Zinc is an essen­tial min­er­al need­ed for immune func­tion, pro­tein syn­the­sis, tes­tic­u­lar func­tion, testos­terone pro­duc­tion and wound heal­ing.

Zinc defi­cien­cy direct­ly caus­es loss of lean body mass, which is restored with zinc intake. Even a slight defi­cien­cy of this ele­ment hin­ders human growth and devel­op­ment.

Important mineral

It’s no sur­prise that ath­letes need more zinc than seden­tary peo­ple. The vari­ety of func­tions of zinc is due to its role in sta­bi­liz­ing enzymes, some­what like vit­a­min C. It per­forms more func­tions than oth­er micronu­tri­ents com­bined.

How much is required?

The rec­om­mend­ed dai­ly intake of zinc is 11 mg for adult men, 8 mg for women, and 13 mg for women who are preg­nant or breast­feed­ing. How­ev­er, these rec­om­men­da­tions are based on out­dat­ed mea­sure­ment method­olo­gies that under­es­ti­mate zinc require­ments by almost 50%. Adding an approx­i­mate­ly 20% increase in zinc require­ments for those who exer­cise intense­ly, the rec­om­mend­ed dai­ly intake is:

  • 20 mg for men
  • 14 mg for women

There are only a few lim­it­ed stor­age sites for zinc in the body, so it must be con­sumed reg­u­lar­ly, ide­al­ly dai­ly.

Foods High in Zinc

  • Oys­ters
  • Beef liv­er
  • Crab meat
  • Beef, minced meat
  • Veal
  • Chick­en (red meat)
  • Shrimps
  • Pork
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Rice and pas­ta

With­out red meat, organ meats, or shell­fish in the diet, it is dif­fi­cult for an ath­lete to get enough zinc. Most starch­es are not the best sources because phyt­ic acid in legumes and grains reduces the bioavail­abil­i­ty of zinc by ~20%.

For a suf­fi­cient amount of this micronu­tri­ent, you need to con­sume about 1 kg of chick­en per day, more than 300 g of nuts or almost 0.5 kg of beans. Not sur­pris­ing­ly, glob­al zinc defi­cien­cy is esti­mat­ed to affect between 17.3% and 31% of the pop­u­la­tion, and female body­builders also often do not con­sume enough zinc.

Main practical recommendation

Zinc intake main­ly requires dai­ly con­sump­tion of red meat or shell­fish. If you don’t eat them, you should prob­a­bly add a zinc sup­ple­ment. But first, con­sult your doc­tor.