Zinc: a fundamental mineral for health
Zinc is an essential mineral that plays a crucial role in maintaining and increasing athletic performance, but in terms of PR, it is almost always overlooked or underrated. Ignoring Zinc comes at a price, however, because this particular mineral is responsible for various functions of cellular metabolism, including the activity of more than 100 enzymes, protein synthesis, cell division, and the regeneration of wounds. Only briefly glancing over the above, one might guess that even though Zinc is an important mineral for any individual, it is particularly so for the athlete or the person engaged in strenuous physical activity.
Even the smallest Zinc deficiency can have a significant impact on the body’s ability to properly function, and that’s because in the absence of Zinc, new, healthy cells cannot be produced. Symptoms resulting from this include growth retardation or unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite, the body’s inability to heal wounds, and a generally impaired immune function. Mental lethargy and a lack of alertness are also commonly associated with insufficient levels of Zinc. Those most exposed to such a deficiency are pregnant women and breastfeeding infants, regular consumers of alcohol, and vegetarians.
Diagnosing Zinc deficiencies, however, can be tricky, since most symptoms are non-specific and associated with other illnesses. Nevertheless, if this condition worries you, plasma or serum Zinc levels can be determined more or less accurately by means of a blood test. Supplementing with Zinc when insufficient levels are detected will support your overall health, as well as your efforts to boost your physical performance, in several specific ways.
4 Ways Zinc can boost your performance
- Zinc supports testosterone levels
Healthy levels of testosterone are notoriously associated not only with improved overall health in both men and women, but also with an increase in muscle mass and a reduction of body fat. Zinc, on the other hand, has been studied for its potential to increase testosterone levels in athletic or deficient patients, and the results were often encouraging. One study involving elite wrestlers showed that supplementing with Zinc can significantly increase testosterone levels after exhausting exercise and rest, while a study of normal, nonathletic men with low blood levels of Zinc demonstrated that correcting the deficiency can increase testosterone concentrations as well.
For more information on how testosterone can be boosted through diet and training, we highly recommend reading 19 breakthrough ways proven to increase testosterone naturally by dna lean.
- Zinc can help maintain a healthy cardiovascular system
In addition to its chief functions in cell division and regeneration, Zinc is a powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties, which means that it can protect the body from various types of cancer, but also the heart from coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy, as well as damage of the myocardium (or heart muscle). Furthermore, Zinc supplementation can be used in order to deter risk factors associated with atherosclerosis, a disease that causes plaques to form inside the arteries, narrowing the latter and causing a wide range of cardiovascular issues. As such, balanced levels of Zinc can help both the athlete and the ordinary, physically-active individual maintain a healthy, strong heart.
- Zinc can enhance endurance and energy
Several studies have revealed an intimate link between Zinc supplementation and athletic performance by means of enhanced endurance and heightened energy. One report explained that Zinc is necessary for the conversion of food into energy both during and after physical effort. Insufficient levels of Zinc, on the other hand, led to a decrease in endurance, cardiorespiratory function, and muscle growth. The same study that evaluated the effect of Zinc on testosterone levels in elite wrestlers found that after four weeks of supplementation, the athletes displayed better endurance and an increase in overall physical performance. A different study also found that blood values, which refer to red and white blood cell counts, as well as haemoglobin, were improved in athletes supplementing with Zinc, which could at least partially explain the mineral’s positive impact on energy levels.
- Zinc plays an essential role in tissue regeneration
It is already common knowledge that muscle growth is a process that begins when the body attempts to replace or repair muscle fibres damaged during training. Given its functions in cell division, protein synthesis and wound regeneration, Zinc plays an essential role in both muscle growth and the recovery of injuries by facilitating the regeneration of muscle tissue. In addition, it has been hypothesized that Zinc could reduce the duration and the severity of the common cold, as well as support the immune function and thus help prevent bacterial and viral infections. This is essential for the athlete who must avoid illness in order to maintain their progress in terms of physical performance.
Ways to improve your levels of Zinc
There are at least two ways to significantly increase your levels of Zinc in case of a deficiency. The first has to do with certain dietary changes that help your body assimilate more of the essential mineral. Foods that are rich in Zinc include:
- Oysters, with 74 mg of Zinc (or 493% of the daily value requirement) per 3 ounces.
- Roasted beef, with 7 mg of Zinc (47% of DV) per 3 ounces.
- Fortified breakfast cereal, with 3.8 mg of Zinc (25% of DV) per ¾ cup.
- Beans, with 2.9 mg of Zinc (19% of DV) per ½ cup.
- Cooked chicken, with 2.4 mg of Zinc (16% of DV) per 3 ounces.
- Cashews, with 1.6 mg of Zinc (11% of DV) per 1 ounce.
- Chickpeas, with 1.3 mg of Zinc (9% of DV) per ½ cup.
- Many others, including pork chop, oatmeal, almonds, kidney beans, and peas.
If you suffer from a severe Zinc deficiency, these dietary changes might be too slow and you might consider Zinc supplements. Should this be the case, it is essential that you bear in mind that a very high intake of Zinc can lead to toxicity, and a variety of unwanted side-effects. In addition to consulting your doctor, consider that you should not ingest more than 40 mg of Zinc per day, and that prolonged supplementation with Zinc can also increase the risk of adverse health effects.
Severe Zinc deficiencies are rather rare, which means that merely incorporating more foods rich in Zinc into your diet will usually do the trick. This will not only support your efforts to improve your physical performance, but it will also contribute to your overall health.
- An overview of Zinc, its functions, as well as possible symptoms of Zinc deficiencies: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/#en36
- A table reporting Zinc values in various foods: https://ods.od.nih.gov/pubs/usdandb/Zinc-Content.pdf
- On Zinc and testosterone levels in athletes and non-athletes: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8875519, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16648789
- On Zinc and its benefits for the cardiovascular system: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20427734, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20950764
- On Zinc and muscle growth: https://www.asep.org/asep/asep/BrillaV2.PDF
- On Zinc and the common cold: https://academic.oup.com/ofid/article/4/2/ofx059/3098578
- Testosterone and its role in physical performance for men and women: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3264812/
- On Zinc and blood values: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15258317