Can a Zinc Deficiency Affect Athletic Performance?

12 May, 2020
Zinc is closely linked to testosterone metabolism. However, zinc supplements aren't recommended. Find out more about the influence of zinc on athletic performance.
 

Nutrition plays a fundamental role in athletic performance. Certain substances can improve performance, and a deficiency of some nutrients can make things worse. In this article, we’ll go into more detail about zinc deficiency and its consequences.

The body is a very complex machine. Failure to provide it with the right nutrients in the quantities it needs can disrupt some physiological processes, sometimes with serious consequences.

In fact, macronutrients and vitamins might be the most important substances when considering athletic performance. But there are some metals that are found in small quantities in the body that are capable of significantly affecting the hormonal system, and zinc is one of them.

Zinc deficiency and testosterone metabolism

Zinc is a metal found in small amounts within the body. The body can’t synthesize it, so it needs to be acquired through our diets. It’s mainly found in nuts but can also be found in many types of meat.

This element plays a very important role in the regulation of testosterone metabolism, and the scientific literature shows that a zinc deficiency can lead to a decrease in testosterone levels.

This means that zinc is a vital element for proper muscle function. If testosterone levels aren’t high enough, hypertrophy will be hindered and you may even lose lean tissue mass.

A man training in the gym.
 

Obviously, as muscle strength reduces, so too will your athletic performance. And that’s not to mention the effects that it has on other bodily functions, such as fertility.

The importance of a varied diet

Zinc deficiency is not usually too common in athletes. Experts say that poor vitamin D intake is more normal.

In any case, any nutritional deficiency can lead to a noticeable decrease in performance. If nutrition is so essential for our everyday health, it’s even more essential for athletic performance.

The body of an elite athlete needs to be in perfect condition to perform at its best, and a lack of micronutrients can prevent this.

This is why it’s important to stick to a varied, balanced diet that prioritizes fruits and vegetables and also considers the most important nutrients, such as protein.

Bad habits and performance

As well as watching your diet, you should also try to avoid other habits that are bad for you. The consumption of alcohol or drugs can interfere with the metabolism or absorption of certain nutrients and thus lead to a nutritional deficiency.

In any case, these sorts of habits aren’t just bad for your athletic performance but your health in general. Processed foods are another major cause of nutritional deficiencies.

A delicious steak with herbs.
 

The large amounts of simple sugars and additives in processed foods can interfere with hormone metabolism and other aspects of your general health. As a result, athletes will become more susceptible to suffering from some health conditions.

Zinc deficiency: conclusion

A deficiency of certain nutrients can cause a serious decrease in athletic performance. Zinc is closely linked to the way the body regulates testosterone. So, it’s important for muscle function and hypertrophy.

It’s also related to fertility, so this nutrient is important for reasons beyond just your sporting endeavors.

But there’s also a silver lining: zinc is easy to find in nature. For example, you can find it in nuts and various types of meat. This is why it’s so uncommon, except in cases of altered metabolism or restrictive diets.

As a final point, zinc supplements are not recommended unless advised by a professional. Under normal conditions, supplements don’t produce an increase in hormone levels or an improvement in athletic performance. However, an overdose could easily cause you some serious problems.

 
  • Holick MF., The vitamin D deficiency pandemic: approaches for diagnosis treatment and prevention. Rev Endocr Metab Disord, 2017. 18 (2): 153-165.
  • Prasad AS., Mantzoros CS., Beck FW., Hess JW., Brewer GJ., Zinc status and serum testosterone levels of healthy adults. Nutrition, 1996. 12 (5): 344-8.