Zinc, testosterone, and deficiency: part 3 (supplementation)

In part 2 we saw what foods contain zinc and how zinc deficient elderly men can benefit from supplementation. Most of us are not elderly men, though. 

But I want to underscore in this part that any man (or woman) who is zinc deficient can probably benefit from supplementation, and how you should supplement it. 

First, let’s go back to the zinc deficient younger Egyptians: they suffered from dwarfism and low testosterone, and supplementing zinc basically saved them.

The same happened for other young men (see table below).

Moreover, since we know intensive exercise increases zinc needs, sedentary people who all of a sudden started cycling saw their testosterone levels drop, except for those who supplemented with 50 mg elemental zinc per day (220 mg zinc sulfate)

This was also true for elite wrestlers

Just make sure not to over-supplement, as this can lead to copper deficiency and increased HDL (good cholesterol) levels. The recommended supplement amount is 20-40 mg of elemental zinc per day (not everything gets absorbed), if there’s a suspicion of deficiency. 5-15 mg of elemental zinc per day is fine if you think your diet is high in zinc.

This word elemental is important. You will find a lot of varieties of zinc supplements. Elemental zinc is the actual amount of zinc by weight in the complete compound molecule. To get 10 mg of elemental zinc, you would need the following amounts of these forms:

Zinc Acetate: 15 mg

Zinc Sulfate: 22 mg

Zinc Gluconate: 40 mg

Zinc Monomethionine: 25 mg

Zinc Picolinate: 50 mg

However, most labels state the elemental amount of zinc in the supplement, so often there’s no need to do the calculations.

Finally, watch out not to take your zinc supplement with a meal or supplement high in magnesium or calcium, since they mess with each other’s absorption.


How to apply

Unfortunately, blood tests cannot accurately assess whether you’re zinc deficient. See if your diet has foods high in zinc.

If you think you are deficient, take a zinc supplement every day, with a meal to improve absorption. 20-40 mg per day if you think you’re deficient. 5-15 mg per day if you’re taking it just to be safe.

There are different varieties of zinc supplements, with differing amounts of elemental zinc per total amount of supplement.

Watch out not to take zinc with a high calcium or magnesium meal/supplement, since they inhibit absorption. 

Watch out not to intake more than 50-80 mg of zinc in total (diet and supplement) per day for too long, as this could have health complications.

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