ZMA supplements have a wide range of use for athletes, bodybuilders, and dieters. So much so that it may even compete with protein supplementation. This is no surprise considering the well-documented upside of increased zinc and magnesium levels in a generally deficient population.
In fact, athletes and bodybuilders like ourselves are incredibly more susceptible to zinc and magnesium deficiency than less active populations. Such deficiencies can come with undesirable effects ranging from stunted progress to serious mental fatigue and even a less effective immune system.
By the end, you will have the tools necessary to get all the benefits from this powerful mineral duo.
What exactly is a ZMA supplement?
For starters, a ZMA supplement can be defined as a product that contains Zinc, Magnesium and often vitamin B6. That is the ‘trademarked’ formula for ZMA owned by InterHealth (1).
Common Effects of ZMA
Outside of gains and testosterone, ZMA supplements also offer lifestyle enhancing benefits. Many of these benefits, and even the gains and testosterone benefits are not exactly ‘new additions’.
Rather, this is taking your body from a place of deficit to the correct balance and sometimes even a slight surplus. With that being said, we do not consider ZMA to be a performance enhancing supplement; because ZMA only enhance performance based on meeting the needs not met by a malnutrition population.
- Sleep Quality – Magnesium in particular has been found to significantly improve the ability to fall asleep as well as quality of sleep at night (2).
- Mental Cognition – Zinc and Magnesium are believed to help prevent neurological degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s as well as combat depression (3).
- Stress reduction – Several studies have found a relationship with zinc & magnesium, stress, and even adrenal fatigue. Low levels of zinc and magnesium make it more difficult for the body to cope with stress, thus enabling a snowball effect of increased stress.
- Metabolism – Zinc’s aid in protein synthesis alongside magnesium’s co-enzyme action in energy use help streamline metabolism via direct and indirect interactions. Not to mention the use of zinc and magnesium for optimal thyroid function.
Benefits of ZMA Supplements for Men
Men are the largest beneficiary of ZMA supplements thanks to the undeniable relationship between ZMA and testosterone production. While taking a ZMA, men have been found to exert increased levels of testosterone to the approximate extent of 30% in comparison to placebo.
More importantly, as training intensity picks up, these benefits remain while non-supplementing groups begin to see a decline in testosterone. This same relationship trend can also be observed with IGF (insulin like growth factor), another anabolic hormone (4).
This relationship comes with no surprise to individuals who take a test booster, or who have considered. This is because most professionals recommend ZMA supplementation alongside testosterone boosters and even under certain situations recommend taking a ZMA supplement instead of a test booster. Interesting.
But increased testosterone is not all a quality ZMA supplement has to offer for men, or women alike. Much like how Zinc and Magnesium act as essential co-enzymes in the many processes of testosterone production, they both also partake in everything from protein synthesis to ATP stabilization.
The effect of these two minerals on the human body is huge. Especially to the currently deficit individual which statistically you are more likely to be than not to be.
Benefits of ZMA supplements for Women
ZMA supplements can benefit women in many of the same aspects as men. As a women taking a good ZMA, you should expect better sleep, better muscle recovery, and better strength and endurance improvements.
Many women are concerned with ZMA supplements elevating their testosterone to the point of producing masculine features. This is not a feasible concern by any means.
Unless you have dedicated yourself as a bodybuilder set on putting on mass, it will never happen. What will happen, if you give it your all – is that you will firm and tone up nicely along with adding some new attractive cuts and curves.
Can Zinc and Magnesium be Over-done?
Like all supplements, even zinc and magnesium can be overtaken. It is very important that you follow directed doses appropriately. Double dosing really isn’t necessary. With all of this being said, you would really need to go out of your way to provoke over supplementation of zinc and magnesium.
Best Types of ZMA Supplements
Here is where we add our value to the subject where nearly all other supplement sites fail miserably. We dug deep into ZMA supplements and went way past the most popular or top selling ZMA supplements and went directly to the most effective.
How do you base which supplements are the most effective in this class? Bio-availability.
We dug deep into what types of Zinc and Magnesium are the most bio-available and which are the worst, and guess what? About 75% of the ZMA supplements out there are used with cheap, non-absorbing zinc and magnesium.
In fact, the term ZMA refers to zinc magnesium aspartate. We have found, that the aspartate form of zinc and magnesium are not the best forms for human uptake.
Sure, some zinc and magnesium will be assimilated, but not enough. Certainly not enough to validate aspartate supplements when you are looking for the best ZMA supplements (or what we will now refer to as zinc & magnesium). So then, what are the best, most bio-available forms?
The best bio-available forms of zinc and magnesium are as follows. For Zinc: Monomethionine, Picolinic, and glycinate. Picolinate is the form of zinc prescribed by doctors for extreme zinc deficiencies while mono and glycinate are amino acid bound forms that are highly bio-available. For magnesium much of the same holds true: glycinate and lysinate chelate. These are both amino acid bound forms.
On the other side of the coin, are oxides, aspartates, and sulfates. All of these are terrible vectors for bringing bio-available zinc and magnesium into your body and should be avoided. Gluconate isn’t that bad, but not superior to the amino acid bound forms above.
Best ZMA Supplements for Men and Women
#3 ZMA Pro by Universal Nutrition
ZMA Pro contains a mixture of zinc monomethionine and zinc aspartate alongside magnesium aspartate and vitamin B6.
This is the upper end of common ZMA supplements and is a decent bang-for-your-buck situation. The only thing that could make this supplement better would be if it strictly contained zinc monomethionine and a better form of magnesium.
But, for the average athlete and bodybuilder this ZMA supplement will make a noticeable difference over time.
View ZMA Pro on Amazon Here.
#2 VitaDirect ZMA [Massive Value + Amazon Prime]
VitaDirect’s ZMA is the ultimate value buy for a ZMA supplement coming in at less than $20 for a full supply. It isn’t the ‘best’ in terms of getting the highest bioavailability, like our #1 choice below…
But in all practicality, this is most likely what you ought to be taking.
Each serving of VitaDirect ZMA provides:
- 450 mg Magnesium Aspartate
- 30 mg Zinc Monomethionine and Aspartate
- 10.5 mg Vitamin B6
You can get VitaDirect ZMA on Amazon here.
#1 Transparent Labs ZMO [Zinc, Magnesium, Oyster Extract]
Here at BWSB, we originally made this Best ZMA Supplements ranking back in 2014. At that time, our #1 recommendation was to pair two separate products together: Zinc Picolinate and Magnesium Bisglycinate. But now, that product exists thanks to Transparent Labs, plus trace mineral-rich Oyster Extract.
Each serving of TL ZMO provides:
- 144 mg of Magnesium Bisglycinate
- 10 mg Zinc Picolinate
- 500 mg Oyster Meat Powder
So, what is so special about this formula?
Well, compared to other ZMA supplements – Transparent Labs ZMO is the only product to use the most bioavailable forms of Zinc and Magnesium.
Of most importance is the Magnesium, which as Magnesium Bisglycinate is not a laxative. All other ZMA supplements, under the ZMA patent, use a laxative form.
Yes, this is that “aha!” moment when you realize why you were getting diarrhea with your last ZMA!
You can find TL ZMO on their website for about $24.