In the world of fitness, we can cover topics from A to Z, starting with Aerobic exercises and ending with the focus of today’s article, Zinc. Learn how to help clients boost their workouts – and overall health — with this simple, cost-effective mineral.

The Physiological Role of Zinc

Skeletal muscle tissue commands a great deal of attention in weightlifting as well as activities of daily life. Zinc, a trace mineral, contains so much potency that very small amounts can go a long way toward keeping us healthy. While it helps support the growth of skin/hair/nails, fosters strong bones, and holds the potential to improve one’s immunity and fertility, among various other cellular processes, three key mechanisms define the bulk of its role, and they all have relevance to building lean muscle mass.

The tiny amount of this mineral found in the healthy human body packs a potent cellular punch, second only to the amount of iron stored within the body. Lean muscle protein synthesis happens during each weightlifting workout. For purposes of anabolic growth, zinc facilitates those chemical reactions required for the body to stabilize protein structures, a primary ingredient in building muscle.

In addition to adding muscle to a client’s physique, trainers must also help prioritize the maintenance of the muscle tissue already present. The antioxidant capabilities of zinc can help protect muscle cells from the deleterious action of free radicals. This same property enables it to help in the post-workout tissue repair, likewise necessary for growth.

Healing and Hormones

One research group studied the effects of zinc on several different types of wound healing. While not nearly as invasive or life-threatening as a gunshot wound or post-surgical repair, those subjects who received supplemental zinc showed complete healing in a much shorter time frame than those given a placebo. Serious weight training causes its own type of tissue damage, the repair of which lends itself to muscle mass hypertrophy and strength gains. Therefore, sufficient zinc levels within the body may help accelerate this muscle-building healing process as well.

Testosterone ranks highly as a bodybuilder’s ally, and zinc exerts a powerful effect on this hormone. Studies show that males exhibiting a low testosterone level typically have reduced lean muscle mass. By adding a supplement containing 30 mg of zinc to one’s daily regimen, the boost to circulating levels of free testosterone helps men with Low-T or male hypogonadism put on the desired muscle mass.

Influence on Inflammation and Immunity

A growing area of research currently focuses on the mechanisms by which zinc reduces inflammation in the body. A 2013 study by Ohio State University researchers found that zinc can enter infection-fighting cells, whereby it attenuates and often prevents a full-blown attack on one’s immune system. Another study conducted in 2017 at Jagiellonian University Medical College in Poland discovered that zinc exhibits both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity, an important duo in keeping illness at bay.

Scientists in this field of research feel that zinc may help to regulate and strengthen the immune system by traveling to the vital cells that help to fight viruses and bacteria and prevent excessive inflammation. These combined effects will help to minimize the likelihood of one contracting and suffering an illness and diminish recovery times if the flu or cold does present itself. For athletes, whether professional, amateur or our average client, getting sidelined with a virus can force one to miss valuable workout time, also risking the loss of hard-earned lean muscle mass.

Zinc at the Cellular Level

Recent data from work done at the University of Missouri suggests that zinc is vital to the induction of insulin-like growth factor (IGF), a hormone released by the body following resistance training that promotes muscular growth. Evidence shows that insufficient levels of zinc pose a threat to the body’s membrane signaling mechanisms, as well as other intracellular messenger chemicals that work to help in cell proliferation.

The homeostasis of proteins, also known as “proteostasis”, refers to the complex pathways that maintain all of the proteins within and around a cell. Such processes also closely monitor and regulate the homeostasis of cellular zinc. Proteostasis, induced during strength training, relies on the mineral as a key player in the cellular transport superhighway. Exercise seems to induce a temporary dip in zinc serum levels; oxidative stress, a natural function of exercise, may affect zinc transport to and from cells, thereby influencing muscle activation and regeneration of skeletal muscle tissue.

The Cardio Connection

Research also indicates that zinc can have a positive effect on one’s aerobic capacity. Whether your client favors running, swimming or group exercise classes as a means of cardiovascular exercise, supplying oxygen to the muscle crosses over into the bodybuilding world as well. A diminished aerobic capacity hampers one’s chances of successfully building a strong physique.

Food Sources

Even if clients shy away from taking supplements, a well-rounded nutritional plan makes ingesting sufficient amounts of zinc fairly simple. The recommended daily amount ranges from 7mg for adult females to 9.5mg for the average adult male. Zinc abounds in such foods as oysters, prawns, mussels, poultry, milk and cheese, whole grains, and beans. Regularly choosing recipes that include these foods makes meeting one’s needs easy, affordable, and delicious.

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Cathleen Kronemer

Cathleen Kronemer is an NFPT CEC writer and a member of the NFPT Certification Council Board. Cathleen is an AFAA-Certified Group Exercise Instructor, NSCA-Certified Personal Trainer, ACE-Certified Health Coach, former competitive bodybuilder and freelance writer. She is employed at the Jewish Community Center in St. Louis, MO. Cathleen has been involved in the fitness industry for over three decades. Feel free to contact her at She welcomes your feedback and your comments!