ZMA in the NFL

Original article: Muscular Development

Picture for ZMA in the NFL

From Miami to Oakland, Pro Football Takes Advantage of a Hot New Sports Supplement

By Bob Lefavi, PhD, CSCS, CHES

Man, sports supplementation is on a roll. Until the early '90s, we were bombarded by product after product having little if any science behind it. o (Remember boron?). But lately, with better research and technology we've seen well-supported supplements- like creatine- hit the market. And through appropriate use of science, we've made quick pronouncements when those supplements didn't pan out; a perfect example is androstenedione.

ZMA, along with its very impressive research (see sidebar), has many world class athletes and strength coaches reporting strength and recovery benefits in the gym as well as on the athletic field. Of course, it wasn't long before coaches and players in the National Football League (NFL) caught on. What is ZMA, and who's using it?


ZMA FUEL was developed by Victor Conte, founder and director of BALCO Laboratories in Burlingame, Calif., which has been in existence for 15 years. BALCO specializes in mineral and trace element assessment, and performs research with elite Olympic and professional athletes. According to Conte's colleague at BALCO, Jim Valente, "We have now tested over 250 NFL players and found more than 70 percent of these players to be either depleted or deficient in both zinc and magnesium."

ZMA FUEL is a scientifically designed anabolic mineral support formula. It contains Zinc Monomethionine Aspartate plus Magnesium Aspartate and vitamin B-6, and is an all-natural product that has been clinically proven to significantly increase anabolic hormone levels and muscle strength in trained athletes.

The Double Whammy

Zinc deficiency significantly affects the metabolism of anabolic hormones. Many human studies have shown that zinc deficiency causes a reduction in testosterone levels. There is also animal research showing that zinc deficiency causes a reduction in the number of anabolic hormone receptor cites. About these interesting zinc studies, Conte says, "Anabolic hormone metabolism was studied in zinc-deficient animals and the zinc deficient group had a 63 percent reduction in the number of anabolic hormone receptor cites compared to controls. This indicates that zinc is extremely important in the anabolic hormone binding process in the target cells."

Conte continues, "ZMA supplementation may provide a double benefit to athletes by increasing the number of their anabolic hormone receptors as well as increasing their testosterone levels. What's Conte talking about? Keep reading.

It actually is fascinating when you read the research. Take the studies by K.W. Chung, for example. Chung originally started in this line of research when he found that male alcoholics often had physiologically feminizing qualities. He subsequently discovered that they were depleted in zinc, which he postulated down-regulated their anabolic hormone receptor sites.

After studying zinc status in rats (1986), Chung showed that zinc depletion reduced, the number of anabolic receptors breakthrough information for sport nutrition specialists and strength/power athletes. Hey, when this happens, it doesn't matter how much testosterone is pumped into the system; it has nowhere to go.

Recently, with A.S. Om (1996), Chung found that not only do anabolic hormone receptor sites decrease in number, but circulating testosterone levels also decrease as a result of zinc depletion! This double whammy - decreased anabolic hormone receptor sites and decreased testosterone levels- spell trouble for anyone wanting to maximize muscle mass and strength. ZMA FUEL in Sport

ZMA FUEL is a uniquely synergistic and effective mineral formulation designed to significantly enhance muscle strength, endurance, healing and growth. Because ZMA FUEL is also a very effective sleep aid, it is recommended that it be taken 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime. Many athletes fail to realize that their growth and recovery is a function of their ability to rest and sleep well.

ZMA FUEL in the NFL Miami Dolphins

According to John Gamble, strength and conditioning coach for the Miami Dolphins, "Players using ZMA are cramping much less and seem to be getting a more deep and restful sleep, which enhances their recovery."

How did Gamble find out about ZMA FUEL? Gamble brought in the team from BALCO laboratories to test each player's blood and urine levels of magnesium, zinc and copper- minerals that may be problematic for athletes, possibly leading to suboptimal performance. After BALCO identified players' deficiencies, it set them up with individualized nutritional supplements based upon their test results. The need for a supplement like ZMA Fuel was prevalent. "Balco has been an important part of this year's conditioning and preparation," says Gamble.

Minnesota Vikings

Minnesota Vikings Strong Safety Robert Griffith uses ZMA religiously. Griffith says, "I definitely feel a difference with recovery. There's no question about it; I'm able to recover because I'm able to rest." He adds, "I use it as a recovery tool, and because I have felt such a difference I'm in the process of getting ZMA FUEL to other players on the team."

Oakland Raiders

Oakland Raiders Strength and Conditioning Coach Garrett Giemont is well known and respected as a nutrition and conditioning expert in the NFL. I'm excited to have access to ZMA FUEL and look forward to its usefulness with our players."

About ZMA FUEL'S strong science, Giemont claims, "This is certainly one of those that are out to a great start. It has some very solid science behind it. ZMA FUEL is one of the supplements on the horizon that has certainly shown its stuff. ZMA FUEL is very exciting, and I think our players will really benefit from it."

Denver Broncos

Bill Romanowski, Denver Broncos All-Pro linebacker, says, "Hey, the proof is in the pudding. I really noticed a difference when I started taking ZMA. My strength in the weight room started going up. Not big, huge increases, but definitely noticeable and substantial jumps in weight!"

Romanowski, understanding how this could affect the entire Denver Broncos team, hasn't kept this success to himself. "I've got about 90 percent of the Broncos on ZMA. The guys are telling me they sleep better and feel better!"

"Victor's [Conte] the man," says Romanowski. "When I heard he was providing mineral testing for the Seattle Supersonics and many other elite Olympic and professional athletes, I figured I should probably be tested, too. I found out through blood and urine testing that I was deficient in both zinc and magnesium. Anyway, I started taking ZMA, was later re-tested and my zinc and magnesium levels became normal!"

Atlanta Falcons

Lester Archambeau, starting defensive end for last year's NEC Champion Atlanta Falcons, says he is "extremely satisfied with ZMA."

"ZMA definitely helps me recover!" says Archambeau. "I can tell when I take it and when I don't take it. There is no doubt I sleep better." And when it comes to the gym, the big Falcon claims, "I have better endurance when taking ZMA."

Jacksonville Jaguars

Bryce Paup, Jacksonville's multi-All Pro defensive end and 1995 Defensive Player of the Year (he led the NFL with 17 sacks), has been taking advantage of BALCO's technology for years. "When I take ZMA I sleep better and more soundly, and I feel more rested when I wake up. When I take it right before bedtime, I have no trouble falling asleep," says Paup.

But what about the playing field? Tm sure it helps on the field! The more you rest and the deeper your sleep, the more you'll recover and the better you'll perform on the field," Paup claims.

Paup has already seen success with ZMA. He says, "I started taking it [ZMA] a few years ago when I hurt my groin, and it really seemed to speed up my recovery! So I'm very optimistic about ZMA!"

The Bottom Line

No question about it, ZMA FUEL has the scientific research and real-world anecdotal evidence to launch it to a level previously held only by creatine. And the NFL has taken notice.

Dr. Bob Lefavi, Certified. Strength and Conditioning Specialist and Certified Health Education Specialist, is a professor in the School of Health Professions, Armstrong Atlantic State University, Savannah, Ga.