Zinc is likely the manliest mineral out there.
There is a big chance that if you start supplementing zinc or ideally, eating more zinc-rich foods, you’ll experience a boost in testosterone.
But zinc is more than just a T-booster.
Let’s dive in!
Hans here! I increased my testosterone to 1254ng/dl and have been maintaining high T naturally. I’ve turned myself into an Alpha Energy Male.
An Alpha Energy Male with high energy, fast recovery, high sex drive, and confidence.
This is why I research obsessively, experiment and write, and have been doing so for the past decade.
Hope you enjoy and join me on this journey.
What we’ll be covering
- Zinc on testosterone and DHT
- Zinc on aromatase, estradiol and estrogen receptors
- Zinc on dopamine and mood
- Zinc on prolactin
- Zinc on growth hormone and IGF-1
- Zinc improves thyroid hormone production
- Zinc for varicocele
- Zinc on libido and sexual function
- Zinc on sleep
- A few additional benefits of zinc
- Absorption, utilization & nutrient interaction
Zinc on testosterone and DHT
Zinc is one of the most important minerals used for testosterone optimization. This is because it can have a powerful effect on boosting testosterone. However, it will only increase testosterone if you’re deficient in zinc.
Low zinc in the body leads to:
- Low testosterone
- High estrogen
- Very low testosterone-to-estrogen ratio
- Low DHT
- High 3alpha-diol (weak DHT metabolite) and
- An awful DHT to 3 alpha-diol ratio.
A low meat (low zinc) diet can tank your testosterone.
An interesting study was done where they put 22 men on a zinc-deficient diet for 24 weeks to see what would happen to their testosterone (R).
Their diet before the experimental diet was roughly 12.5mg, which is just above the recommended daily allowance (RDA). The zinc content of the experimental zinc-deficient diet was 4.2-5.6mg. 2-3 times less of what they usually consumed.
The low-zinc foods were from a semipurified diet based on texturized soy products with added vitamins and minerals, except zinc. I can’t believe anyone ate that for 20 weeks!
As a result, their testosterone dropped from 1150ng/dl to 305nd/dl after 20 weeks! That’s roughly an x4 drop.
Reducing zinc intake from 12.5mg to 4.2-5.6mg daily reduced testosterone 4 fold after 5 months (from 1150ng/dl to 305nd/dl). pic.twitter.com/ekVWVNQzjx— Hans Amato (@HansAmato) July 8, 2023
As a side note, it’s quite remarkable that their baseline testosterone was 1150ng/dl since they worked in a hospital, which is demanding, can be stressful and has a severe lack of sunlight.
Supplementing zinc can double your testosterone
The same researchers did another study where that supplemented men between the ages of 50 and 80 with 30mg zinc gluconate daily for 6 months (R).
Before the supplemental protocol, their average daily dietary zinc intake was a measly 69% of the RDA. Since the RDA for zinc is 11mg, that would mean they were consuming only 7.6mg of zinc daily.
Over the 6 months, their testosterone doubled from 240ng/dl to 460ng/dl, putting them in the normal range (R).
Another study found that supplementing 240mg zinc daily for 40-50 days increased testosterone by nearly 200ng/dl. And as you can see, DHT also nearly doubled.
Using 120mg zinc twice daily increased testosterone by nearly 200ng/dl in under 2 months.— Hans Amato (@HansAmato) July 9, 2023
Screw supps, eat meat, oysters and organ meat! pic.twitter.com/13mxirVgv1
Zinc increases testosterone mainly by:
- Being a cofactor for the enzyme, 17 β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (17β-HSD), which converts androstenedione to testosterone (R).
- Inhibiting aromatase
- Lowering excess cortisol
- Lowering prolactin
- Increasing dopamine
- Improving thyroid function
- Lowering inflammation
- Improving insulin sensitivity
- Increases undercarboxylated osteocalcin, which is the hormonally active form, stimulate testosterone synthesis (A).
Zinc on androgen receptors
Low zinc leads to low androgen receptors compared to animals eating enough zinc (31 +/- 5.2 vs 84 +/- 11.5 fmol/mg protein) (R). This is because Zn-finger proteins are involved in the genetic expression of various growth factors and steroid receptors (R).
Zinc on aromatase, estradiol and estrogen receptors
The testosterone-to-estrogen ratio in men declines with aging from a high of about 50:1 to half of that, or even a low of 10:1. Higher estrogen activity results in an increased risk of heart disease, weight gain, and obesity (R).
As people ate a diet low in zinc, testosterone starts to decline while estrogen increases. By eating a high-zinc diet, you can prevent this from happening.
Low zinc leads to higher aromatase and estrogen.— Hans Amato (@HansAmato) July 9, 2023
This leads to low testosterone, high estradiol and a horrible testosterone-to-estrogen ratio.
This leads to mood disorders (anxiety, ADHD, etc.), erectile dysfunction, poor muscle tone, etc. pic.twitter.com/DMBOkAA9Zs
Not only does estrogen goes up, but estrogen sensitivity also increases.
It’s been shown, that rats that are deficient in zinc have significantly more estrogen receptors (36.6 +/- 3.4 vs 23.3 +/- 2.2 fmol/mg protein) and lower androgen receptors (6.7 +/- 0.7 vs 11.3 +/- 1.2 fmol/mg protein) (R).
Also, a zinc deficiency increases estrogen sensitivity, indicating more estrogen receptor action on the nuclear fraction. Meaning, once estrogen binds to the estrogen receptor, it enters the nucleus of the cell where it affects DNA synthesis, which will affect bodily functions. Supplemental zinc reverses this excess sensitivity. (R)
Zinc on dopamine and mood
Dopamine plays a big role in motivation, focus, mood, libido and sexual function. Dopaminergic drugs are used as anti-depressants and are commonly used to boost libido in hypo-sexual individuals.
- Increase dopamine receptors.
- Increase extracellular dopamine.
- Inhibits dopamine uptake by neurons.
All of which will strengthen the effects of dopamine.
Noradrenaline is created from dopamine and has similar benefits to dopamine. The new class of anti-depressants is also noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors. Showing that noradrenaline has good anti-depressant effects. Plus, increasing noradrenaline prevents (to an extent) the sexual side effects caused by anti-depressants.
Low zinc leads to low noradrenaline in the brain and restoring zinc levels, restore noradrenaline levels (R).
Zinc on oxytocin
Oxytocin is mostly known for bonding, but it’s also involved in mood and libido. Hypersexual individuals tend to have higher oxytocin than those with lower libido.
Zinc “activates” oxytocin. Zinc directly binds to oxytocin, which increases the affinity of oxytocin for its receptor (R).
Zinc administration at doses between 25-50mg acutely inhibits cortisol secretion (R).
Zinc helps to lower cortisol in a dose-dependent manner.— Hans Amato (@HansAmato) July 9, 2023
As you can see in the graph below, as zinc levels increase in the body (after supplementation; square blocks), cortisol drops (round white circles). pic.twitter.com/NHk6EQ7Ho0
Cortisol is known to lower testosterone, increase frustration and anger, break down muscle, store body fat, increases aromatase, inhibit liver and thyroid function and much more.
Low levels of zinc lead to high CRH (which causes neuroinflammation and depression), ACTH and cortisol. Low zinc also increases 11beta-HSD1, which activates cortisol.
Thus low zinc can keep you in a chronically high cortisol state.
Too much serotonin (and dysregulation of serotonin receptors) contributes to mood disorders, low libido and sexual dysfunction, such as erectile dysfunction, delayed ejaculation, and anorgasmia (no pleasure during orgasm). Sexual dysfunction is one of the most common side effects of SSRI anti-depressants.
Zinc lowers excess serotonin by:
- Enhancing serotonin uptake (R).
- Activating the 5-HT1A receptor. (R) Activation of the 5-HT1A receptor inhibits serotonin production.
- Increasing the density of the 5-HT1A receptor in the hippocampal and cortical areas of the brain (R).
- Inhibiting mast cell degranulation (mast cells release serotonin).
A lot of newer anti-depressants also block certain serotonin receptors, such as the 5-HT2A receptor.
Glutamate is involved in focus, alertness, memory, recall and sexual behavior as it stimulates sexual libido and even testosterone production (R).
Glutamate acts on the NMDA receptor complex and the AMPA and kainate receptors.
Ketamine, an NMDA receptor antagonist, with strong anti-depressant and anti-anxiety effects that can also promote libido. It might be because NMDA antagonism increases dopamine (R).
Zinc is also an NMDA antagonist, but increases the response of the AMPA and kainate receptors, which also has strong anti-depressant effects.
Topiramate which blocks the AMPA and kainate receptors reduce glutamate release and reduce mating frequency (a marker of libido) (R).
In summary, zinc increases glutamate in the following ways. Zinc:
- Reduces glutamate breakdown
- Reduces glutamates’ uptake
- Increases the response of the AMPA and kainate receptors
- Increases dopamine via NMDA antagonism
Zinc supplementation increases BDNF, which increases the growth of new neurons in the brain and ensures your brain stays healthy (R).
α-melanocyte stimulating hormone (α-MSH) is a peptide produced from POMC, which is released from the pituitary and hypothalamus. α-MSH acts on the melanocortin receptors, which promote energy, mood and libido.
The most common libido-boosting peptides Melanotan 2 and PT-141 are also agonists of the melanocortin receptors.
- Is involved in α-MSH release (R)
- Is a direct melanocortin 1 (MC1) and 4 (MC4) receptor agonist
- Potentiates the action of other melanocortin agonists such as α-MSH
- Inhibits the binding of melanocortin antagonists (R).
Zinc on prolactin
Excess prolactin contributes to gyno, depression, erectile dysfunction, low libido and even cancer.
Low zinc intake through diet can lead to high prolactin and increasing zinc via diet or supplementation can help to lower prolactin (R)
Zinc helps to lower prolactin.— Hans Amato (@HansAmato) July 9, 2023
As zinc goes up, prolactin goes down.
Conditions where zinc is wasted, e.g. excessive sweating, stress, kidney disease, etc, can lead to high prolactin. pic.twitter.com/D1KeaU0jri
Zinc on growth hormone and IGF-1
Zinc increases growth hormone and IGF-1, which are needed for sexual function, libido, mood, building muscle, cellular renewal, etc.
Zinc is very important for adequate growth, as it increases IGF-1, IGFBP-3 and GH levels in short stature and normal children (R, R, R). IGFBP-3 is the binding protein that transports IGF-1 into cells for its important actions.
Zinc improves thyroid hormone production
Zinc supplementation boosts the metabolic rate by increasing thyroid function.
- Increasing thyroid hormone production and
- Enhancing T4 to T3 conversion.
- Reducing rT3
- “Activating” the thyroid receptor. Zinc is required for the T3 receptor to adopt its biologically active conformation.
Low zinc can lead to normal T4, but low T3 and high rT3 (R).
Supplementing 30mg zinc for 6 months helps to lower TSH and increases fT4 and fT3. pic.twitter.com/vnXjV3nqwA— Hans Amato (@HansAmato) July 9, 2023
Zinc for varicocele
Varicocele is an abnormal degree of vasodilatation in the pampiniform plexus and the internal spermatic vein.
The incidence of varicocele in the general population is approximately 15%, which increases to 35–50% in men with primary infertility and up to 81% in men with secondary infertility.
Varicocele can lower testosterone by causing oxidative stress and increasing testicular temperature.
Low levels of zinc can lead to:
- Vascular inflammation and weakness (R) (which could predispose someone to varicocele)
- Increase in oxidative stress (Zinc is a cofactor for superoxide dismutase (SOD), which converts the free radical superoxide to hydrogen peroxide)
This then contributes to low testosterone and infertility.
I can’t find any studies showing that zinc shrinks varicocele, but regardless, zinc is helpful.
Zinc on libido and sexual function
When it comes to supplementation, it’s important to use the right dose.
In this study, rats were given 1, 5 and 10mg/day of zinc. The rats supplemented with 1 mg/day did not show a boosting libido or sexual function, whereas the 10 mg/day experienced a reduction in libido (R).
It’s likely due to lowering dopamine synthesis, which leads to an increase in prolactin (R).
Too much zinc can actually lower libido.— Hans Amato (@HansAmato) July 10, 2023
That's because zinc in excess can inhibit tyrosine hydroxylase, the rate-limited enzyme in dopamine synthesis.
I don’t recommend supplementing zinc for most people as getting it from food is by far the best option.
Zinc on sleep
Sleep is crucial for optimal testosterone and feeling good.
Zinc can help improve sleep quality by inhibiting NMDA receptors and modulating GABA and catecholamine signaling.
There is sparse research on zinc and sleep, but according to this study, the highest concentration of serum zinc was found in subjects sleeping a “normal” amount of 7 to 9 h per night, compared to short (<7 h) and long (>9 h) sleepers. (R)
Additionally, oysters improve sleep quality (R).
A few additional benefits of zinc
- Protects the body from oxidative stress by strengthening the body’s defense systems, namely catalase, superoxide dismutase and glutathione.
- Lowers lactate by inhibiting the lactic dehydrogenase enzyme (R).
- Excess lactate contributes to fatigue, brain fog, exercise intolerance, etc.
- Improves cellular pH balance by regulating carbonic anhydrase, which catalyzes the rapid interconversion of carbon dioxide (CO2) and water to bicarbonate and protons.
- Promotes stomach acid production and secretion for better digestion.
- Promotes digestive enzyme production and release (R).
- Helps lower blood pressure
- Improve insulin synthesis and sensitivity
- Improves muscle protein synthesis and the ability to build muscle (R, R, R)
- Boosts immunity by increasing thymulin, a thymic hormone involved in T-lymphocyte maturation (R)
- Reduces inflammation (R, R, R)
- Inhibit histamine and serotonin release from mast cells and platelets respectively (R)
Absorption, utilization & nutrient interaction
To ensure you get the most out of your zinc optimization, follow these guidelines.
- Phytic acid (an anti-nutrient found in many grains and vegetables) significantly inhibits zinc absorption.
- Vitamin B6 helps the body utilize zinc (R).
- Sweating wastes zinc
- Protein intake (meat, eggs, dairy, etc.) and exercise enhance zinc absorption (R, R, R).
- Inorganic iron (25-75mg) decreased zinc (25mg) uptake in a dose-dependent manner. However, there is no inhibition between the nutrients at lower doses. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for iron is 8mg daily and 15mg for zinc. Iron in food will not prevent zinc absorption. The study used inorganic iron, which is not naturally found in plants or meat and will not have the same effect as organic iron.
If you want high testosterone, be stress resilient, optimize sexual function and feel fantastic, you want to make sure your zinc levels are optimal.
I prefer food as my source of zinc. The best zinc-rich food include oysters and red meat (muscle and organ meat). Decent, but likely inadequate sources include eggs, dairy and white meat.
If your diet consists mainly of dairy, eggs and white meat, you’d likely benefit from higher-zinc foods.
Although supplemental zinc can help to rapidly boost zinc levels, it can also decrease copper levels in the body over a period of time (R, R). And copper is also very important for testosterone production.
Here are a few symptoms of low zinc levels in the body:
- Erectile dysfunction (eNOS is zinc-dependent)
- Dermatitis and rough skin
- Hair loss
- Mental slowness
- Delayed wound healing
- Loss of taste
- High ammonia
In terms of supplements, zinc citrate, gluconate, glycinate, and picolinate are good.
Preferred product: Zinc gluconate powder
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