ZMA is a combination of three supplements that helps muscle recovery and improve the quality of your sleep.
Because of this, it’s very popular with weightlifters, sprinters, football players, and other athletes. If you want a more strength and power in exchange for your hard work at the gym, or want to improve the sleep you get at night, read on–we’ve ranked the ten best ZMA supplements on the market.
1. Optimum Nutrition ZMA
Optimum Nutrition makes a great ZMA supplement with the right ratio of zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B6, with no extraneous ingredients.
Each capsule has 3.5 mg of vitamin B6, 150 mg of magnesium, and 10 mg of zinc. Delivered in a gelatin capsule and using only cellulose and magnesium stearate to hold the ingredients together, this ZMA supplement scores well on purity, too.
2. Nugenix PM ZMA Testosterone Support
Nugenix has an innovative take on the classic ZMA supplement. It’s got exactly the same industry standard distribution of zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B6, but in addition, Nugenix adds in an extra testosterone boost in the form of tribulus terrestris fruit extract and a sleep aid in the form of melatonin.
This means Nugenix will amplify both the testosterone-boosting properties of ZMA as well as the improvements to your sleep. Purists might not like these additional ingredients, especially because the melatonin means you need to take it soon before bed, but for everyone else, this is an excellent choice.
3. Evlution Z-Matrix
Evlution, lauded for its high-quality pre-workout and fat-burning supplements, has its own take on ZMA. It’s designed to be taken right before bed, and it has all three standard ZMA ingredients.
What’s special is what else is in the supplement. There’s a substantial amount of vitamin D3 (500 IUs) as well as folic acid, L-theanine, and BioPerine black pepper extract for superior absorption.
Theanine will help with sleep, but unlike other nighttime ZMA supplements, this doesn’t contain melatonin, so you don’t have to take it immediately prior to bed.
4. MP Essentials Z-Core PM
MusclePharm’s take on ZMA includes all the usual suspects, but takes a distinct focus on boosting testosterone levels while you sleep. Because it includes melatonin, it will improve your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Thanks to fenugreek extract and copper glycinate, you’ll get an additional boost to testosterone at night, which should improve your recovery from workouts.
5. SNAC Nutrition ZMA-5
All brands of ZMA have to licence the name from SNAC Nutrition–it’s the company that originally innovated the zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B6 blend. Now, they have an updated formulation that includes the neurotransmitter 5-HTP, folic acid, and BioPerine for superior absorption.
The inclusion of 5-HTP indicates that this supplement might also be suitable for improving mental function and performance, making this a great choice for athletes who need to gain strength, power, and mental acuity at the same time.
6. JYM Supplement Science ZMA
JYM Supplement Science distinguishes itself by pairing the classic ZMA blend with BioPerine, a proprietary extract from black pepper that is known to boost absorption of many biologically active compounds.
While there’s only 30 servings worth of ZMA per bottle, these will go a lot further than other ZMA supplements because of the increased absorption thanks to the black pepper extract.
7. Now Sports ZMA
Now Sports ZMA is a little stronger on the vitamin B6 than other ZMA supplements, with 5 mg per capsule. At 150 mg of magnesium and 10 mg of zinc, it’s right in line with industry standards with respect to these ingredients.
The supplement is designed pretty clean, without any undesirable extra ingredients. It’d be nice if there were more capsules per bottle, but that’s about the only drawback that you can find with Now Sports ZMA.
8. Primaforce ZMA
Primaforce follows industry standards to a T with their ZMA formulation, and the bottle is more generous than most with regards to the number of capsules included.
It would be better if Primaforce didn’t rely on silicon dioxide as a binder and anti-caking agent, but aside from that, Primaforce ZMA is a solid choice.
9. ZMA Pro
ZMA Pro is a pretty standard formulation, though it uses what it calls a “quick release formulation” to increase the rate at which the ingredients are absorbed.
Given that there is nothing special or unusual in the ingredients, this must mean they just divide the powder up more finely to speed its absorption. If you follow standard protocol and take ZMA before bed, this probably doesn’t make a difference.
You’ll have eight hours or more to absorb the ZMA in a regular supplement, and a slower, sustained release might even be preferable.
10. Met-Rx ZMA
Met-Rx has a pretty standard ZMA formulation, though it’s more difficult to endorse than some of its competitors simply because it doesn’t have the same reputation as a solid manufacturer of other quality sports supplements.
Given the athletic background and intent of ZMA, it might make sense to go with a manufacturer that’s specifically focused on that market, because the precise blending of the zinc-containing ingredients in ZMA is a little tricky to get right.
ZMA benefits and side effects
Taking a ZMA supplement can improve your sleep, improve your strength, and improve your muscular power. This multi-ingredient supplement is used by elite athletes to work out harder and recover better afterwards.
How exactly does ZMA help you accomplish this? It appears to have something to do with how ZMA affects your levels of testosterone (which is why ZMA is found in many testosterone boosters) and other hormones.
We’ll dig into the science to see how ZMA can help take you to new levels in training and competition.
ZMA was made for elite athletes. Initially formulated by nutrition and performance researcher Victor Conte, who later became famous for his involvement in a doping scandal with elite American Sprinters, ZMA was initially used in NCAA football players to improve strength.
A 1999 study looked at the effects of an 8-week ZMA supplementation routine among football players during spring training (1).
This study found that the ZMA supplement led to increased levels of zinc and magnesium in the bloodstream of the players compared to the placebo supplement, and further, the athletes given the ZMA supplement had a greater increase in high-velocity muscular strength compared to the athletes on the placebo.
It might seem a little strange to be taking a supplement developed by someone who was peddling growth hormone on the side, but then again, who else would know how to manipulate human hormones better?
ZMA isn’t a miracle supplement, but it’s still being used by elite athletes in dozens of sports to gain an edge in training and in competition.
ZMA could boost your testosterone levels. It’s no accident that two of the primary ingredients in ZMA are closely linked to testosterone levels.
A 1996 study published in the scientific journal Nutrition examined the effects of zinc on the body’s testosterone levels in detail (2).
The authors, based out of Wayne State University, the University of Michigan, and Harvard Medical School, looked at bodily levels of zinc as they related to serum testosterone levels in a group of men who were 20 to 80 years old. They found a strong positive correlation between zinc levels and testosterone levels–the more zinc in your body, the higher your testosterone is.
The researchers took this one step further by demonstrating a causal relationship. In a subset of four young men, the authors measured testosterone levels before and after a brief period of zinc restriction. The men were fed a tightly controlled diet that was deficient in zinc, and as a result, their zinc levels in their body went down.
And just as you’d predict, their testosterone levels dropped too. To demonstrate the effect working in reverse, the authors took another set of nine men in their sixties who were deemed “marginally deficient” in their zinc levels and put them on a zinc supplement for six months.
After the supplementation program, the men’s testosterone levels increased significantly.
The magnesium in ZMA is linked to higher testosterone too. The case for a link between magnesium levels and testosterone levels comes from a study published in the International Journal of Andrology in 2011 (3).
The study looked at nearly 400 men that were part of a major study in Italy. All of the men had blood samples taken at the beginning of the study, and the authors analyzed the blood sample data to uncover whether any relationship existed between magnesium levels and testosterone.
Using careful statistical methods to control for possible confounding variables, the authors demonstrated that higher magnesium levels in the blood is linked to greater levels of testosterone, and greater levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), another hormone strongly linked to strength, energy, and virility.
The vitamin B6 in ZMA plays a role in hormonal regulation as well. Vitamin B6, along with the other B vitamins, is not so much of a vitamin as it is a hormone that happens to be derived from sources outside the body. It’s involved in a tremendous number of biological interactions, many of which are detailed in a 1994 review article by David A. Bender from University College London (4).
In it, Bender shows how vitamin B6 interacts with a number of steroid hormone receptors, which suggests that any deficiencies in vitamin B6 could interfere with your body’s ability to adapt to athletic training.
While there isn’t any direct research on how vitamin B6 affects hormone levels or athletic fitness, it’s likely that athletes who are deficient–such as bodybuilders trying to cut weight–will experience performance decrements as a result.
ZMA doesn’t work for everyone. Not all research has found success using ZMA to boost athletic performance. A 2004 study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition investigated whether ZMA could improve anabolic hormone levels or performance in one rep max bench press or leg press (5).
The study involved 42 athletes who were experienced weight lifters. They took a ZMA supplement or a placebo every night before bed for 8 weeks and were given a standardized weight lifting program to follow.
The authors evaluated maximal strength and hormone levels at the study’s outset, 4 weeks into the study, and at the conclusion. Disappointingly, they found no evidence of an effect for ZMA on any of the measurements of interest.
This might indicate that ZMA only works if you are borderline deficient in one or more of the ingredients in ZMA, or this study may have been simply too small to detect an effect–21 subjects per group could be too small to observe a small to moderate boost in athletic performance.
ZMA appears to be a safe supplement, with no reports of negative side effects and no worrisome ingredients. As with any mineral supplement, if your intake levels are excessive, you could have problems.
If you already take other supplements that have zinc and magnesium in them, you may want to make sure you aren’t taking way too much of either of those ingredients.
Aside from that, the safety profile of this supplement looks very good.
The original formulation of ZMA involves 15 mg of vitamin B6, 450 mg of magnesium, and 30 mg of zinc per serving. For most ZMA supplements, that’s three capsules per day.
While some manufacturers deviate from this a little bit, it’s wise not to stray too far from these levels, because you are straying outside the range of dosages that have been studied in the scientific literature, and as such you may not get the same effects.
ZMA looks like a solid supplement that attacks two major causes of low testosterone, and it also looks like it can help improve your strength if you are an athlete in training.
For these reasons, it’s widely used by high-level athletes. If you want to boost your testosterone levels and increase your muscular strength or even improve your sleep, you could take advantage of these benefits too.