Do I Need Zinc?

Building a robust immunity is all part of a holistic approach to coaching and training. So how do you minimise your risk of getting sick? 

There are many nutrients that contribute to a healthy immune system.

Today’s focus is on ZINC. Athletes may be more susceptible to being deficient in zinc because exercise, particularly strenuous and endurance exercise, increases zinc requirements, encourages zinc loss through sweating, and changes zinc transportation and metabolism.

In nutrition, zinc plays the most critical role in supporting athletes and immunity.

ZINC SUPPORTS IMMUNITY AND SO MUCH MORE

Zinc regulates several crucial processes in both your innate and adaptive immune system.  Being deficient in zinc can lead to athletes becoming more susceptible to respiratory illness, particularly in the colder months. 

Apart from zinc’s well-established role in immunity, this mineral, contributes to protein structure, regulates gene expression, metabolism and is the second most abundant trace element in the body after iron.  Zinc deficiency can impact an athlete through hormone dysregulation (testosterone, thyroid, and growth hormones to name a few) and may affect erectile function and fertility.

Zinc is essential to maintaining optimum performance due to its function in metabolism and healthy cell division – essential in repairing damaged tissues after you exercise.

Studies show being deficient in zinc can lead to a reduction in the number of fast-twitch muscle fibres and muscle mass and performance decline.  For Masters Athletes this is of particular relevance as aging is also associated with sarcopenia, the age-related loss of muscle mass, muscle strength, and physical performance.

Zinc also helps maintain blood sugar control and assists with muscle contraction during exercise, glucose metabolism, and glycogen storage.

Zinc also plays an essential role in antioxidant production by increasing antioxidant activity and inhibiting free radical production that may damage tissues, impact liver function, and prevent muscle exhaustion.

WHERE TO FIND ZINC 

The most concentrated sources of zinc are contained in animal products, particularly meat, seafood and dairy.   Vegan and plant-based athletes may be more susceptible to zinc deficiency due to reduced dietary intake, lowered gastric acid (which is zinc dependant) and higher phytate consumption.  Phytates found in plant-based zinc rich foods such as legumes can inhibit zinc absorption. 

Soaking nuts and seeds and legumes prior to cooking is a great way to minimise this issue and allow for greater micronutrient absorption.

SUPER CHARGE ABSORPTION

The gastrointestinal tract plays an important role in maintaining total body zinc homeostasis by regulating zinc absorption and excretion. In order to boost your absorption, the addition of a probiotic may be beneficial. Choosing the best probiotic can be confusing.

In certain situations, zinc supplementation may be recommended. The amount ingested, supplement form, and the timing of zinc matters. This is where a qulaified Nutritionist with an interest in sport is beneficial rather than self-prescribing. You’ll definitely want to avoid zinc toxicity. High zinc levels can have a detrimental impact on your performance through anaemia, copper and iron deficiency and unpleasant gastrointestinal side effects.

TESTING FOR ZINC

60% of zinc is stored in muscle and 30% in bone therefore serum may not be the best measure of zinc homeostasis.  A mineral test can be another alternative method of assessing zinc levels and is available through my clinic.

If you need help building a robust immune system, book an appointment today https://eatinginmind.com.au/contact/

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