Strenght Bible founder Ben Hardman aims to definitively answer the question ‘does zinc increase testosterone?’ Find out what he found below…
Zinc and testosterone are two high-functioning elements in your body.
Zinc is a versatile trace mineral that influences a number of our biological systems. Similarly, testosterone has a major influence on our development, muscle growth and sexual health. Us humans produce our own testosterone, but we can’t produce zinc.
So, what’s the connection between zinc and testosterone then, and does zinc increase testosterone?
The science tells us there’s a significant link between the two. As someone who is fitness conscious, it’s an important link for you to know about.
I’ve been taking a zinc supplement for many years. Usually, it’s in the form of a zinc and magnesium supplement to help with sleep quality and workout recovery. I didn’t actually realise that zinc could positively affect testosterone until afterwards.
Let’s get into it to see how zinc increases testosterone.
Does Zinc Increase Testosterone Levels?
Yes, it seems that zinc can positively influence testosterone levels.
Zinc is a primary influencer in a range of cell types and areas in our body. One of the key areas it impacts is the testes – our primary producer of testosterone.
The role that zinc plays with testosterone is slightly more nuanced than simply ramping up hormone production. In fact, it appears to act in rather the opposite way.
Zinc is an inhibitor of testosterone metabolism. In simple terms, the presence of zinc seems to slow down the metabolism – or the conversion – of testosterone into other substances. If we want higher levels of testosterone, we don’t want it to be metabolised into something else, we want it in its main form!
To do this, zinc inhibits the action of the aromatase enzyme. This is what converts testosterone into estradiol (the primary form of estrogen in the body).
Several studies have supported zinc’s influence on testosterone levels.
A well-cited study in the Journal of Exercise Physiology took a look at the now popular supplement, ZMA. I know ZMA well as I’ve been taking it for many years. If you’re not familiar with this supplement, the active ingredients in ZMA are zinc, magnesium and Vitamin B-6.
The results on zinc influencing testosterone levels were very promising. ZMA was found to significantly increase levels of free testosterone and IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor) in athletes. This was an important study, as both IGF-1 and testosterone are big players in the world of muscle building and physical performance.
A different 40-person study focused on a broader age group of men between 20 and 80 years old. The conclusion suggests that zinc plays an important role in modulating total testosterone levels in the blood for normal men.
For people with low testosterone levels, with hypogonadism at the very low end, it appears that zinc deficiency may be a primary cause. From reading these studies and a number of others, the strong link between zinc and testosterone is undeniable.
Should You Be Supplementing With Zinc To Improve Testosterone Levels?
The positive relationship between zinc and testosterone begs the question for fitness fans and health-conscious people: should you be supplementing with zinc to elevate your testosterone levels?
In my opinion from looking at the science (and please note I am not a healthcare practitioner), it seems that supplementing with zinc to help testosterone levels is a good move. It’s often seen in the top testosterone booster supplements, and it seems with good reason.
It makes even more sense when you factor in the zinc lost during strenuous exercise. With both cardio and strength training, zinc is likely to be lost through sweat. Supplementing can counter this loss and help avert any potential drop in testosterone.
To caveat my thoughts though, let’s take a look at the recommendations to know we’re at a safe level when supplementing.
How Much Zinc Should You Take?
Health professionals recommend a daily intake of 11mg of zinc.
The main way our body gets zinc is through our diet. So, what kind of zinc intakes are we getting with food alone?
The foods with the highest zinc levels include shellfish, red meat, poultry, oats and cereals. It’s thought that oysters top the chart with the most zinc per serving than any other food. Coincidence that they’re a well-known aphrodisiac?
Here are some of the higher zinc values per food:
- 85g serving of oysters = 30mg of zinc
- 85g serving of beef = 4mg of zinc
- 85g serving of turkey breast = 1.5mg of zinc
So, unless you’re having oysters every night on your yacht, most people won’t be taking in 11mg of zinc per day. This is where supplementing comes in.
A good supplement will typically pack around 20mg of zinc. Usually it’s a two-tablet serving with 10mg in each tablet. I tend to supplement with around 10-20mg of zinc per day.
The good news with zinc is that it’s non-toxic (although excessive amounts of most substances will be toxic). It’s often used as a supplement for pregnant women and added to fortify cereal for children. The importance here is clear.
Advice tells us that you should be absolutely fine taking up to 40mg of zinc per day. But according to the science, I wouldn’t go above this amount. Doing so risks an upset stomach and digestive issues.
There’s a big choice of zinc supplements on the market. From zinc gluconate, acetate and sulphate to zinc picolinate, citrate and monomethionine.
Although these zinc types are similar and ultimately do the same job in the body, they can differ in the absorption rates and how easy they’re taken in through your digestive system. For example, some forms may cause stomach irritation for some people.
In the past I’ve tried zinc sulphate, zinc aspartate and zinc monomethionine and have experienced no side effects at all, only positives. Of course this is purely anecdotal to me.
Best Ways To Increase Zinc Levels
There are a few different ways to raise zinc levels in your body to help boost T levels.
Like most things, balance is the key here. That’s how I always like to look at it. You shouldn’t just rely on one method. To increase zinc and testosterone levels, I’d favour a combination of:
- Regular, intense exercise
- A healthy lifestyle with a good balanced diet
- A zinc supplement like ZMA
- A good amount of sleep
The Role Of Zinc In The Body
Humans don’t naturally produce zinc. The only way to get this trace mineral is through our diet.
As the body doesn’t even really store zinc, we need a constant supply of it too.
Our body is taking a bit of a risk here as zinc is one of the most important elements for the functioning of our biological systems. Despite this being true, it’s one of the most common minerals that people are deficient in.
Why is zinc so important?
Zinc is a multitasker. It plays integral roles in a number of activities in our body:
- DNA synthesis
- Protein synthesis
- Enzyme synthesis
- Cell growth
- Immune functioning
- Testosterone production
Under each point there’s a cascade of further activities too. It’s thought that the presence of zinc influences over 300 enzymes involved in things such as nerve functioning, digestion and metabolism.
One of zinc’s primary methods of influence here is through the regulation of cell growth and division. Now, we’re really getting down to the basics of life. Without zinc, we wouldn’t be functioning.
Wider Benefits Of Taking Zinc
With zinc playing such an important role in our bodies, there are plenty of wider benefits to this mineral.
In short, benefits with zinc can include:
- Improved sexual health
- Increased muscle building
- Reducing inflammation
- Improved heart and organ health
- Better mental wellbeing
- Support against degenerative brain diseases
A primary benefit is to do with sexual functioning. This is no surprise when we consider the established relationship with testosterone.
As you may already know, testosterone is a sex-based hormone that contributes to all areas of sexual health. Part of its role is to influence sexual maturation, behaviour, physical change and muscle development.
Studies suggest that zinc can improve sperm concentration and sperm motility – how efficiently they move about.
An interesting finding showed that infertile men had notably lower levels of zinc in their sperm compared to their fertile counterparts.
Even more fascinating was the result of zinc supplementation, which increased semen volume, sperm motility and the count of healthy sperm.
More generally speaking, very low zinc levels can slow down cell growth and division. This can have major impacts in all sorts of areas, including not just muscle building but things such as wound healing, injury recovery and our immune system.
Zinc is also an antioxidant. This means it fights so-called free radicals and reduces oxidative stress, which can be harmful to organs and tissues. Clinical studies have shown zinc’s antioxidant properties can have a positive impact on both heart and kidney health.
Finally, there’s good evidence that zinc plays an important role in our brains too. Studies have shown strong links between low zinc levels and depression and also shown a ‘highly probable’ connection between zinc aiding in the battle against Alzheimer’s disease.
- Zinc fact sheet for health professionals – https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/
- The Effect of Zinc, Selenium on Androgen Receptor Protein Expression – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7019230/
- Effects of a Novel Zinc-Magnesium Formulation on Hormones and Strength – https://www.asep.org/asep/asep/BrillaV2.PDF
- The Role of Zinc in Growth and Cell Proliferation – https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/130/5/1500S/4686427?login=false
- Zinc status and serum testosterone levels of healthy adults – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8875519/