ZMA is one of my all-time favorite sleep supplements (well, at least top 5), but it’s a pretty simple mix: Vitamin B6, magnesium, and zinc (both in aspartate form). (Some blends contain theanine, which I’m a fan of; read about my favorite ZMA supplement).
Some people have noted — and correctly so — that many multivitamins contain the same three core ingredients as ZMA. So a question I’ve gotten before basically boils down to: Isn’t a multivitamin simply better because it contains ZMA’s ingredients, plus more vitamins and minerals?
The issue with that question, though, is that it completely overlooks dosages of those ingredients. Yes, multivitamins often contain all three, but usually in smaller doses than standard ZMA. For example, Opti-Women by ON is one of the most popular women’s multivitamins on the market, and while it does contain 3/4 of the zinc as a two-capsule serving of ZMA, and actually has more B6, it contains a fraction of the magnesium content. Magnesium is a vital component of the ZMA formula, and on its own serves as a powerful sleep enhancer.
It’s also important to note that ZMA contains a specific ratio of ingredients originally designed for athletic recovery. I’ve tried supplementing zinc aspartate and magnesium aspartate together from separate supplements, and I never get quite the same benefit for rest as a pre-made formula.
Plus, it’s not all about quantity of ingredients: It’s about quality. The forms of magnesium and zinc you’ll find in ZMA are sometimes the forms you’ll find in multivitamins. However, many multivitamins on the market use lower-quality (cheaper), absorbable forms of nutrients, meaning your body won’t get the full benefit. This isn’t true of all of them, but it’s something to keep in mind: magnesium and zinc will differ in absorbability depending on which compound forms they’re included with.
(For more on why different forms of magnesium can have different effects, check out my MagTech review.)
Overall, I’ve never experienced the same benefit to my rest from any multivitamin as compared to ZMA. Individual use and experiences may vary, but because I eat a pretty wide-ranging diet and plenty of fresh veggies, I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t feel I need a multivitamin at all. However, I’ll be hard pressed to give up my ZMA!