ZMA is the name given to a patented mineral formula containing 30 milligrams of zinc and 450 milligrams of magnesium along with 11 milligrams of vitamin B-6. Balco Labs was the original developer. If this name sounds familiar it’s because Balco Labs was made famous when it was raided by federal agents in September of 2006. The owner of the lab was charged with selling designer steroids to some of the world’s top athletes.
Balco observed that athletes often had mineral deficiencies, including zinc and magnesium. Zinc plays a major role in testosterone production and magnesium helps oxygenate muscle tissue. It stands to reason that deficiencies in either can severely hamper muscle building abilities. According to Balco, multivitamins that contain identical amounts of these minerals will not cure the deficiency for athletes, but taking the minerals separately in their ZMA product can, because of the theory of competing nutrients. If you take these products on their own they do not compete with other minerals in your body and therefore you can use more of them.
Many bodybuilders supplementing with ZMA have reported that they sleep better. The importance of regular sleep for building muscle was discussed earlier and needs to be reemphasized. When sleeping during night many anabolic hormones (including testosterone and growth hormone) are released in greater concentrations. Sleep is also the time when muscle tissue is built and repaired. To support their claims, Balco released the results of several studies that revealed testosterone increases of about 30 percent and strength increases 2.5 times greater than placebo groups. The main criticism of these studies was that the test subjects were athletes on high-protein diets. Increased protein intake and high-intensity exercise are likely two major contributing factors to their results. Besides, Balco Labs basically provided performance-enhancing drugs to top athletes in exchange for ZMA endorsements. Barry Bonds went so far as to attribute his dramatic physique transformation to ZMA. That makes their claims a little less believable.