Excessive Zinc Consumption Can Negatively Impact Your Workouts


Every fall, zinc seems to be in the news as research has indicated that it can reduce the length and severity of the common cold if taken at the onset or just prior to the onset of symptoms. You've probably seen zinc advertised in a variety of over the counter cold remedies. This may be a positive breakthrough in dealing with colds, since no one enjoys suffering through the week or more of coughing, congestion, sore throat, etc. Besides aiding in immune function, zinc also assists with DNA synthesis, wound healing, and supports growth and development. However, you should exercise caution as too much zinc can have a negative effect on your health in general and your workouts.

Our society tends to adopt the philosophy that if a little of something is good, a lot is better. Go to the local pharmacy and observe how many medications are advertised as extra strength. Coffee is no longer sufficient as a pick me up. We now have energy drinks that are loaded with a double shot of caffeine along with a number of other chemicals to keep you going. Regular sized meals get replaced by super sized meals. It is easy to see how someone could start consuming the zinc like they're candy to try to knock out a cold. Unfortunately, like the other examples of overconsumption, that can come with consequences. So, let's have a closer look at the possible problems associated with an excess of zinc.

The US Recommended Daily Allowance for zinc is 11 mg/day for adult men and 8 mg/day for women. The National Institutes of Health reports the safe upper limit for adults as being about 40 mg/day. An acute overdose of zinc can cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, loss of appetite, stomach cramps, and headaches. With extended periods of overconsumption, it can cause problems such as lowered immune function, low levels of HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol), and low copper levels.

Most of those side effects are certainly things you don't want to happen; however, low copper levels might not be as obvious of a problem. Among other functions, copper assists in the metabolism of iron, which is essential for the formation of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells that delivers oxygen throughout the body. If you follow this domino effect, an excess of zinc over an extended period could lead to reduced iron absorption in the body which could lead to a decreased ability to deliver oxygen to working muscles and all other areas of the body.

So, this was a roundabout way to illustrate the point that overzealous efforts to prevent and minimize the severity of colds could negatively impact oxygen delivery throughout the body and thus negatively impact your exercise efforts. Your muscles need oxygen in order to break down fats for energy. Reduced oxygen causes reduced energy availability. Again, zinc is definitely needed in the body for a number of reasons, but as with most things in life, it is better in moderation. Consuming a little extra at the beginning of a cold will most likely not adversely affect your health, but continuing that habit for extended periods of time could lead to other health concerns in both the long and short term and slow your progress in the gym.

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