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Zinc & Lean Muscle: what's the connection

by Rebecca Goad on February 03, 2023

gym, bodybuilding, weights 

You’ve probably heard a fair amount about the importance of zinc, especially if you have so much as a casual interest in bodybuilding.

While zinc is a trace mineral, which means you only need small amounts of it to be healthy. Of the key trace minerals, only iron is present in a greater concentration in the body.

This enables it to help support all manner of different areas of the body, ranging from your hair, skin and nails to your eyes, bones and even your immune system and fertility.


So, where do your muscles come into this?

As you might imagine given that zinc plays a role in all of the above parts of the body, zinc is also present in the muscles, where – as it does elsewhere – it assists in the production of new cells and supporting enzyme function.

In fact, there are three key things that zinc does in the body, and all of them have relevance to those aspiring to build lean muscle.

Those functions are the acceleration of the chemical reactions needed to develop muscle, as well as the stabilisation of protein structures and the regulation of hormone levels.

All three functions contribute to the process of muscle protein synthesis that kicks in whenever you undergo resistance training.

Remember that in order to build lean muscle, you will first need to maintain the size of the muscles you already have. Zinc is key to this; its antioxidant qualities help to shield your cells from the free radicals that would otherwise cause them to deteriorate.


What else does zinc do for bodybuilders?

Research has also indicated that zinc can help to improve your aerobic capacity, which is a measure of the level of oxygen your body is able to supply to your muscles. A low level, then, may hamper your performance and ability to build muscle.

Zinc also helps to repair the body’s tissues after exercise. Furthermore, it is thought that zinc may help to regulate and strengthen the immune system, by travelling to the vital cells that help to fight viruses and bacteria, and preventing excessive inflammation.

These combined effects will help to minimise the likelihood of you getting ill, and shorten your recovery times if you do become unwell. That, in turn, will allow you to get swiftly back to training, instead of having to spend extended periods lying low recovering, and losing muscle as a result.

Another key factor that helps to make zinc great for developing lean muscle, is its effect on testosterone. Male hypogonadism – the condition that results from testosterone deficiency – can produce, among other symptoms, reduced muscle mass.

However, research has found that taking 30mg of zinc a day could help to boost levels of free testosterone in the body. This is another reason why, if you’re presently struggling to build lean muscle, you might want to investigate upping your zinc intake.  


But of course, zinc is also invaluable for so much more

As we touched on above, zinc performs vital work throughout the body, so certainly shouldn’t be seen in the narrow terms of being relevant to bodybuilders alone.

Indeed, if anything, the science affirms that for those who wish to build lean muscle, it’s at least as important to simply follow an all-round healthy diet regimen – and zinc, which can be found in such foods as oysters, prawns, mussels, poultry, milk and cheese, can more than play its part in that.


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