Knowledge Gains: Zinc
If you’re looking to put together a well-rounded diet and improve your nutrition, you need to start by fighting deficiency; vitamins and minerals are key to keeping your body healthy and aging well. There are a few essential minerals, but zinc has the most exciting ups and downs in supplement history. Is it great for you? What happens if you don’t have enough? Where can you get it from?
We’re going to drop some knowledge gains on zinc, zinc supplements, and what you need to know about the science behind this controversial element.
WHAT IS ZINC?
Zinc is an essential mineral that plays a crucial role in the way that your body breaks down carbohydrates for energy, and is essential for maturation and growth.
WHY IS ZINC IMPORTANT?
As an adult, it is important to combat zinc deficiency to protect yourself from hormonal problems. Deficiency is associated with a number of medical concerns, from digestives discomfort to poor appetite.
Clearly, it’s important to keep your zinc intake up. In fact, with zinc deficiency being one of the most common nutritional problems in the world, it’s a mineral that should be considered, along with iron and magnesium, as the most important for your diet.
The first benefit you need to think about is combatting deficiency. You need to hit your minimum zinc intake first, which ensures that you’re able to maintain a regular glucose metabolism and control blood sugar more effectively.
Combatting zinc deficiency also means keeping your hormonal health regular. Zinc has important interactions with your hormones, and deficiency has been shown to cause stunted growth. As an adult, you’re not going to stunt your growth, but you will struggle with inconsistent or sub-optimal hormonal health if you’re not getting enough zinc.
Getting optimal zinc is about more than just hitting minimums – you need to shoot for optimal levels. These can improve recovery ability between training sessions, improve sleep, ensure proper neural health and aid in keeping you healthy across over 100 different reactions in the body.
Keeping these processes running smooth requires a healthy zinc intake – whether you get it from supplements or food.
DOES ZINC HELP BUILD MUSCLE?
We know that zinc deficiency can inhibit muscle growth. If you’re already below the optimal level of zinc intake, supplementing can definitely help you build muscle; this is worth pointing out because conservative estimates say 1 in 4 humans are zinc-deficient.
It’s a bit more complicated if you’re not deficient, though. The role zinc plays in your nervous system can affect your strength and health – as strength is a combination of muscle size and your ability to recruit muscle fibres. Reduced nervous function from sub-optimal zinc can show up as weakness and rapid fatigue during training.
You’re also going to see improved dietary regularity if you’re keeping zinc levels stable. This shows up as healthy appetite and healthier digestion. If you’re monitoring your diet closely, the absorption-boosting power of zinc for health and other vitamins/minerals is a great way to ensure you’re getting the best from training.
Finally, zinc is required in producing testosterone. As we all know, testosterone plays an important role in hormonal health and building muscle. Sub-optimal levels can stunt growth dramatically in children, and seem to inhibit muscle growth from exercise in adults.
Overall, zinc is more necessary than it is additive. You won’t explode with muscle from supplementing zinc, but you’ll be stronger in the gym, you’ll be able to regulate hormones better, and you’re going to keep your nervous and digestive systems in better shape. These all contribute indirectly to building muscle in a significant way.
FOODS HIGH IN ZINC
The best place to get zinc in your diet is from nuts and seed, though you can also find plenty of zinc in certain animal products. We recommend that you supplement zinc if you’re on a plant-based diet or don’t consume many nuts/seeds.
The average diet in the English-speaking world falls far below the right proportion of zinc intake. We eat lots of low-quality animal products that tend to provide smaller amounts of zinc, and very few nuts or seeds. This makes zinc an important mineral to think about when planning a diet for health, fitness or performance.
We love using sunflower seeds and if you read our 10 High Protein Foods article you’ll know that they are a source of zinc. They’re rich in this crucial mineral, provide fantastic healthy fats, and are versatile for cooking with. You can have sunflower seeds with sweet or savoury foods, and they suit an omnivorous and plant-based diet perfectly. You can also look at oysters, mushrooms, nuts (such as cashews and pecans) and pumpkin seeds as another zinc source.
There are many low-quality zinc supplements on the market. You want to make sure you’re investing in quality when it comes to mineral supplements – dosing is important and the form your supplement comes in can determine whether its going to be effective and worth your time.
We recommend taking a zinc-magnesium supplement if you’re just trying to stay healthy and optimise your wellbeing. These combine crucial micronutrients to provide you with a one-capsule solution to your mineral needs.