Antioxidant mineral that’s a no-holds-barred T-booster with bonus benefits for men’s virility, potency and performance.
Zinc (Zn) is one of the best nutrients for supporting healthy testosterone levels, partly because it seems to boost T in a number of different ways:
- Serves as raw material for T. For this reason alone, zinc is an essential T-booster–your body can’t make testosterone without it!
- Manages testosterone synthesis. Zinc is concentrated in the testes’ “T-factory” Leydig cells, where it signals for testosterone synthesis and release.
- Maintains testosterone levels. Zinc has been shown to block the sharp testosterone decline that typically happens during intense workouts.
- Reduces prolactin levels. Prolactin is a female sex hormone that can drive down healthy testosterone levels. Zinc keeps prolactin in check.
Other Benefits for Men
- Zn is an ideal “men’s health” nutrient; it improves sperm count, boosts libido and sexual function, and helps with physical performance and recovery. It also seems to boost the male hormone DHT.
Zinc is essential for overall health. It helps cells develop and function properly, and is famous for supporting immune defenses. Everybody needs zinc, but men need zinc more… because zinc is the manliest mineral there is.
The first clue is that zinc is highly concentrated in a man’s prized assets: The testes and the prostate. Here, zinc performs bio-activities that increase testosterone synthesis–which in turn improves erectile function, sex drive, sperm count and sperm motility. Zinc does wonders for multiple measures of masculine health.
Unfortunately, zinc depletion has the same far-reaching impact, but with disastrous results for masculinity. Low zinc levels have been associated with:
- Low androgens (male sex hormones)
- Decreased testicular function
- Low physical performance & exercise capacity
The real nightmare: Very low zinc levels are associated with male hypogonadism: A condition where the body doesn’t make enough T, leading to across-the-board masculine health problems like:
- Erectile dysfunction (ED)
- Infertility & lost sex drive
- Inability to grow a beard!
- Loss of muscle strength
- Development of man-boobs
- Brain fog & fatigue
- Weak, brittle bones
No zinc? Balls shrink. So why are we low?
Despite all these zinc benefits for men, many of us don’t get enough.3 One-third of the global population is deficient, with “mild-to-moderate” zinc deficiency considered a common occurrence. This mineral shortfall could threaten manliness all over the world. Making matters worse are additional Zn-draining factors that many men face every single day, including:
Coffee may interfere with zinc absorption and accelerate zinc excretion from the body.4 Can you imagine what a Venti Starbucks might do to your zinc?
Like coffee, protein is believed to reduce zinc absorption, which may cause concern for protein shake-chugging gym rats.5
Every time you you ejaculate, you lose 3-5 mg of zinc.6 Whether you’re getting lucky or masturbating, you lose zinc. Every single time.
Some animal research has suggested that with age, zinc transporters start to malfunction–potentially contributing to deficiency.7
Low zinc is probably one of the biggest T-killers affecting men today. Which is a shame, because low-Zn status seems to be completely reversible with supplementation. This is why the best T-booster supplements will always include zinc in some form. Both animal and human research seem to support the use of Zn for T.
When scientists force zinc deficiency in animal research, it triggers serious problems for males. In particular, low zinc has been associated with:
- Reduced sperm production, impaired sperm activity and shrunken testicles (rat study)8
- Lower body weight, less zinc in testes, smaller testes and diminished T-levels (rat study)9
On the other hand, when researchers increase animals’ zinc intake, it has an equally positive impact across male health. In these studies, zinc supplementation has been associated with:
- Dose-dependent improvements for testosterone and sperm quality; reduced FSH too (rat study)10
- Boosted semen volume, sperm count, sperm activity and blood testosterone levels (bull study)11
- Boosted T and reduced lactate, leading researchers to suggest performance enhancement (rat study)12
Some human research mirrors these findings. This strengthens the idea that zinc is a universal male enhancer, with many of its benefits traced back to its T-boosting effect.
One small study investigated how different dosages of zinc, including “depletion” doses, might affect young men. Each of the five dosages was taken for 35 days straight. At the study’s end, researchers found that, compared to the highest dose (10.4 mg), the lowest dose (1.4 mg) was linked to decreased semen volumes and lower testosterone levels. Researchers concluded that even short-term zinc depletion seems to drain T.13
10 male wrestlers were given 3 mg zinc sulfate daily for 4 weeks; their hormones were tested while at rest and after exhausting workouts. Researchers reported zinc was tied to significantly higher T-levels, whether the subjects were resting or exhausted. Researchers also said zinc prevented the “T-drop” that typically occurs during intense exercise, and suggested this might make zinc a physical performance-booster.14
Both of these human studies are interesting because they show zinc boosts testosterone in young, athletic men–who you might think would be “maxed out” on T. So if zinc is effective for this peak-performing “high testosterone” demographic, what might it do for the “low T” demographic?
Researchers have investigated one low-T group — Infertile men — might benefit from zinc supplementation, with results showing that:
- 66 mg zinc + 5 mg folic acid daily boosted sperm count by 74%15
- 440 mg zinc daily has been suggested as an effective therapy for infertile men16
Men with kidney problems are another group where low-T is overwhelmingly common, enough to cause hypogonadism. Researchers have done zinc studies on this demographic too, finding:
- 50 mg zinc acetate daily boosted T and sperm count, improving libido and male potency. LH and FSH significantly declined.17
- 450 mg of zinc sulfate daily “strikingly improved potency” and restored healthy testosterone levels18
When we look at all this research, animal and human, it gives us the impression that zinc helps boost testosterone for everybody: Rats, bulls, 18-year-old wrestlers, elderly men on dialysis, and everyone in between. There’s a big sampling size that backs zinc’s role as a universal male enhancer.
There’s also a wide array of dosages used in these studies, which is dangerous–when it comes to zinc dosage, you have to take care.
Some notes about zinc dosage:
- Recommended daily allowance for men: 11 mg
- Typical daily intake in men: 13 mg
- Tolerable upper intake level: 40 mg
- Retail dosage range: 25 mg – 50 mg
Zinc is generally well tolerated. Zinc sulfate form is responsible for its most common side effect: Stomach upset. It may also cause an unusual and unpleasant metallic taste sensation.
There are a lot of forms of zinc on the market, with some appearing to offer distinct advantages. These zinc forms include:
- Picolinate: This form complexes zinc with picolinic acid. It is shown to be slightly more absorbable than gluconate and citrate,20 but is also 2X as expensive as non-complexed zinc.
- Gluconate: 14% elemental zinc, which means it is more expensive, requiring more raw material to supply desired zinc levels. Highly absorbable; one study found 60.9% absorption with this form. This is the one you’ll find in lozenges.
- Citrate: 31% elemental zinc, slightly more absorbable than the gluconate form at 61.3% at less than half the cost. The citrate form is odorless, and has no “metallic taste” side effects.
- Acetate: 30% elemental zinc. A better-absorbed form that may have unpleasant “metallic taste” side effects.
- Sulfate: 23% elemental zinc. Dirt cheap but poorly absorbed. Like acetate, it has a strong bitter and metallic taste. This form is most responsible for zinc’s “gastric distress” side effects.
- Oxide: 80% elemental zinc and cheap, which seems great.. but it’s water insoluble and very poorly absorbed.
- Monomethionine: A better-absorbed chelated form that binds the zinc to methionine, which is a type of amino acid.
- ZMA: Developed by Victor Conte of (the notorious) BALCO Laboratories, ZMA is zinc monomethionine complexed with magnesium aspartate and B6. ZMA is associated with sports nutrition applications.21
Supplements In Review Recommendation
- Zinc citrate form, 30 mg daily
Zinc is one of the best T-boosters known. But many don’t get enough. Zinc can also be depleted by coffee, alcohol and sex. These zinc challenges suggest men might need more, but too much zinc can be dangerous. We think 30 mg of zinc daily is just right–more than the RDA of 11 mg, but less than the “tolerable upper intake” level of 40 mg. The citrate form is safe, T-effective, cost-effective and seems to better tolerated, with fewer side effects than other forms.
- McClain CJ, et al. Hypogonadism in the zinc-deficient rat: localization of the functional abnormalities. J Lab Clin Med. 1984 Dec;104(6):1007-15. ↩
- Karaca Z, et al. Pubertal arrest due to Zn deficiency The effect of zinc supplementation. HORMONES 2007, 6(1):71-74 ↩
- Dhingra U, et al. Zinc Deficiency: Descriptive Epidemiology and Morbidity among Preschool Children in Peri-urban Population in Delhi, India J Health Popul Nutr. 2009 Oct; 27(5): 632–639. ↩
- Rossowska MJ, Nakamoto T. Effect of caffeine on zinc absorption and Zn concentration in rat tissue. Br J Nutr. 1990 Sep;64(2):553-9. ↩
- Lönnerdal B. Dietary Factors Influencing Zinc Absorption J. Nutr. May 1, 2000 vol. 130 no. 5 1378S-1383S ↩
- Hotz C. Dietary indicators for assessing the adequacy of population zinc intakes. Food and Nutrition Bulletin, 2007 vol. 28, no. 3 (supplement) ↩
- Wong CP, et al. Increased inflammatory response in aged mice is associated with age-related zinc deficiency and zinc transporter dysregulation. J Nutr Biochem. 2013 Jan; 24(1): 353–359. ↩
- Omu AE, et al. Molecular basis for the effects of zinc deficiency on spermatogenesis: An experimental study in the Sprague-dawley rat model. Indian J Urol. 2015 Jan-Mar; 31(1): 57–64. ↩
- Lei KY, et al. Function of pituitary-gonadal axis in zinc-deficient rats. Am J Physiol. 1976 Jun;230(6):1730-2. ↩
- Egwurugwu JN, et al. Effects of zinc on male sex hormones and semen quality in rats. Niger J Physiol Sci. 2013 Jun 30;28(1):17-22. ↩
- Kumara N, et al. Effect of different levels and sources of zinc supplementation on quantitative and qualitative semen attributes and serum testosterone level in crossbred cattle (Bos taurus) bulls. Reprod. Nutr. Dev. 46 (2006) 663-675 ↩
- Kaya O, et al. Zinc supplementation in rats subjected to acute swimming exercise: Its effect on testosterone levels and relation with lactate. Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2006 Feb-Apr;27(1-2):267-70. ↩
- Hunt CD, et al. Effects of dietary zinc depletion on seminal volume and zinc loss, serum testosterone concentrations, and sperm morphology in young men. AM J Clin Nutr 1992:56:148-57. ↩
- Kilic M, et al. The effect of exhaustion exercise on thyroid hormones and testosterone levels of elite athletes receiving oral zinc. Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2006 Feb-Apr;27(1-2):247-52. ↩
- Wong WY, et al. Effects of folic acid and zinc sulfate on male factor subfertility: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Fertil Steril. 2002 Mar;77(3):491-8. ↩
- Takihara H, et al. Zinc sulfate therapy for infertile male with or without varicocelectomy. Urology. 1987 Jun;29(6):638-41. ↩
- Mahajan SK, et al. Effect of oral zinc therapy on gonadal function in hemodialysis patients. A double-blind study. Ann Intern Med. 1982 Sep;97(3):357-61. ↩
- Antoniou LD, et al. Reversal of uraemic impotence by zinc. Lancet. 1977 Oct 29;2(8044):895-8. ↩
- Krone CA, Harms LC. Re: Zinc Supplement Use and Risk of Prostate Cancer. JNCI J Natl Cancer Inst (2003) 95 (20): 1556. ↩
- Barrie SA, et al. Comparative absorption of zinc picolinate, zinc citrate and zinc gluconate in humans. Agents Actions. 1987 Jun;21(1-2):223-8 ↩
- Brilla LR, Conte V. Effects of a Novel Zinc-Magnesium Formulation on Hormones and Strength. JEPonline, 3(4): 26-36, 2000. ↩