Train hard and you leech out important minerals involved in keeping T levels high and testicles happy. Here's how to fix that.
Big Problem, Easy Fix
Up to 85% of all Americans are deficient in magnesium. This is potentially a huge problem because the mineral is intimately involved in over 300 biochemical reactions in the body.
Deficiencies of zinc aren't as common, but they pose an equally daunting threat to your health as the mineral plays a big role in hormonal status, cell division, wound healing, energy levels, and carbohydrate management, among other things.
While not having enough of either mineral is bad news, being deficient in both zinc and magnesium is exponentially worse. Not only can it negatively affect your health in general, but it can also direct a biochemical, steel-toed kick to your poor old gonads in particular.
Without adequate amounts of these crucial minerals, testosterone levels drop and testicular function in general falters until your balls need a walker to get around, and the situation's potentially worse with athletes.
To make matters worse, zinc and magnesium (along with a few other minerals) leech out of the body through perspiration, so the more athletes exercise, the harder they exercise, the more zinc and magnesium they lose.
That potentially drops testosterone levels even further, making progress even more difficult to come by. It's a cruel, cruel irony.
It's an easy fix, though. Just take this inexpensive, well-absorbed supplement (ZMA®) to fortify zinc and magnesium levels and simultaneously elevate testosterone levels while restoring testicular function.
How do you know if you're deficient? You can either assume you're deficient in magnesium and/or zinc, as most of us seem to be, you can get a comprehensive mineral test panel (blood test) from your doc, or you can just look for specific symptoms.
Signs You're Low in Zinc
Besides the muscle, strength, and performance issues caused by low zinc, there are other signs of possible deficiency, including but not limited to the following generalized symptoms:
- Difficulty in putting on muscle
- Low libido
- Poor sleep
- Thinning hair
- Allergy-type symptoms
- Loss of appetite
- Weakened immunity (e.g., catch colds or flu frequently)
And then there's the starring role zinc plays in reproduction. Zinc is required to produce and regulate several hormones, including testosterone. It's also vital to the development of the male sex organs, as those with a deficiency have been found to have under-developed testes and a low sperm count.
Zinc also plays a major role in the production of prostatic fluid and some studies have even shown a relationship between not having enough zinc and the ability to achieve and maintain an erection.
These relationships have been easy to prove in lab experiments. One study even found that ingesting a little less zinc than normal negatively affected serum testosterone concentrations and seminal volume, but all it took to restore optimal function was a measly 10.4 mg. a day.
Another study, this one involving rats, showed that "testicular androgen contents" (androstenedione, testosterone, and androstanediol) decreased significantly in rats that were severely or even marginally deficient in zinc.
Adding zinc to a zinc-deficient diet is thought to restore depleted androgen levels by increasing levels of luteinizing hormone, a pituitary hormone that stimulates testosterone production. Zinc also acts as a strong aromatase inhibitor, which means that it blocks the conversion of testosterone to estrogen.
Signs You're Low in Magnesium
Magnesium deficiencies are associated with the following generalized conditions:
- Difficulty in putting on muscle
- Poor libido
- Difficulty in losing fat
- Poor sleep
- Poor recovery
- Muscle cramps
- Weakness and fatigue
- Eye twitches
While most of the studies on zinc show that it's intimately involved with testicular and reproductive health, studies on magnesium indicate that supplemental amounts often increase performance, maybe because the mineral increases the bioavailability of testosterone.
Case in point, one study showed that testosterone, rather than bind to steroid hormone binding globulin (SHBG), would rather bind with magnesium, thus increasing free levels of testosterone. (This would explain its muscle-building effects, too.)
This phenomenon, for some reason, is even more pronounced in people who exercise. Another study, this one involving bicyclists, found that supplemental magnesium increased the free testosterone levels of sedentary people by 15%, while it increased free levels in athletes by an impressive 24%.
A third study, this one involving tae kwon do athletes, found that athletes taking supplemental magnesium experienced significantly higher testosterone levels than sedentary subjects.
WHY Are We Low in Zinc and Magnesium?
We've known that intense exercise and sweating exacerbates these mineral deficiencies, but it's likely that diet or dietary habits are what made most of us deficient in the first place.
Carbonated drinks are a big problem, as the phosphate in the drinks binds with magnesium. So are phytates in various grains. Both sugar and caffeine have an antagonistic relationship with magnesium, too, and the more you ingest of each, the more of the minerals you lose.
Zinc deficiencies are caused by the aforementioned sweat-related losses, poor absorption, or reduced dietary intake from either avoiding zinc-rich foods or just plain bad luck in ingesting plant sources grown under conditions that weren't ideal.
We could try just eating more magnesium and zinc-rich foods, but as mentioned, absorption is sometimes poor and you never know how much you're getting in certain foods (because of crappy soil, lack of sufficient sunlight, etc.).
Assuming ideal growing conditions, you'd still have to eat a lot of food to ensure adequate amounts. For instance, gumming down about 9 bananas would give you a fighting chance of meeting the RDA for magnesium, whereas pinching your nose and closing your eyes and eating several cups of seaweed might get you to your RDA of zinc.
A Smart, Inexpensive Alternative
Biotest's ZMA® is an advanced zinc/magnesium formulation designed to restore testosterone levels and reproductive health caused by deficiencies in one or both of these crucial minerals.
Given that most common types of zinc and magnesium are often poorly absorbed, Biotest has incorporated highly bioavailable forms of both minerals in its formulation:
- Zinc monomethionine aspartate: 30 mg. per 3-capsule serving
- Magnesium aspartate: 450 mg. per 3-capsule serving
Each serving also contains 10.6 mg. of vitamin B6 to further enhance uptake and utilization. Men should take three capsules, hopefully on an empty or semi-empty stomach, about an hour before bedtime so, in addition to raising testosterone levels, they can enjoy another pleasant side effect of magnesium supplementation: a good night's sleep.
Women can and should supplement with ZMA®, too, as they're prone to the same deficiencies as men, particularly if they're athletes. For instance, magnesium plays largely the same role (although lesser in magnitude) in women's testosterone levels as it does in men. Likewise, zinc also plays a role in female fertility.
Women should take two capsules of ZMA® about an hour before bed, also on an empty or semi-empty stomach.
- C D Hunt, P E Johnson, J Herbel, L K Mullen, "Effects of dietary zinc depletion on seminal volume and zinc loss, serum testosterone concentrations, and sperm morphology in young men." The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 56, Issue 1, July 1992, Pages 148–157.
- Chakraborti S, et al. "Protective role of magnesium in cardiovascular diseases: a review." Mol Cell Biochem. 2002 Sep;238(1-2):163-79.
- Cinar V, Polat Y, Baltaci AK, Mogulkoc R, "Effects of magnesium supplementation on testosterone levels of athletes and sedentary subjects at rest and after exhaustion," Biol Trace Elem Res. 2011 Apr;140(1):18-23.
- Ford E, Mokdad A. "Dietary Magnesium Intake in a National Sample of U.S. Adults." J. Nutr. 133:2879-2882, September 2003.
- Hamdi SA, Nassif OI, Ardawi MS. "Effect of marginal or severe dietary zinc deficiency on testicular development and functions of the rat." Arch Androl. 1997 May-Jun;38(3):243-53.
- Nadler JL, et al. "Magnesium deficiency produces insulin resistance and increased thromboxane synthesis." Hypertension. 1993 Jun;21(6 Pt 2):1024-9.
- Tipton K, Green NR, Haymes EM, Waller M. "Zinc loss in sweat of athletes exercising in hot and neutral temperatures." 1993 Sep;3(3):261-71.