Zinc – Benefits, Side Effects & Use in Bodybuilding


It is one of the most important microelements for humans and can be found in hundreds of enzymes, proteins that perform protective functions. Its content in the body is quite small and varies from two to three grams in whole. Most of this substance is found in the nervous, muscle, and bone tissues, as well as in the kidneys, liver, and various glands.

Zinc For Athletes

To build an impressive physique, bodybuilders often take different nutritional supplements. Using it, creatine monohydrate, HMB and similar substances is a beneficial addition to the diet of everyone who’s seriously involved in sports.

Taking supplements does not guarantee the full replenishment of the required amount of necessary substances. It applies to zinc as well. Its deficiency is experienced by many, but athletes feel it especially vivid. Most athletes suffer from a lack of zinc, without which it’s mere impossible to achieve continuous and safe muscle growth. Therefore, each athlete must clearly control the sufficient intake of this mineral.


Biological Role of Zinc

There are several important functions attributed to this mineral. Being a part of enzymes, it affects the metabolism of substances such as fats, carbs and proteins. Zinc is contained in the enzyme carbonic anhydrase, which is directly involved in maintaining acid-base balance. The redox processes are impossible without it.

Zinc takes part in such a complex process as gene expression. It is a process of «reading» the information encoded in the DNA, its subsequent transcription in the form of RNA and its further transformation into protein. Being an integral part of decoding information from DNA molecules, it is firmly linked with both intracellular division and apoptosis – programmed cell death.

The mineral is required for fully-featured sexual, intellectual and physical development, as well as for maintaining the general well-being and immune system functionality. It affects the metabolism of retinol – vitamin A and its derivatives, on which the work of visual receptors depends. If a person begins to see poorly in the dark, then it might be an indication of zinc deficiency.

Zinc has another important property. The absorption of metals that are present in proteins such as transferrin and albumin depends on it. In case of regular zinc consumption in amount no less than 50mg, the absorption of iron and copper will be suppressed, and taking more of these metals will suppress the absorption of this compound.

Women are recommended to consume about eight, and men – eleven milligrams of this substance daily. To ensure that sufficient amount is consumed, it’s necessary to choose foods rich in this mineral.

Meat and liver contain the largest amounts of zinc. Vegetarians can replace these products with beans, grains, pumpkin seeds, almonds, sesame seeds, walnuts, sunflower seeds. Some of these products have phytate in their composition. It impairs the absorption of minerals. The first cases of zinc deficiency are associated directly with the fact that phytic acid was present in food in large quantities. As for today, purchasing products rich in zinc is easy-peasy.

The amount of it present in the body is usually determined by its concentration in plasma. This indicator is not accurate, however, and does not allow to determine the ratio of the microelement as a whole.


Consequences of Zinc Deficiency

A deficiency of zinc performing important biological functions affects the functioning of many systems in the human body. Unfortunately, diagnosing it is extremely difficult due to the fact that the symptomatology is not so vivid and it may not be attributed to a lack of this element only.

Symptoms of insufficiency are those characteristic of impaired protein synthesis, use of steroid hormones and the immune system dysfunctions:

  • acne
  • hardly healing and poorly lasting wounds
  • thickening and discoloration of the skin
  • stretch marks
  • fragility of nails
  • hair loss
  • muscle weakness
  • diarrhea
  • constant fatigue
  • retardation of body growth, physical and sexual development

The deficiency of zinc can also lead to problems with sexual function, which can manifest in both sexes. Among those are libido decrease, disturbances of the menstrual period, erectile dysfunction. The process of spermatogenesis can be affected, which may subsequently lead to infertility.

The lack of this element weakens the immune system. This makes the body vulnerable to various allergies and infections. Given the importance of the substance to the organs of vision, eye diseases such as macular degeneration, myopia and cataracts can develop. Often there is a change in taste, appetite, smell. If all these signs are observed simultaneously, this indicates a severe zinc deficiency.

A genetic feature of peculiar mineral transportation can also lead to a lack of substance.


Causes of Zinc Deficiency

In order to avoid zinc deficiency, it is necessary to monitor the diet, first of all. Insufficiency can be triggered by the lack of foods rich in zinc, as well as the lack of other foods required by the body, especially on strict diets and with improperly constructed dietary plans.

The deficiency can be caused by diseases of the liver and pancreas, which lead to impaired absorption of the mineral. The abuse of alcohol also may play a part in zinc deficiency.

Adolescents and young children, women during pregnancy and lactation – these are the people who suffer from the lack of zinc most.

Zinc Intake Requirement

The daily intake of this mineral depends on age. Adults need about 40mg, while teenagers and children have a lesser requirement for the substance. There is a category of people who use zinc in a much higher concentration. Among such, there are, of course, bodybuilders.

This is due to the fact that zinc stimulates the growth of muscle mass and is actively spent during training, therefore, it should be replenished constantly. The dosage of the substance received with food is not enough. Therefore, every bodybuilder should take special complexes and supplements.

Sources of Zinc


Nuts, grains, beans, pumpkin seeds, mushrooms, grains, garlic, cabbage, asparagus, apples, pears, plums, cherries, potatoes, beets, carrots.


Beef liver, meat, fish and seafood, milk, cheese, poultry meat, eggs.