…

muscle growth

Thanks to zinc, which promotes protein synthesis, taking the ZMA complex allows increase muscle mass. And in combination with magnesium, this process is much faster. By the way, of all sports nutrition supplements designed to improve muscle growth, the ZMA complex is considered the safest.


During exercise, muscle (protein) catabolism occurs, resulting in the release of energy. It's a necessary evil, so to speak. But something else is obvious: the shorter the phase of catabolism, the faster anabolism (muscle recovery) begins and the stronger the muscles become. Some studies have shown that the ZMA complex is able to blunt the production of cortisol (catabolic hormone) and to some extent increase the production of anabolic hormones. This discovery was made by German scientists after a 4-week observation of triathletes. Then the validity of this conclusion was confirmed by Brazilian researchers.


Probably, many people have heard that oysters are good for increasing libido. What does oysters, libido and sex have to do with it, you ask. And despite the fact that oysters got their fame as an aphrodisiac product precisely because of the zinc they contain. This substance is essential for the production of testosterone. And this hormone, in turn, is extremely important in bodybuilding. Studies have shown that the zinc-magnesium aspartate combination is one of the most effective in increasing testosterone levels (almost 2.5 times compared to the placebo group).

Testosterone, known as the male hormone, is important for muscle development and maintaining bone density. It also affects the level of red blood cells and overall well-being. However, this so-called male hormone is also present in the bodies of women, and they also feel the benefits of the hormone, including when it comes to improving athletic performance. Testosterone inhibits the absorption of triglycerides and prevents excessive fat accumulation in the body. In addition, the researchers concluded that low testosterone levels in the male body can cause depression and other psycho-emotional disorders. Although too high a hormone usually causes increased aggression in behavior.

Men with low testosterone levels usually suffer from erectile dysfunction, but they also have a decrease in muscle mass. An increase in the concentration of this hormone can be beneficial for muscle growth, as well as reducing the percentage of body fat. By the way, a non-steroidal ZMA supplement can serve as a healthier alternative to hormonal drugs designed to regulate hormonal levels.

But not only zinc affects testosterone levels in the body. A number of studies have confirmed that magnesium also affects the level of the male hormone. Back in 2011, scientists found confirmation of this. Two groups of men took part in the scientific experiment: actively involved in sports and leading a sedentary lifestyle. Regular magnesium supplementation increased testosterone levels in both groups. However, in athletes, the researchers recorded a more noticeable increase in the hormone.


The fact that zinc strengthens the immune system, and its deficiency can prolong the period of a cold, reduce appetite and cause muscle atrophy, is a repeatedly proven scientific fact. In contrast, taking a zinc-magnesium aspartate supplement improves overall health. And this moment is very important for bodybuilders: training will be effective only when you feel good. Weak immunity and frequent illnesses will make regular visits to the gym impossible.


Scientists have determined that sports nutrition, in particular the ZMA complex, may be beneficial for the thyroid gland. ZMA components, for example, activate the production of thyroid hormones. Why is it so important for athletes? Because the hormones produced by the thyroid gland affect the metabolic rate, and ultimately the rate of growth of muscle tissue and the breakdown of fats.


The complex of substances that make up ZMA improves night sleep. And for bodybuilders, this fact is much more important than it might seem at first glance. Healthy, proper sleep promotes recuperation after an intense strength program. ZMA has been scientifically proven to improve and prolong stages 3 and 4 of non-REM sleep. And these are the so-called phases of deep sleep, when the body recovers to the maximum and the production of growth hormone is activated. Against the background of lack of sleep, a slowdown in metabolism and a deterioration in immunity are possible, which makes a person more vulnerable to infections and inflammation.

By the way, some studies have confirmed that improved sleep has a positive effect on athletic performance.

How ZMA works

The most famous study using ZMA was conducted by American Dr. Lorrie Brill. Under his supervision, 12 rugby players took a ZMA supplement every night for 8 weeks. The result is an 11.6% increase in muscle strength and an almost 30% increase in testosterone levels.

Although there are other studies. In the same US, researchers followed 42 men (average age 27) who had been bodybuilding for at least a year. After 8 weeks of taking the supplement, the scientists did not record any significant changes in their bodies. However, ZMA supporters explained the results of this experience by the fact that in the bodies of bodybuilders the levels of zinc, magnesium and testosterone were close to optimal, and only therefore taking the supplement did not give such noticeable results as in men with a mineral deficiency.

Who Should Take

ZMA can significantly increase muscle strength and anabolic hormone levels. But while ZMA was originally developed for athletes, non-athletes can also benefit from it. In particular, ZMA may be beneficial for vegetarians, pregnant women, people with certain gastrointestinal conditions, people with diabetes, and the elderly.

True, the appropriateness of taking and dosage of ZMA for these categories of people should be determined by the attending physician.

When and how to take

Most sports supplements are taken before or after exercise. However, in the case of ZMA, this rule does not work. As a rule, this supplement is drunk 30-60 minutes before bedtime. And thanks to this, you can count on deeper sleep and natural muscle recovery.

Side effects

ZMA is a natural drug with a high level of safety. However, the regular use of large doses of minerals and vitamins can also harm the body. If we talk about the ZMA sports supplement, then due to the content of high levels of zinc, in some individuals it can cause indigestion, nausea and even vomiting. Usually, the body's reaction to excessive zinc intake occurs within 30 minutes after the use of the drug.

Some scientists say that regular intake (for 10 years or more) of zinc in large portions (above 100 mg per day) can cause more serious consequences than indigestion.

Among the most serious potential dangers is prostate cancer. And one more thing: the regular intake of large doses of zinc may eventually require an increase in the servings of consumed copper. But an overdose of magnesium is most often manifested by diarrhea. Excessive accumulation of vitamin B6 can cause neurological disorders.

Combination with other substances

ZMA, like creatine, is used by bodybuilders to maximize training results. Creatine is an amino acid found in meat and fish. ZMA is a complex of zinc, magnesium aspartate, and sometimes some other components designed to stimulate the production of growth hormone in the body. The combination of both supplements is not only safe, but also beneficial for weightlifters. But when taking both substances, it is important to follow the rules, since the method of application for each of them provides for some features. So, creatine is important to drink before training, and ZMA is consumed before bedtime.

The combination of ZMA + casein also gives good results. By the way, this milk protein is also best taken before bed.

In addition, it is important to know that ZMA is incompatible with certain antibiotics (tetracycline, levofloxacin, ciprofloxacin, ofloxacin, enoxacin, norfloxacin, and others).

And one more thing. Refined sugar and white flour products also lower magnesium and zinc levels in the blood. Foods rich in calcium inhibit the absorption of these minerals by the intestinal wall. In addition, copper and foods rich in phytates (phosphorus compounds found in whole grain breads, cereals, and legumes) also impair zinc absorption. Another prohibited product is alcohol. Alcohol reduces the absorption of zinc and magnesium and increases the excretion of minerals in the urine.

How to use ZMA: useful practical tips

There are a few simple rules that can significantly improve the results of ZMA supplementation.

  1. Magnesium should be in the form of magnesium aspartate. This is the most suitable form for absorption by the body.
  2. Experts have calculated the best ZMA formulas for men and women. The optimal mineral-vitamin complex for men is 30 mg of zinc, 450 mg of magnesium and 10-11 mg of B6. The composition of the complex for women: 20 mg zinc, 300 mg magnesium, 6-7 mg B6.
  3. An overdose of zinc can have a negative effect on the immune system and disrupt the metabolic rate, which ultimately affects muscle recovery, reduces the level of good cholesterol. More than 450 mg of magnesium per day is fraught with violations of healthy sleep. Conclusion: you should not independently adjust the composition of the ZMA complex.
  4. ZMA should preferably be taken 1-2 hours after meals and approximately one hour before bedtime. Such a program will not only maximize the absorption of minerals, but also improve the quality of sleep.
  5. For optimal muscle mass gain, it is good to make a sports nutrition program with several supplements:
  • testosterone booster (TMA);
  • creatine;
  • casein and gainer (whey protein);
  • BCAA;
  • Omega substances.

Formulation, description and use of some ZMAs

does not occur in liquid form. It is usually sold in specialized sports nutrition stores. Some novice athletes strive to buy ZMA components separately at the pharmacy and prepare the supplement on their own. However, the more experienced do not advise doing this for several reasons. First, magnesium is present in ZMA in a specific form called magnesium aspartate. And secondly, it is important to observe the correct dosage. The harm and benefits of the complex fully depend on the observance of proportions, and at home this is very difficult to achieve.

And now it's time to pay attention to what the market offers us.

Sleep Max (Maxler) is a sports nutrition for increasing testosterone and activating growth factor. The formula of the drug consists of ZMA-complex, melatonin, as well as extracts of passionflower and ginkgo biloba. Designed for women and men over 18 years of age. Proper intake of the drug provides strong muscles, quick recovery, deep sleep, health of the nervous and endocrine systems. Release form - 90 capsules.

Weider complex is a capsule, the chemical composition of which is represented by classical ZMA, L-tyrosine and sodium. This product appeared on the market of sports supplements not so long ago. The manufacturer presents it as a sports nutrition for muscle building and quick recovery, allows you to fill in reliefless muscles, suitable for men and women with different physiques. The instructions for use suggest taking 3 capsules at night for a minimum of 8 weeks. The package contains 90 capsules.

A popular supplement from a well-known manufacturer of sports nutrition Mutant. Mutant Core Series offers capsules created according to the classic formula: zinc - magnesium aspartate - vitamin B6. The drug regulates anabolic hormonal levels and sleep quality.

Flual Twinlab's ZMA is a 90-capsule formula that combines protein, zinc, magnesium aspartate, and vitamin B6. Designed for men and women to improve athletic performance, and for men over 45 as a means to increase testosterone. Can be taken before meals or at bedtime.

The classic vitamin-mineral set is ZMA from Optimum Nutrition. The supplement is intended for male and female athletes. However, before taking it is important to read the instructions: there is a difference in dosage for men and women.

ZMA Tribulus Pro 90 caps is a mineral supplement for beginner and professional bodybuilders. Tribulus is equally suitable for athletes involved in strength training and aerobic complex.

This is only a small part of the range of sports nutrition. Which of the proposed products to choose is up to each athlete to decide on their own.

The main thing is that the drug is of high quality, from a trusted manufacturer, and also do not forget to observe the dosage and time of taking the drug.

Many misconceptions have developed around ZMA. Although in reality this sports nutrition supplement is a non-pinging testosterone booster. It, like tribulus or ecdysterone, naturally regulates hormonal levels, activating muscle growth. And this, perhaps, is the minimum that everyone needs to know about the ZMA complex.