You might agree that sometimes it can feel quite overwhelming when selecting particular supplements that can improve your overall health. This is especially true if you’re searching for vitamins and minerals that can improve not just your workout, but your overall health. Just remember, there is great power in going back to basics. Before the marketing hype of particular sports supplements came about, we relied on simple vitamins and minerals to improve energy, protect us from disease and improve our overall quality of life. In this article, we discuss the importance of zinc and why it should be a staple in your diet.
Why do we need Zinc?
You might have noticed zinc to be advertised in many cold and flu tablets. That’s because it holds special properties which support and strengthen the immune system. However, rather than just supplementing on zinc in the cooler months, it’s a great idea to keep your zinc levels high all year round in order to keep your immune system firing on all cylinders.
Zinc is considered essential to health as it is the catalyst for more than 100 enzyme responses in the body. It assists in everything from neurological function, fertility, your eyesight, cell growth, regulating your taste buds and breaking down carbohydrates. Without zinc, you would find that you might be a lot more susceptible to disease, your energy levels may be low and you may suffer from a lot of brain fog.
How can Zinc assist my workout?
If you’re searching for supplements that can improve performance at the gym, then it’s good to know that zinc actually assists in building protein structure (i.e lean muscle) and is found in almost 90% of muscle and bone.
When you lift weights in particular, there is a lot of exercise-induced stress that occurs throughout targeted muscle groups. It’s important to fuel up with the right foods and supplements that help to replenish your body after a hard workout. Zinc contains antioxidants which protect against this oxidative stress and can therefore assist in a more rapid recovery. You will notice that antioxidants can truly lift your energy levels as they help to restore damage at a cellular level.
What foods contain the highest levels of Zinc?
To increase your zinc intake through whole foods, ensure you consume plenty of:
- Legumes such as chick peas, lentils or baked beans
- Red meat such as beef and lamb
- Seeds such as pumpkin or sesame seeds
Some of the best food sources of zinc are red meats which contain around 35% of your recommended daily intake (your RDI is 11mg). Most other sources of zinc above, each fall between 18% and 25% of your daily target. But there is a catch.
With the vegetarian options such as legumes and seeds, unfortunately these all contain a compound known as phytic acid which actually inhibits zinc absorption in the body. We know. It’s hardly fair! Some legumes and seeds contain up to 80% of phytic acid. Therefore, if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, then it’s may be beneficial to take a zinc supplement to ensure you’re meeting your RDI of zinc. Given zinc’s importance in overall health, it can be beneficial to take a supplement even if you enjoy meat, as it wouldn’t be too healthy to eat red meat on the daily!
It can be incredibly empowering to understand the individual roles that vitamins and minerals play throughout the body. Zinc is just one of those minerals that has proven across history to be vital for human health and certainly shouldn’t be overlooked if you lead an active lifestyle. Given zinc takes care of so many processes throughout the body, you should aim to include an abundance of zinc-rich foods or begin taking a high quality zinc supplement.
Written by Shannon Davidson
Sports science/nutrition blog writer