By Rehan Jalali, C.S.N.
We’ve all heard of the “Freshman 15” weight gain, where a kid goes off to college and immediately gains 15 pounds. Now, many folks are experiencing the “Quarantine 15,” where one shelters in place and despite good intentions puts on weight.
You know the routine: The days mesh together and you forget the time and date. You roam around all day in pajamas, like a zombie in a self-isolation trance.
Yes, everyday life under a stay-at-home order is challenging, but we all know that it could be much worse, and that we are doing our part to get through the Covid-19 pandemic the best way we can.
There’s no ignoring the unforeseen problems that have popped up during these “home life” times: Wellness is at the top of the list. There is depression. A lack of deep sleep. Worry about money and work and your immune system, food cravings, decreased energy, and even how to maximize home workouts. Our lifestyles have been turned upside down. But we’re here to help. For every problem, there’s a solution. Of course we should improve our diets, go to bed earlier, drink more (water please) and just move around more (exercise). Adding the tried and trusted supplement ZMA to your quarantine arsenal might also help you get through this pandemic in a positive way.
Why ZMA? What’s so special about this unique mineral/vitamin combination that was created by nutrition and performance mastermind Victor Conte? It's a complex question, so let’s look at the what and then we’ll answer the why.
ZMA is a highly specific and unique vitamin/mineral combination. Yes, that's right, there are certain minerals out there that have a positive impact on body, health and even exercise performance.
ZMA is a special combination of zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B-6. The zinc is formulated as zinc aspartate and zinc mono-L-methionine, which makes it highly bioavailable because of the two forms of chelates. In fact, the magnesium and zinc are "double bonded" together to the aspartate molecules, which further helps absorption. The body's utilization of these minerals is a key factor in their many health benefits. The final ingredient in ZMA is vitamin B-6, also known as pyridoxine. This vitamin enhances the absorption of both zinc and magnesium and is also important for protein synthesis. In addition, it is necessary to "unlock" carbohydrate energy. Vitamin B6 has also been shown to reduce levels of the "stress hormone" cortisol. What's impressive about ZMA is that it has a positive health and safety record of over 20 years! The only other supplement that comes close to this type of longevity, is creatine.
Being stuck at home seems like it would benefit the quality of sleep. But, the opposite may true for people with overexposure to blue light/devices, stress, and inactivity. Let's save the long list of sleep benefits of ZMA for another article. Suffice to say that consistent lack of adequate sleep can be devastating to the mind, body, health and soul. So how does ZMA help with sleep? The bioavailable magnesium is the key to the deep and restful sleep that it provides. An Italian study showed that "nightly melatonin, magnesium, and zinc appears to improve the quality of sleep and quality of life in long-term care facility residents with insomnia.” Another study out of Iran showed that taking nightly magnesium improved sleep efficiency, sleep time, and reduced insomnia. This study also showed that magnesium increased morning wakefulness. Who doesn’t want to start their day with more energy!
Mood Elevation and Stress Reduction
Self-isolation and limited social contact can be a downer. Add financial hardship, media panic, and other uncertainties and you could easily go down a negative, depressing, and stressful road. However, research from the UK published in the Journal Nutrients concluded that magnesium supplementation can help to lower anxiety. Most of us could probably use a little less anxiety in our lives at this time. A recent study from Poland concluded the data "indicates the importance of magnesium and zinc in the therapy of depression.” It seems that zinc and magnesium may be a mood elevating dynamic duo! A study at the University of Vermont showed that magnesium was effective for mild to moderate depression and worked quickly. Remember that ZMA also contains Vitamin B-6. A recent European study concluded that the combination of magnesium and Vitamin B-6 was superior to magnesium alone when it came to reducing severe stress. Finally, a study conducted in my hometown of Austin, TX found that a magnesium deficiency can cause major depression.
Being sedentary at home, sitting in front of the TV Netflixin’ can lower your energy levels. This can cause a pattern of laziness that can lead to skipped home workouts! Can magnesium possibly come to the rescue once again! ATP (adenosine triphosphate or energy) is always present as a magnesium ATP complex. Magnesium basically provides stability to ATP. Magnesium binds to phosphate groups, thus making a complex that aids in the transfer of ATP. More ATP equals more energy! In short, there are many studies that show the importance of magnesium for increasing energy levels.
Immunity and Inflammation
I previously discussed the importance of zinc in immune function (https://snac.com/blogs/blog/zinc-and-immune-system). It’s well established that having a zinc deficiency is no bueno for your health. Zinc seems to get all the immune/anti-inflammation glory, but magnesium can provide benefits in this area too! One of the ways that COVID-19 causes such devastation to the body (especially the lungs) is via massive inflammation caused by cytokine storm and boosting interleukins like IL-6. According to a recent study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, magnesium supplementation effectively reduces IL-6 response and chronic inflammation.
Food Cravings and Blood Sugar Levels
You’re quarantining at home and the kitchen is always right there. Food is easily accessible and all those cravings are making you eat more than you should. Before you know it, here comes the dreaded Quarantine 15! Don’t confuse hunger for thirst and make sure you are always well hydrated. Consider intermittent fasting or time-restricted eating to control your food intake better. Make sure you’re eating plenty of fiber and protein to help suppress your appetite! And finally, be sure to take ZMA before bed each night. One way that food cravings get out of control is erratic blood sugar levels. By controlling blood sugar, you can help curb your appetite. A published study out of Palestine concluded that magnesium supplementation improves glycemic control and reduces insulin resistance. If your body becomes insulin resistant, you can have fluctuating blood sugar levels. A review study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at 18 studies and concluded that magnesium supplementation improves glucose parameters and enhances insulin sensitivity. Good news for those of us who want to support healthy blood sugar levels and reduce those pesky cravings!
This quarantine may actually be a good time to look after our health and wellness because we do have the time and we will find ways to get through this pandemic together.