The anabolic effects of ZMA

There is no question that quality sleep is extremely important to athletes. And there's also no question that ZMA is a breakthrough formula of phenomenal benefit. ZMA is an amazingly effective new sports performance product that's clinically proven to increase anabolic hormone levels and muscle strength in trained athletes.[1,2] In fact, ZMA is the first nighttime anabolic formula developed specifically to enhance recovery by improving sleep efficiency.

World-class athletes are reporting tremendous benefits in the gym, as well as on the athletic field. As a prime example, more than 250 NFL players are currently taking ZMA. Lester Archambeau, starting defensive end for the Atlanta Falcons, says he is "extremely satisfied with ZMA. It definitely helps me recover! I can tell when I take it and when I don't. There is no doubt that ZMA makes me sleep better." And when it comes to the gym, the big lineman claims, "I have much better endurance when taking ZMA."

Bryce Paup, Jacksonville Jaguar's 4-time, all-pro defensive end and 1995 Defensive Player of the Year (he led the NFL with 17.5 sacks) has also been taking advantage of ZMA. Paup says, "When I take ZMA, I sleep better and more soundly, and I feel more rested when I wake up." And when it comes to game day, Paup claims, "The more I rest and the better I sleep, the better I perform on the field."

And then there's Stephen Davis, a backup fullback before the start of the '99 football season, which is also the time he started using a powerful ZMA product called Z-Mass-PM. Now, everyone knows Mr. Davis as an explosive, all-pro running back for the Washington Redskins, who came out of nowhere to finish the season with more than 1,400 yards rushing and co-lead the league in touchdowns[17] .

We're talking about a revolutionary formula here. We're talking about results. In addition to professional football players, more than 25 IFBB pro bodybuilders have benefited from using ZMA. Flex Wheeler (1999 Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic Champion) says, "I can't believe how much better I feel with ZMA. I have greater output. I'm stronger in everything. I wake up feeling well rested, and my workouts have gone better!"

Michael Ashley (1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic Champion) claims, "ZMA is the most effective recovery supplement I've used in my entire body-building career! A deep and restful sleep is the secret to maximizing the anabolic process.

What is ZMA?

ZMA is a scientifically designed, university laboratory tested anabolic mineral support formula. ZMA contains zinc monomethionine aspartate plus magnesium aspartate and vitamin B6. ZMA is a patent-pending, all-natural product manufactured using a unique proprietary process, which significantly enhances the absorption and utilization of both the zinc and magnesium.

Does exercise affect sleep?

Studies involving the effects of different types and duration of exercise on sleep efficiency have yielded conflicting results. However, in a study of the effects on sleep quality of trained power-lifters, the tendency was for this type of more strenuous exercise to have an adverse affect on sleep patterns.[3] Excessive training has also been reported to cause sleep disturbances as well as mood changes, and the sleep disruption was greater at higher training volumes. [4] In addition, long duration daytime exercise of moderate intensity has been shown to decrease growth hormone (GH) and testosterone production during nighttime sleep.[5]

Does age affect sleep?

Absolutely! As people age, sleep quality declines, with progressively less time in deep or slow-wave sleep (SWS), which occurs during the first stages of sleep. Age-related declines also occur in lean body mass, growth hormone production and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1).[6] In normal young adults, a major burst of growth hormone occurs shortly after sleep onset, in association with the first period of slow-wave sleep. In men, approximately 70% of the daily GH output occurs during this period of early sleep.[7] Extensive evidence also indicates the existence of a consistent relationship between increased SW sleep (stages 3 and 4) and increased GH secretion and, conversely, between awakenings and decreased GH release. Pharmacological stimulation of SW sleep results in increased GH release, and compounds which increase SW sleep represent a new class of GH secretion stimulators.

How does ZMA improve sleep?

In a study of patients with mild to moderate insomnia, it was found that sleep efficiency was significantly improved with oral magnesium therapy.[8] Researchers have also reported that chronic sleep deprivation causes magnesium deficiency as well as decreased exercise tolerance. And, that this decreased exercise tolerance resulting from sleep deprivation could be dramatically improved by oral magnesium administration. [9] ZMA contains magnesium aspartate, a highly bioavailable form of this important mineral. Studies have shown this form to have a superior rate of absorption compared to other forms. And the more you absorb, the more benefits you get!

Does exercise affect testosterone levels?

First of all, it is a widely held misconception that exercise increases testosterone levels. In fact, prolonged exercise decreases the production of testosterone by approximately 10%.[11] Many studies have reported post-exercise increases in serum testosterone levels, however, what they're measuring is only a temporary false elevation. This is because exercise causes significant decreases in plasma volume, hepatic plasma flow, and the metabolic clearance rate of testosterone. This is the reason why it's extremely important to measure testosterone levels in a rested state during the early morning as opposed to post exercise. A large percentage of the testosterone secreted daily occurs during sleep. These levels peak during the early morning and decrease throughout the day by 25% to an evening minimum.[12] The following analogy may be helpful in explaining the effect of exercise on testosterone levels. Imagine that there's a hose bringing water into a bathtub, which represents testosterone production, and you decrease the flow of the hose by 10%, which represents the effects of exercise. If you then restrict the bath tub's drain flow by 30%-the water level (or testosterone) will briefly appear to be elevated. However, this is only a short-term effect and clearly represents a false elevation.

Does age affect testosterone levels?

It is a well-known fact that testosterone levels significantly decline with age. For example, in a major U.S. study, serum testosterone concentrations were examined from over 4,000 military veterans. The result of the study revealed that their testosterone levels dropped by more than 30% from age 32 to age 44.[13] In another study of over 1,400 men aged 20 to 60 years old, testosterone levels showed a significant stepwise decrease with age (p < 0.001) starting with the early adult years.[14]

How does ZMA affect testosterone levels?

The connection between zinc and testosterone has been known for more than 15 years. In a study published in 1982, kidney failure patients, who are typically zinc deficient, were supplemented with zinc for a period of six months. Amazingly, their testosterone levels increased by an incredible 85%.[15] In a more recent study conducted in 1996, called "Zinc Status and Serum Testosterone Levels of Healthy Adults," researchers found that adding 30 mg per day of zinc to the diets of healthy American men who were experiencing moderate zinc deficiencies actually doubled their testosterone levels within six months.[16]

An independent study of ZMA was recently conducted at Western Washington University under the direction of sports performance researcher, Lorrie Brilla, Ph.D. A group of 12 competitive NCAA football players who took ZMA nightly during an eight-week spring training program had over 30% increases in free and total testosterone levels compared to more than 10% decreases in the placebo group.[1]

Does exercise affect growth hormone levels?

Single measurements of growth hormone are not very useful. That's why insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) levels, which are protein bound and more stable, are usually measured as an indicator of growth hormone status. Prolonged intensive exercise leads to significantly reduced IGF-1 levels. In a study of nine subjects training as gymnasts, a 24% decrease in the IGF-1 concentrations was found after only three days of intensive exercise.[17] In another study of 38 young men involved in a five-week program of intense physical training, the subjects IGF-1 levels decreased by an average of 12%.[18]

Does age affect growth hormone levels?

As the human body ages, the levels of many hormones naturally decrease. Growth hormone levels also significantly decline with age. Published reports have docu-mented that growth hormone levels decline by 50% every seven years beginning from age 21.[19] For example, if your level of plasma IGF-1 at age 21 was 400 ng/mL, then it would be at 200 ng/mL at age 28, at 100 ng/mL at age 35, and 50 ng/mL at age 42. At that rate, your plasma IGF-1 level at age 42 would be about one-eighth the level it was when you were 21.

How does ZMA affect growth hormone levels?

The chief synergists of growth hormone include zinc, magnesium, testosterone, and insulin, whereas its chief antagonist is cortisol.[20] Zinc and magnesium supplementation have been reported to significantly reduce plasma levels of the catabolic "stress" hormone, cortisol, by 59% and 25%, respectively.[21, 22] Zinc supplementation has also been reported to have a very positive effect upon IGF-1 levels in humans. For example, in a study of growth-retarded children, IGF-1 levels increased by 47% after one month and 70% after five months of zinc supplementation.[23] In the ZMA study conducted by Dr. Brilla, the NCAA football players who took ZMA nightly had a 3.6% increase in IGF-1 levels compared to a substantial 21.5% decrease in the placebo group.[1]

How does ZMA affect muscle strength?

In addition to measuring the anabolic hormone increases in football players, Dr. Brilla measured their muscle strength and functional power increases. Pre- and post-leg strength, and power measurements were made using a Biodex isokinetic dynamometer. The players who took ZMA nightly during the eight-week period of intensive training had 2.5 times greater strength gains and two-times greater functional power gains compared to the placebo group.[1,2]

How prevalent are zinc and magnesium deficiencies in athletes?

Zinc and magnesium deficiencies are common in the general population and even more prevalent in athletes. Through an extensive search of worldwide medical data, we discovered that rigorous exercise and stress results in significant bodily losses of zinc and magnesium. In a key study called "Serum Zinc in Athletes in Training," 160 training athletes-103 males and 57 females were tested for serum zinc levels. In 23.3% of the males and 43% of the female athletes, serum zinc was determined to be significantly below the "normal range."[24]

In another study called "Biochemical Indices of Selected Trace Minerals in Men: Effect of Stress," blood (plasma) levels of zinc and other trace minerals were determined in 66 men before and after a five-day period of sustained physical and psychological stress. The result: zinc levels decreased by 33%![25]

In yet another study, called "Magnesium, Zinc and Copper status of 270 U.S. Navy Sea, Air and Land (SEAL) trainees," conducted by the U.S. Department of Military Medicine, it was shown that the blood concentrations of magnesium and zinc were significantly below the "normal range" for 23% to 24% of the trainees.[26]

Furthermore, in 1998, BALCO Laboratories tested the mineral status of over 250 NFL players, including the entire Denver Broncos Super Bowl championship team, as well as the entire Miami Dolphins team. Over 70% of the players were either depleted or deficient in both zinc and magnesium. The NCAA football players in the earlier-mentioned ZMA study also had reduced baseline blood levels of both zinc and magnesium. However, eight weeks of ZMA supplementation was very effective in optimizing their levels of these vital minerals, which resulted in dramatic increases in the anabolic hormone levels and strength of the athletes. [1]

Don't athletes get enough zinc and magnesium from food?

The primary reason for baseline deficiencies in both the general population and in serious athletes is that it's difficult to get proper amounts of zinc and magnesium solely through diet alone. USDA studies show that 68% of self-selected diets contain less than two-thirds of the RDA for zinc[27] and 39% contain less than two-thirds of the RDA for magnesium.[28] While zinc and magnesium are contained in a wide variety of foods, it's been my experience that athletes don't acquire sufficient quantities through their normal diets. One reason may be that foods high in these minerals aren't necessarily the most desirable. For example, the best food sources for zinc include oysters and beef liver. These foods aren't consumed by most athletes, nor should they be.

Don't athletes get sufficient zinc and magnesium from their multiple vitamin/mineral supplements?  

Absolutely not! In a study called "The effect of 7 to 8 months of vitamin/mineral supplementation on the vitamin and mineral status of athletes," blood indicators of eight vitamins (B1, B2, B6, C, E, A, B12, and folate) and six minerals (Cu, Mg, Zn, Ca, P) were measured in 86 athletes before and after a seven- to eight-month period of training.[29] During this time, half consumed a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement and a matched group took a placebo. Following the supplementation period, blood indicators of B1, B6, B12 and folate status all increased, but there were no effects of supplementation on the blood levels of any of the minerals. Zero effect! This is because of the competitive and antagonistic interactions that prevented absorption. The authors concluded that, "seven to eight months of multi-vitamin/ mineral supplementation did not affect any of the blood mineral levels."

A similar study looked at athletes who ingested a multiple vitamin/mineral supplement for three months. During this period there were no significant changes in the blood concentrations of any of the vitamins, minerals or trace elements measured.[30] The authors stated, "this may have been due to the variable interactions between the vitamins and minerals that prevented their being adequately absorbed."

Is it possible to take too much ZMA?

The recommended dosage of ZMA for men provides 30 mg of elemental zinc, 450 mg of elemental magnesium, and 10.5 mg of vitamin B6. Please understand that it is very important to avoid too high of a dosage of zinc. There are several studies indicating that 50 mg of zinc or more per day may reduce copper levels, HDL (good) cholesterol levels, and even lower super oxide dismutase (SOD) levels in as little as 14 days. For those that don't know, SOD is a powerful antioxidant enzyme. So again, it's important to take a safe and appropriate daily dosage of zinc. On the other hand, magnesium has a very low order of toxicity, although an excessive dosage may lead to loose bowel. In conclusion, I'm optimistic that the science of ZMA will eventually help to establish an entirely new category of sports performance products called "Nighttime Anabolic Formulas" or "Sleep Aids." I believe that as more athletes begin to truly understand the process of maximizing recovery, healing, tissue repair, anabolic hormone production and muscle growth, they'll be rapidly spreading the gospel, "You Grow As You Sleep!"

ZMA was developed by Victor Conte, founder and director of BALCO Laboratories in Burlingame, California, which has been in existence for more than 16 years. BALCO specializes in mineral and trace element assessment and performs research with elite Olympic and professional athletes. Victor routinely provides consultation for several hundred athletes from a variety of sports including football, bodybuilding, basketball, tennis, hockey, track and field, swimming and soccer.


Copyright 2001, Cytodyne Technologies
Reprinted with Permission.