- Some research suggests that zinc may help increase testosterone levels.
- Zinc may help increase muscle growth and improve sperm production.
- In most cases, you can get enough zinc with a high-quality, balanced diet—although supplementation is also an option.
Zinc may do more than shorten your downtime the next time you catch a cold (1). The essential mineral plays a vital role in many body processes, including protein synthesis, muscle growth, and wound healing. And for men, it may pack an additional perk. Studies suggest that, like a few other nutrients (including vitamin D, zinc may also increase testosterone levels in healthy men.
Worryingly, you may not be getting enough. Your body can’t produce zinc, and it can be tricky to get your recommended 11 daily milligrams from foods like oysters and red meat.
Exactly how much zinc do you need, especially if you’re looking to increase testosterone? We’re glad you asked.
Can Zinc Increase Testosterone?
Research suggests it’s possible.
In one clinical trial, 100 men with low zinc levels were given either a placebo or a zinc supplement daily for six weeks (2). At the end of the study, those in the zinc supplement group saw a significant increase in testosterone and luteinizing hormone (LH), a hormone that triggers testosterone production in the testes.
In another study, published in the Journal of Exercise Physiology, researchers found that men who took a zinc/magnesium/vitamin B-6 blend for eight weeks saw an increase in free testosterone compared to the placebo group.
And in an early study published in the journal Nutrition, researchers found that older men who had a marginal zinc deficiency and were given a daily zinc supplement for six months were able to almost double levels of testosterone in their systems, going from a starting average of 8.3 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L) to an average of 16 nmol/L at the end of the trial (3).
Impressive stuff, considering the normal healthy testosterone level in an average guy can range from 10 to 35 nmol/L.
Zinc and Sexual Function
In a study, published in the Journal of Human Reproductive Sciences, researchers found that zinc supplementation dramatically increased sexual performance and frequency in rats (4).
The benefit was again linked to testosterone production, with levels of the hormone increasing incrementally based on how much additional zinc the animals were given. You’re no rat of course, but the study’s authors have speculated that the finding will carry over to mankind as well.
A growing body of research is also beginning to suggest that zinc supplements may also help treat erectile dysfunction. Some studies have found that, in men with zinc deficiencies, zinc supplementation restored erectile function, which was also associated with an increase in testosterone levels. (5).
Should I Take Zinc for Low T?
Despite this promising data, some experts say they need more data before they would universally recommend zinc supplements to men experiencing low testosterone.
“Some initially promising research has been conducted, and it does suggest zinc supplementation definitively may increase levels of free testosterone in men,” says Roxana Ehsani, R.D., a Miami, Florida-based registered dietitian nutritionist and board-certified sports dietitian, “but more research and trials need to be done first before we can say that zinc does, or can, increase levels.”
Other Benefits of Zinc for Men
Potentially boosting testosterone isn’t the only perk men may get from getting enough zinc. Here’s what else it can do:
Improved athletic performance and muscle mass
Protein is key to bulking up but zinc helps build new muscle and repair damage to existing muscle.
In one recent study researchers warned that zinc deficiency could have serious consequences on health, particularly in athletes by affecting sports performance (6).
Meanwhile, in a report published by the National Federation of Professional Trainers, certified personal trainer and former competitive bodybuilder Cathleen Kronemer cautioned that sufficient zinc levels should be considered essential to help facilitate muscle-building.
“Zinc plays an essential role in growth. It aids in muscle protein synthesis, which affects sports performance,” says Ehsani. She explains, “A zinc deficiency can inhibit growth and may result in reduced growth hormone production or insulin-like growth factor. These hormones promote muscle growth and are released in the body after muscle strengthening exercises, such as weight lifting.” (7).
A growing body of research suggests that zinc may be important to fertility and virility.
Just how clear are the findings? In a review by Chinese researchers of 20 previously conducted studies on the link between zinc and male fertility, researchers concluded that infertile men had significantly lower levels of zinc in their sperm than men who didn’t have fertility issues. When the infertile men took zinc supplements, semen volume, sperm motility, and the number of healthy sperm increased (8).
So if you want strong and abundant swimmers, according to this study at least, good levels of zinc in your system are a must.
Need another reason to load up on Z? In a separate study published in the journal Advances in Nutrition, Spanish researchers set out to examine which nutrients might have the greatest overall impact on improving fertility. Their not-so-surprising answer? Zinc of course, was one of them, concluding that zinc yields a host of different benefits ranging from increased sperm concentration to better overall sperm motility (9).
Zinc may also be helpful for improving performance between the sheets and fighting off sexual dysfunction. Italian researchers found that men who were given a supplement containing folic acid, biotin, zinc, and the herb golden root (Rhodiola rosea) were not only able to improve their ejaculatory control, but were also less likely to experience premature ejaculation (10).
“Zinc has powerful antioxidant effects and can help to reduce the formation of free radicals,” says Ehsani.
“The fewer free radicals you have in your system—and the less inflammation you have overall as a result of their absence—the lower your risk for a host of different illnesses including cancer, heart disease, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s.” (11)
Because obese individuals tend to have lower zinc levels, there’s even speculation zinc may play a role in how little or how much you weigh and your ability to gain and lose unwanted weight (12).
Get More Zinc
Excited by the science—or just curious to see what zinc can do for you? Adding zinc is easy, and can be done through diet, supplementation, or a combination of the two.
“The RDA or recommended dietary allowance for zinc in men is 11 milligrams a day,” says Ehsani. “You can increase the zinc intake in your diet by eating more shellfish such as oysters, crab, and lobster, which provide some of the best sources of zinc in food,” she says. “Zinc is also found in red meat, poultry, wheat germ, and fortified cereals. Beans, nuts, whole grains, and dairy also contain some zinc.”
While true zinc deficiencies are rare, many men need a regular zinc supplement in order to meet their daily needs.
If you suspect a possible zinc deficiency, ask your doctor to have your levels checked. You may need to fortify your diet with some additional “Z” in the form of supplements.
Ehsani suggests NOW zinc glycinate —”the most easily absorbed form of zinc,” she says. The brand is third-party certified and produced in a GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) certified facility, which helps assure that the identity, strength, quality, and purity of the product are accurate.
Side Effects and Precautions
According to the National Institutes of Health, the safe upper limit dose for zinc for adults is just 40 mg — a limit that some supplement doses exceed. Talk to your physician before taking more than 40 mg because ingesting too much zinc can lead to nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, impaired immune function, loss of appetite, and more.
And as with most OTC vitamins, although rare, zinc can be toxic when taken in excessively large quantities.
For the best results, take zinc with food to reduce the risk of upset stomach and nausea. And avoid taking zinc at the same time you take antibiotics, calcium, or iron supplements—zinc may decrease your body’s absorption of some antibiotics and there’s some evidence that calcium and iron may interfere with zinc absorption.
The Bottom Line
Zinc can play a role in boosting muscle mass and may help regulate sperm quality and testosterone levels. Eating zinc-packed shellfish is a great way to make sure you’re getting enough. Add in meats, eggs, dairy, beans and whole grains for a little more. And supplements are a next-best option.
Hone’s at-home testosterone assessment is the simplest way to uncover whether your levels are low. If you qualify for treatment, TRT can be sent right to your door.