What Does Zinc Do For the Body?
Zinc, mostly known as a metal, is a trace mineral present in alllll of your body. All over.
You got zinc all up in your eyes, liver, bones and muscles.
Zinc is like a helicopter parent—involved in EVERYTHING.
It plays a role in immune systemfunction, healing, cell function, DNA and protein synthesis, metabolism and growth. It also works with a couple hundred enzymes to carry out other biological processes.
Wow, zinc is bussssyyyy.
Zinc and the Body
In particular, zinc is a crucial part of the synthesis of proteins and nucleic acids, and in the degradation of lipids, proteins and carbs.
It is absorbed by the small intestine at around 60-70 percent. It is lost through the kidneys, intestine and skin—during —you guessed it—getting physical.
Zinc is involved in so many processes that identifying if you’re deficient is a bit difficult.
But to name one that is important to athletes: its an important element of amino acids and protein. Zinc ions are connected to amino acids aspartic acid, cysteine, histidine and glutamic acid. 10 percent of proteins bind to zinc and hundreds more transport and circulate zinc.
So, if you want normal muscle protein synthesis and growth, zinc is good, mmmmkay?
Zinc and Performance
Zinc is a key factor in muscle energy production, too. Athletes on low protein and/or low fat diets can suffer a zinc deficiency which can cause fatigue and reduced endurance as well as mental fogginess which can also impair performance.
But zinc is so universal, it goes FAR beyond just athletic performance. It affects so many parts of your body.
The skin, stomach, eyes, muscles, reproductive systems and nervous systems are all noticeably impacted by a deficiency.
Symptoms of Zinc Deficiency
One indicator is when your eyes don’t adjust to the darkness as quickly as they used to. Zinc is required for the synthesis of Vitamin A, which is critical for eye health. As such, with a zinc deificiency, the eyes are impacted.
Another area, the stomach, is affected because zinc is involved with digestion. If you lack zinc, your body does not properly digest food or absorb nutrients. Consequences like nausea, diarrhea and vomiting can occur.
While you should have sore muscles after working out, if they are sore for longer than a couple days, you might be deficient. Because zinc is involved in wound and trauma healing, a deficiency could cause longer recovery.
Same thing goes with your immune system—if you hold onto a cold longer than usual, lack of zinc could be the culprit.
Because zinc moderates neuron excitability which assists in learning—a deficiency would feel like ‘brain fog’.
Other symptoms include skin lesions, hair loss, weight loss, food tasting different and impotence. Ouch.
Get Healthy and Get Enough of the Z
Obviously these are a lot of symptoms that could be a number of other things too, so you know what we are going to tell you to do: go to the DOCTOR if you think you have a deficiency, don’t go popping zinc pills as a cure!
So, now that you know what it does, make sure you’re getting enough in your diet. Eat yogurts, shellfish, beef, spinach, shrimp and oysters..not all together. Because that’s just gross.
And, even though zinc is pretty amazing, it can’t do everything. Make sure your body is stocked with muscle building BCAAs and amino acids it needs to stay healthy, too.