You’re probably already eating a protein-dense diet, but are you getting enough of all your micronutrients? When your diet is lacking a specific vitamin or mineral, your body isn’t able to build muscle optimally.
ZMA is one of the most popular supplements taken by bodybuilders and other athletes. It’s a combination of zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B6.
These three essential nutrients support your body’s energy production and testosterone levels. You may think your diet is solid, but you might not be getting as many of these nutrients as you think. Research has found that as many as 60% of adults are deficient in magnesium and more than 2 billion people may be low in zinc.
Keep reading to find out how taking a ZMA supplement can help you build muscle. We’ll also review some of the best brands on the market so that you can find the best value. Ready? Let’s dive into it.
Our Top Picks at a Glance
- Optimum Nutrition ZMA Capsules
- Iron Labs Nutrition, ZM6 Xtreme
- Nutritech Labs ZMA
- Supplemented ZMA
- BULK POWDERS ZMA Capsules
- Deluxe Nutrition Zinc Magnesium B6
- Amour Nutrition ZM6 Tablets
Note: There’s a lot more information below but clicking the above links will take you to current prices, further information and customer reviews on Amazon.
What is ZMA?
ZMA stands for zinc magnesium aspartate. As we mentioned, ZMA supplements are a combination of zinc, magnesium and vitamin B6.
Victor Conte, the founder of BALCO Laboratories, created the original blend of ingredients: 30mg of zinc (270% RDI), 450mg of magnesium (110% RDI), and 10.5mg of vitamin B6 (650% RDI).
Since then, other companies have formulated their own ZMA supplements using the same ingredients in different amounts. Some companies also include other essential nutrients in their formulas such as vitamin B12 and vitamin D.
Here are some usages of each of the key ingredients in ZMA supplements.
- Essential for white blood cell production
- Helps your body fight infections
- Needed for neurotransmitter creation
- Needed for fat breakdown
- Essential for the development of immune cells
- Plays a role in wound healing
- Needed for carbohydrate breakdown
- Vital for cell growth and repair
- Needed in more than 300 bodily reactions
- Vital for proper muscle and nerve function
- Plays a role in maintaining bone density
- Needed for protein formation
The Benefits of ZMA
Most of ZMA’s benefits come from preventing zinc and magnesium deficiencies. Think of ZMA as a multivitamin that specifically targets the nutrients needed for muscle growth.
If you’re already getting an adequate amount of zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B6, taking ZMA is unlikely to significantly change your performance in the weights room. However, billions of people worldwide are getting less than an adequate amount of each of these nutrients.
Even if you’re eating a balanced diet, you may still be at a disadvantage compared to people 50 years ago. Research shows that fruits and vegetables contain significantly fewer minerals than they used to largely because of mineral depletion in the soil.
Taking ZMA is a cheap way to make sure you’re getting enough of these three essential minerals. Here are three specific ways it might improve the quality of your training:
ZMA May Improve Muscle Recovery
When you train hard, your body produces more of your stress hormone cortisol and less testosterone. As you likely already know, testosterone is one of the most important hormones for stimulating muscle growth.
Supplementing with zinc or ZMA may help keep your testosterone levels high even during periods of hard training.
In one study, male wrestlers took 3mg/kg of body weight of zinc for four weeks. The researchers found that the wrestlers had increased levels of testosterone at the end of the study compared to the beginning.
For a 100kg adult, the dose of zinc used in this study would be equivalent to about 30mg per day. 30mg is also the amount of zinc found in the original ZMA formula.
ZMA May Improve Your Sleep
It’s often recommended that you take ZMA before bed to improve your sleep quality.
One study found that taking 400mg of magnesium per day may improve your body’s ability to activate its parasympathetic nervous system. Your parasympathetic nervous system is your “rest and digest” nervous system that allows your body to relax after hard exercise.
Zinc supplementation has also been linked to improved sleep quality. However, the amount of zinc used in research is often much higher than the amount found in ZMA.
ZMA May Improve Your Immune System
All three of the ingredients in ZMA play a role in supporting your immune health. A healthy immune system means fewer days missed from the gym and ultimately more gains.
Taking ZMA is likely to have the biggest effect if you’re already deficient in one of the three essential nutrients it provides you with. Vitamin B6 deficiency is linked to problems with white blood cells. Magnesium deficiency is linked to increased inflammation.
Are There Any Side Effects?
ZMA is a relatively safe supplement overall. If you take more than the recommended amount, you may develop diarrhoea, nausea, or muscle cramps from excess zinc.
Extremely high doses of vitamin B6 can cause nerve damage. However, the tolerable upper limit of vitamin B6 is 100mg/day, which is almost ten times higher than the amount found in most ZMA supplements.
Some people notice having strange dreams after starting to take ZMA. There isn’t any specific research looking at why this happens, but anecdotally, it seems to be a fairly common occurrence.
One pilot study suggests that the high level of vitamin B6 increases the amount of tryptophan that your body converts to serotonin.
How Do You Take ZMA?
Most ZMA supplements come in capsules or tablets. However, they’re also occasionally sold as a powder. Generally, most brands recommend taking between 1-3 capsules per day for roughly 30mg of zinc, 450mg of magnesium, and 10.5mg of vitamin B6.
Most brands recommend taking ZMA 30-60 minutes before bed on an empty stomach. As we mentioned in the benefits section, ZMA may improve your sleep quality. You should avoid eating dairy or other foods high in calcium at the same time. Zinc and calcium fight for absorption in your body.
There’s no need to cycle ZMA. However, it’s best not to go over the recommended daily dose. High amounts of zinc and vitamin B6 can negatively affect your health.
A Detailed Look at the Best ZMA Supplements
You shouldn’t have any trouble finding ZMA at your local supplement store or online since it’s one of the most common supplements on the UK market. We’ve broken down some of the most common brands below to help you find the ZMA supplement best for you.
Each serving of Optimum Nutrition’s ZMA supplement provides you with more than 100% of your daily zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B6 intake. It keeps the original ratio of zinc to magnesium to vitamin B6 as the original ZMA formula.
If you’re looking to support your natural testosterone production, this product makes a great choice since it contains 30g of zinc per serving (3 capsules). You can continue building muscle even when you fall off your diet for a few days.
- Two container size options
- Good amount of each ingredient
- Good price per serving
- Three capsules per serving
- No extra ingredients
Overall, Optimum Nutrition is a solid ZMA supplement that provides you with more than 100% of your daily amount of zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B6. If you’re looking for a cheap ZMA supplement, this makes a great option.
Iron Labs Nutrition’s ZMA supplement provides you with more than 100% your daily zinc, magnesium, and B6. It also contains several other essential minerals needed for energy production including niacin, riboflavin, biotin, vitamin D, and vitamin B12.
Most of ZMA’s benefits come from preventing nutrient deficiencies. Vitamin D and vitamin B12 are both nutrients that are often under-consumed. If you already supplement one of these nutrients, this ZMA supplement makes a great replacement option.
- Only two capsules per serving
- 90 servings per container
- Also contains five other nutrients
- GMP approved
- Small dose of vitamin D
- Only 20mg of zinc
Overall, this ZMA supplement makes a great choice. Not only does it provide you with all the usual ZMA ingredients at a great price, but it also provides you with five bonus ingredients. If you already take any of the micronutrients in this product, you can use ZM6 Xtreme as a replacement.
Nutritechs’s ZMA supplement provides you with most of your daily requirement of zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B6 for a great price. It doesn’t contain as much of each ingredient as many other supplements, but still has enough of each to help you prevent nutrient deficiencies.
If you’re looking for a cheap ZMA supplement that’s made in the UK, Nutritech’s ZMA supplement makes a good choice.
This ZMA supplement contains less zinc and magnesium than many other brands. However, it still contains 64.5% of your daily amount of zinc and 100% of your vitamin B6.
Many supplements take a ‘more is better’ approach and load their products with more than 10 times your daily nutrient requirement. Once you saturate your body’s need for the essential nutrients in ZMA, extra won’t lead to additional benefits. This supplement makes a good cheap option and a tub will last you 2-3 months.
Supplemented ZMA is a GMP approved supplement that provides you with an about average amount of zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B6 compared to other ZMA supplements.
This product is manufactured in the UK, so if that’s important to you, you might want to go with this one. If you buy the larger 180 capsule container, it works out at very good value.
- Two container size options
- Made in a GMP facility
- Great per serving price
- Less zinc than other supplements
- Less magnesium than other supplements
Overall, this supplement makes a great choice. It’s cheap compared to other ZMA supplements but still contains a good amount of its key ingredients.
In the benefits section, we looked at one study that found taking 3mg of zinc per kg of bodyweight lead to improved testosterone levels during hard training. If you weigh more than 100kg, you may want to go with a supplement that contains 30mg of zinc.
Bulk Powders often have great prices on supplements designed to increase your athletic performance. In this supplement, the company stuck with the original formula of ZMA.
You get a solid 30mg of zinc per serving with this supplement, so even if you’re a bigger person, you can still take one dose per day.
- Good amounts of each ingredient per serving
- Well-known brand
- Made from bioavailable ingredients
- Only a one-month supply per bag
- Around market average price
This supplement is a little more expensive than some of the ZMA supplements on the market. However, Bulk Powders is a well-known brand with a good reputation. This product also provides you with a great amount of each ingredient. If care more about quality than price, you may like this ZMA supplement.
Deluxe Nutrition provides you with a great blend of ingredients in this ZMA supplement. Each serving of two capsules contains 20mg of zinc, 300mg of magnesium, and 8mg of vitamin B6.
If you want to get 30mg of zinc, you can increase your dose to 3 capsules per day. This supplement comes in bags of 240 capsules, so even if you take 3 capsules a day, it will last for almost three months.
This ZMA supplement provides you with great value and makes it easy to optimise your testosterone levels.
- 240 capsules per container
- Only two capsules per serving
- Made in the UK
- Easy to swallow capsules
- Not made in a GMP facility
This ZMA supplement is one of the best options on the market. It provides you with 240 capsules per container and a good amount of each ingredient. Even if you decide to take three capsules a day instead of two, it still provides great value per serving. The biggest downside is it’s not made in a GMP certified facility.
Amour Nutrition’s ZMA supplement provides you with zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B6. Its formula is more magnesium-dense than other supplements we’ve looked at. Unlike with a lot of other supplements, you only need to take one capsule per week.
Each capsule provides 375mg of magnesium and only 6.45mg of zinc and 1.4mg of vitamin B6. If you’re specifically looking for a magnesium supplement, this supplement is a cheap option that can help you prevent developing a deficiency.
- Great per serving price
- High amount of magnesium
- 120 servings per container
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Much less zinc than other brands
- Much less vitamin B6 than other brands
Each bottle of this supplement provides you with 120 servings, meaning it should last for about four months. This supplement provides you with relatively little zinc or vitamin B6 but contains a high amount of magnesium.
If you have a micronutrient deficiency, your body can’t optimally build muscle. Taking a ZMA supplement is like taking a multivitamin that specifically targets some of the most common nutrient deficiencies for bodybuilders and other athletes.
The original ZMA formula contained 30mg of zinc, 10.5mg of vitamin B6, and 450mg of magnesium. If you’re looking for a supplement that keeps this same formula, Optimum Nutrition’s ZMA supplement is a great choice.
If you like buying your supplements in bulk, Deluxe Nutrition’s ZMA supplement offers one of the best values. It contains 240 capsules per container with a daily serving of two capsules.
If you already supplement vitamin D or vitamin B12, you might want to go with Iron Labs Nutrition’s ZM6 Xtreme, which includes both these nutrients in its formula.