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Minerals are not usually associated with fertility, but the "macho mineral" zinc is used by the body to produce testosterone. Zinc may also promote recovery and wound healing and may even shorten or
reduce cold symptoms. Although athletes may indeed be deficient in zinc and thus benefit from supplementation, taking too much zinc can interfere with absorption of other minerals. We'll give you
the basic information to recognize and correct deficiencies.
Zinc's roles in the body include bolstering the immune system contributing to energy metabolism, regulating growth and maintaining taste and smell mechanisms. When you work out, zinc helps to clear lactic acid from your blood. Whether zinc can be linked to growth in bodybuilders is as yet unproved, as most of the research into supplementation with this mineral deals with children. Many studies have found that zinc promotes growth in very malnourished children, but obviously that population is quite different from adult bodybuilders.
Recently, the combination of zinc and magnesium (in a formula known as ZMA) has become popular among strength trainers, as it may increase testosterone, strength and might possibly help with recovery. The combination probably helps only individuals who are not getting enough of the minerals, either because of a shortfall in their diets or because strenuous exercise may increase the need for zinc and/or magnesium.
There may be something to the claim that zinc lozenges can reduce the duration of a cold, evidenced by a 1996 study. Subjects who took lozenges of 13 milligrams (mg) of zinc every two hours experienced a shorter duration of symptoms than subjects who didn't take zinc. However, a 1998 study on children and adolescents found no difference in cold symptoms between zinc and placebo B groups. The issue remains debatable.
Zinc deficiencies may result in slow repair of exercise-induced muscle damage, which would affect performance and growth. Deficiencies may also be marked by loss of appetite, temporary infertility, a weakened immune system and wounds that are slow to heal. If you exercise intensely, you may lose some zinc through sweat and may want to consider supplementation.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance for zinc is 15 mg daily (for women, it is 12 mg). Don't exceed 30 mg daily or you risk inhibiting absorption of other minerals, such as copper. Huge doses of zinc can impair your immune system and irritate your stomach. Research indicates that massive amounts of zinc are harmful rather than helpful.
Food sources of zinc include meat, eggs, oysters, nuts, beans and sunflower seeds, but zinc from animal sources is better absorbed. Vegetarians may want to supplement with zinc to ensure against deficiencies. If you do supplement with zinc, don't take it with calcium - that can inhibit zinc absorption.