Are Your Workouts Suffering? Low Zinc Levels Might Be The Reason

Are Your Workouts Suffering? Low Zinc Levels Might Be The Reason

Lindsay Mustard
Holistic Nutritionist, Personal Trainer, Yoga Instructor

30 Nov 2018

Are Your Workouts Suffering? Low Zinc Levels Might Be The Reason

We’ve all been told to supplement pre-workout with carbs and to drink our protein shakes post workout, but have you ever considered the effects that low zinc levels are having on your workout?

It’s silly to prioritize pre/post workout nutrition if we can’t capitalize on our workout itself because we are gasping for air and fatiguing mid-workout at an alarming rate.

Zinc, a trace mineral that is commonly known for its role in metabolic functions and enzymatic reactions, is crucially important for athletes as well as our vegan and vegetarian friends.

While zinc is often overlooked, it is a highly important mineral that is located within the musculoskeletal system and provides structural integrity and support to our immune system and T-Cells in fending off viral and bacterial infections.


Athletes are at the highest risk of low zinc levels as we deplete our stores when we sweat. Don’t be fooled into thinking that the pool of sweat surrounding you after your workout is solely water. Try thinking of it as a collection of important electrolytes and zinc. Now that might motivate you more to up your post-workout and supplementation game!


A study published in the FASEB Journal found participants experienced a significant drop in their zinc level during the recovery period after an aerobic workout. Long duration high intensity workouts place athlete's a greater risk of zinc deficiency, which can influence the twitch-tension relationship between muscles in our skeletal system. With compromised zinc levels and stores, this places athletes at a greater risk for colds and flus.


Want to lose body fat faster? Take zinc. Period.

A study performed in 2013 reported that “obese adults who supplemented with zinc for one month experienced a significant reduction in BMI and waist size.” (Friedrich, Cathe). Zinc plays an important role in insulin levels by improving the production of enzymes that protect the cells and aid in detoxifying inflammatory biomarkers that impair metabolic functions. Weight gain is a resultant of a combination of excessive caloric consumption, hormonal imbalances and impaired metabolic function. Zinc is often overlooked for its importance in assisting with the function and uptake of insulin in our bloodstreams. If our goal is to lose body fat, the first issue to address is blood sugar and insulin levels. If our bodies become less sensitive to insulin, we decrease the capacity to which our bodies can uptake the glucose that we are obtaining through food.

Chronically elevated glucose levels can result in increased body fat and weight gain, decreased energy and can result in Type II Diabetes.

When is comes to athletes, zinc is an imperative supplement for optimal performance that prevents early onset fatigue during workouts. The mineral does this by binding to insulin to ensure proper glycogen storage which controls the amount of insulin needing to be produced by the pancreas. Zinc also helps with the binding of insulin to muscle cells, which directly affects one’s insulin sensitivity. This can decrease zinc’s ability to bind to muscle cell causing poor muscular glucose uptake resulting is lesser efficient workouts and longer rest periods. Zinc is also an anti-inflammatory powerhouse that helps to decrease inflammation inside of cells.


Studies have shown that zinc raises three key hormones responsible for building muscle: testosterone, growth hormone (GH) and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1). Individuals with low levels of serum testosterone have reported experiencing compromised strength and performance during workouts and a need for longer recovery time post. According to a study published in Sports Medicine, “endurance athletes are at higher risk of zinc deficiency and athletes may experience loss of muscle and bone mass as a result.” (Friedrich, Cathe). Research also proves that zinc deficiency can reduce muscular strength and endurance, resulting in poor workouts and recovery for athletes.


  • Fatigue
  • Skin issues: Eczema, acne, dry skin
  • Poor immune system
  • Loss of appetite
  • White spots on nails
  • Infertility
Foods Rich In Zinc:
  • Animal proteins
  • Legumes: chickpeas, lentils, beans
  • Nuts: almonds, pecans
  • Eggs
  • Seeds: sunflower & pumpkin

Recommended Daily Intake
Adults not more than 40 mg daily ongoing
Adolescents 9 to 18 not more than 23 to 34 mg daily ongoing
* Take zinc supplements with food


Braun, Perrin. “A Blog to Help You Optimize Your Full-Body and Life Performance.” ​Can NutritionImproveAthleticPerformance?,​ 1May2013,

Friedrich, Cathe. “5 Reasons You Need More Zinc in Your Diet If You Exercise.” ​Cathe Friedrich,​ 20June2018,

Timmermans, Drew. “Zinc- The Top 5 Benefits for Athletes.” ​Regenerative Performance​, 17 Feb. 2017,

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