Does ZMA Work? My 60-Day Experiment | NoobStrength
Does ZMA Work? Or is it a scam? I did a 60-day experiment to find out!
What’s up everyone! If you’ve ever worked out in your life, chances are, you’ve either taken or entertained the idea of taking supplements. And ZMA is probably something you’ve heard of from time to time. But the question remains, does ZMA work? Or is it just a bogus supplement created to magically remove your money from your bank account?
You might have noticed that supplements can be a bit of a controversial topic in the fitness community. Some people are all for it, others are not. Me personally? Well it depends on the supplement. And the best way to find out if it’s for you, is to test it yourself. Which is exactly what I did with ZMA. To see if ZMA actually works for me, I did a 60-day experiment.
If you are the type of person who is more of a visual learner, you can watch the video version of this blog post here on my YouTube channel.
What exactly is ZMA anyway? And what does it stand for?
ZMA is a fairly commonly taken supplement in the fitness world. What exactly is it? Well its basically Zinc, Magnesium and Vitamin B6 wrapped up in a convenient little package. Usually in a pill form.
ZMA is one of those supplements where I’ve heard very mixed opinions.
There are a lot of people out there who claim that not only does ZMA not work, it’s also a humungous scam for your hard earned money.
On the flip side, I’ve heard of and have met a lot of people who say that not only does ZMA work, its pretty much the Holy Grail of all supplements and would probably sell their own mother for another bottle.
Okay maybe selling their mothers is a bit extreme. But it’s safe to say that ZMA is a bit controversial.
But the general gist of the benefits of ZMA are:
So, to settle this once and for all for myself, I decided to do a 60-day experiment to see if ZMA actually works for me, specifically as a sleep supplement.
Better sleep by itself is already a huge benefit and would improve recovery and gains. And while it would be awesome to track the other benefits of ZMA, realistically it would’ve been a bit impractical.
Most real studies have a lot of people and a control group. But I just have little old me. I also already track my workouts anyways so I know if I’m improving in strength and endurance. But, it would hard to tell if the improvements came from the ZMA or from other factors.
Now before we do an experiment, it’s always a good idea to lay it all out good ol’ scientific method style so we’re all clear.
So the question is: Does ZMA work to improve the quality of your sleep?
Now that we have a question, we need a hypothesis.
As it turns out, I’ve actually taken ZMA before earlier this year, but didn’t track it. But I did remember feeling a bit better rested at night. Was it a placebo? Maybe, but that’s what this experiment is meant to find out!
So based on my previous experience, as well as the experience of others, I decided that my hypothesis is as follows:
During the 30 days I take ZMA, I predict that my sleep quality will be, on average, 10% higher than that of the 30 days I don’t take ZMA.
Why did I choose 10%? Well back when I took ZMA in the past, I remember feeling like I had gotten an extra hour a sleep. 6 hours felt like 7, 7 felt like 8 and 8 felt like 9. It seemed pretty significant so a 10% increase didn’t seem like a stretch.
Now here comes the fun part, the actual experiment itself. Here is exactly what I did:
I tracked my sleep for 60 days. 30 days without ZMA and 30 days with. The app that I used to track it is called Sleep Cycle. It’s an alarm clock app that tracks your movement while you sleep. You move differently during different stages of your sleep so it uses that information to find an optimal time to wake you up within a half hour range you set. You end up getting a percentage that represents how good your overall sleep quality was that night.
Now generally speaking, if you get more sleep, you’ll have a higher sleep quality percentage, which is why I also recorded the duration of my sleep so I can compare those numbers with the percentages. The sleep duration goes from the time I turned on the app when I went to bed until the time I turned off the app when I woke up. So it’s how long I was in bed, not how long I was asleep.
As for the ZMA itself, I used the one made by the brand, Optimum Nutrition.
At the end of the 60 days, I ended up with a bunch of data. Here is the link to all the data I got.
Here are the results that I got at the end of the 60 day experiment:
During the 30 days without ZMA, I slept an average of 7 hours and 7 minutes with an average sleep quality of 75.43 percent.
During the 30 days with ZMA, I slept an average of 7 hours and 30 minutes with an average sleep quality of 77.5.
Just looking at these numbers, it would appear that my hypothesis was quite off. Yeah the sleep quality was a bit higher when taking the ZMA, but I also got 23 minutes more sleep on average so its entirely possible that that is the reason why my sleep quality was higher.
So does that mean the ZMA didn’t work?
Well hold your horses, people! That is only the most obvious interpretation of the data. Lets dig a little bit deeper and see if there are some saving graces for the ZMA.
Lets look at the number of days where the sleep quality was 80% or higher.
For the days I didn’t take ZMA, there were 14 days with an 80% sleep quality or higher. For the days I did, there were 14 days with an 80% sleep quality or higher!
Well shit. It’s exactly the same! This really isn’t making ZMA look any better.
Well what if we split up the results by sleep time?
Without ZMA, there were 16 days where I slept between 7 and 8 hours. Average sleep time was 7 hours 22 minutes and average sleep quality was 79.875%. With ZMA; there were 20 days where I slept between 7 and 8 hours. Average sleep time was 7 hours 25 minutes and average sleep quality was 77.1%.
Wow. I mean, it’s still a very small difference, but I actually had lower sleep quality while taking ZMA.
I also created a category for under 7 hours and over 8 hours. Here are the results of those:
Without ZMA, there were 11 days under 7 hours, with an average sleep time and quality of 6 hours 27 minutes and 65.18% respectively. With ZMA, there were 6 days under 7 hours, with an average sleep time and quality of 6 hours 31 minutes and 67.83% respectively.
Without ZMA, there were 3 days where I slept over 8 hours. The average sleep time and quality was 8 hours 12 minutes and 89.33% respectively. With ZMA, there were 4 days where I slept over 8 hours. The average sleep time and quality was 9 hours 26 minutes and 94% respectively.
As you can see, the ZMA won in those two groups, but the sample size was a lot smaller and (in the case of the over 8 hour group), I got a lot more sleep. So the results are just not definitively in favor of the ZMA.
So what is the verdict of this experiment? Does ZMA work or not?
Well based on the results, I have to say that my hypothesis was wrong. It would appear that ZMA does not work to improve sleep quality and that any previous effects I might have felt in the past were likely just placebo.
But you know what they say; a placebo effect is still an effect! So there’s that.
I realize I could have controlled the experiment better by going to bed at the exact same time every night, but that’s not really practical. I also realize that I might get a lot of hate from the ZMA lovers out there, but I really don’t give a shit.
Overall, I’m a little disappointed. I was actually a fan of ZMA. But I guess it didn’t work for me.
If you missed it earlier, here is the link to the data that I collected during the 60 days.
Has anyone out there tried ZMA or is taking it right now? What are your results like? And does ZMA work for you as a sleep aid? Does ZMA work to improve your strength and endurance? Anything ZMA related at all! I would love to hear about it in the comments.
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I’m a National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) certified personal trainer and StrongFirst Bodyweight Instructor based in West Los Angeles and Santa Monica. I offer 1-on-1 personal training, group/couples training, and online fitness coaching!
If you’re interested in working with me or have any questions, feel free to reach out!