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Improve Athletic Performance and Build Muscle Mass

How Ashwagandha Can Help Improve Athletic Performance and Build Muscle Mass

Ashwagandha is a popular adaptogenic herb used in Ayurvedic medicine in India. It is a natural supplement that offers many benefits to athletes and bodybuilders. Every athlete and bodybuilder wants to push their physical limits and achieve peak performance. 

It can boost strength, increase endurance, recover from injuries, and build muscle growth. 

A recent study on elite athletes found that supplementation with Ashwagandha significantly improved aerobic performance. The improvements were observed in various parameters related to cardiorespiratory and cardiovascular endurance.

This article will show how Ashwagandha can improve performance for athletes and bodybuilders. We will also discuss its safety and optimal dosage recommendations. 

Ashwagandha and Its History

Ashwagandha and Its History
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Ashwagandha is known by different names like winter cherry, Indian ginseng, or sleeping berry. In Indian Ayurvedic medicine for centuries, Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that has been used. Ashwagandha’s root is the most commonly used part of the plant. To make herbal powders, teas, and supplements, the plant’s roots and leaves of Ashwagandha are used. 

It adapts to the body’s needs by strengthening the endocrine and nervous systems. “Ashwagandha” reflects its reputation for providing the power of a horse, with “Ashwa” meaning horse and “Gandha” meaning smell. Ashwagandha is available in various forms, including as a dried root powder, capsules, tablets, extracts, jams, syrups and tea etc.

In recent years, Ashwagandha has gained popularity in the Western world as a natural remedy for a range of health issues. It is commonly used by athletes as a dietary supplement that can reduce stress and anxiety, improve sleep quality, and improve performance.

What are the Properties of Ashwagandha?

Properties of Ashwagandha
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Ashwagandha contains a diverse array of bioactive compounds, including alkaloids, steroidal lactones (withanolides), and flavonoids. Adaptogens are substances that help the body adapt to various stresses. 

It helps with both physical and mental stress and maintains the body’s balance. Ashwagandha is prominent for its various adaptogenic properties.

1. Anti-inflammatory

This makes it a popular choice for those suffering from conditions such as arthritis, as it can help reduce inflammation in the body. It has also been shown to improve immune function, making it beneficial for overall health.

2. Anti-cancer

The herb contains compounds that can help prevent the growth of cancer cells, making it a promising natural alternative for cancer prevention and treatment.

3. Antioxidant

Ashwagandha is rich in antioxidants and thus helps to protect the body against oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is unstable molecules in the human body. Oxidative stress damages body cells and contributes to the development of several health problems, including cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s. 

4. Anti-diabetic

This Ayurvedic herb may aid in controlling blood sugar levels and has been shown to have anti-diabetic properties. It helps individuals to improve insulin sensitivity, regulate glucose metabolism, and reduce the risk of developing diabetes or managing diabetes symptoms.

5. Immune-boosting

Ashwagandha has immune-boosting properties, which can help strengthen the immune system. It can increase the production of white blood cells in the human body.

6. Hormone-balancing

Ashwagandha has been found to have hormone-balancing properties, particularly in supporting healthy thyroid function. It can help regulate thyroid hormones to balance metabolism, energy production, and overall hormone in the body.

7. Cholesterol and triglycerides

The herb, Ashwagandha, has been shown to reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood. It may also help lower LDL (low-density lipoprotein) or “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides.

Ashwagandha’s Impact on Athlete Physical Performance

Ashwagandha’s Impact on Athlete Physical Performance
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Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is an adaptogenic herb that has been widely used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. Its numerous health benefits include supporting stress relief, enhancing cognition, and improving immune function. 

In recent years, it has gained attention for its potential to improve athletic performance. So let’s explore the impact of Ashwagandha on physical performance in athletes.

1. Enhancing Endurance and Cardiovascular Fitness

One of the primary ways Ashwagandha has been found to improve athletic performance is by enhancing endurance and cardiovascular fitness. In a double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled study, Choudhary, Sachin, et al. (2015) found that supplementation with Ashwagandha significantly increased the cardiorespiratory endurance of healthy athletic adults. 1

2. Boosting Muscle Strength and Recovery

Ashwagandha has also been shown to boost muscle strength and aid in recovery after exercise. In a study conducted by Wankhede, Shalini, et al. (2015), participants who supplemented with Ashwagandha experienced significantly greater improvements in muscle strength and size, as well as reduced muscle damage and faster recovery. 2

3. Reducing Stress and Cortisol Levels

Another potential mechanism by which Ashwagandha may improve athletic performance is through its ability to reduce stress and lower cortisol levels. A systematic review of clinical trials conducted by Pratte, Morgan A., et al. (2014) showed that Ashwagandha was effective in reducing stress and anxiety, which could potentially lead to improved performance and better focus during competitions. 3

Ashwagandha’s Impact on Muscle Mass Building

Ashwagandha’s Impact on Muscle Mass Building
Source: Canva

1. Enhanced Exercise Performance

Research indicates that Ashwagandha may improve exercise performance by increasing muscle strength and endurance. A study conducted by Choudhary, Bhattacharyya, and Joshi (2015) found that individuals who took an Ashwagandha supplement experienced significantly greater improvements in muscle strength and size compared to those who took a placebo. 4

2. Increased Muscle Recovery and Reduced Muscle Damage

Ashwagandha’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties may help reduce muscle damage and enhance muscle recovery after exercise. A study by Wankhede et al. (2015) demonstrated that participants who took Ashwagandha had significantly reduced muscle damage and increased recovery compared to the placebo group. 5

3. Boosting Testosterone Levels

Ashwagandha may promote muscle growth by increasing testosterone levels. A study by Lopresti, Drummond, and Smith (2019) found that Ashwagandha supplementation led to a significant increase in testosterone levels in men, which could potentially contribute to improved muscle mass. 6

Other Effective Benefits of Ashwagandha

Effective Benefits of Ashwagandha
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Ashwagandha, also known as Withania somnifera and Indian ginseng, is a powerful adaptogenic herb. While it is commonly known for its ability to help build muscle mass and improve physical performance. 

Ashwagandha has also been shown to have a positive effect on the human immune system and strengthen the body’s natural defences. There are several other benefits, including:

1. Reduce stress & anxiety

Ashwagandha is known to reduce stress and anxiety levels. Studies have shown that the herb can lower cortisol levels, which is a hormone associated with stress. This can help individuals feel more relaxed and calm, leading to improved mental health. 7

2. Improve brain function and memory

The herb contains compounds that can protect nerve cells from damage, leading to improved cognitive function. It can aid in enhancing mental clarity, focus, and concentration. 8

3. Improve sleep quality

The herb has a calming effect on the body, which can lead to improved sleep. Studies have shown that individuals who take Ashwagandha supplements experience improved sleep quality and duration. 9

4. Recovery

It can aid in recovery from fatigue, stress, and muscle damage by supporting the body’s natural reparation process. It collaborates with cortisol, a catabolic hormone that can impede muscle growth and recovery. 10

5. Cardiovascular health

Ashwagandha has been shown to have cardio-protective properties, which can help promote cardiovascular health. It may help lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and improve lipid profile. 11

6. Testosterone level

This Ayurvedic herb supports increased levels of testosterone. High testosterone levels can benefit muscle mass and strength in weight training. It also has a positive impact on sexual performance, libido, and fertility in both men and women. 

Ashwagandha promotes testosterone and DHEA production by lowering cortisol levels. 5

7. Overall well-being

Ashwagandha is a powerful herb that can potentially supercharge your gym results. It has been linked to increased muscle mass, improved fat loss, and enhanced muscle recovery to prevent injuries. Adding Ashwagandha to your routine may help you overcome workout plateaus and improve overall well-being and stamina. 5

Safety and Dosage of Ashwagandha

Safety and Dosage of Ashwagandha
Source: Canva

Ashwagandha is generally considered a safe, natural supplement for athletes and bodybuilders. But, it is essential to understand the safety and dosage of Ashwagandha before using it as a fitness supplement. 

Ashwagandha may interact with certain medications, and it is crucial to ensure that it does not cause any adverse reactions. Ashwagandha is available in various forms, including as a dried root powder, capsules, tablets, extracts, and teas. 

Recommended Limit

Clinical evidence supports a dosage of 300-600 mg of Ashwagandha taken daily for a minimum of 60 days to achieve maximum benefits. These benefits include improved testosterone levels, cardiorespiratory endurance, and reduced anxiety and stress. It is typically taken in capsule form with a high-quality extract containing at least 5% withanolides for the best results.

The dosage may vary depending on the type of product and intended purpose. Also, it depends on factors such as age, weight, and the overall health of the individual. 

Ashwagandha may take time to show its effects. A fitness regimen must be patiently incorporated over an extended period of time. With its proven track record and minimal side effects, Ashwagandha is an excellent addition to any health and wellness routine.

What are the Side Effects of Ashwagandha?

Side Effects of Ashwagandha
Source: Canva

Every athlete and bodybuilder take an Ashwagandha supplement to push their physical limits and achieve peak performance. But, like any other supplement, Ashwagandha also has certain side effects that you should be aware of.

1. Gastrointestinal distress

One of the most common side effects of Ashwagandha is gastrointestinal distress. It can cause stomach upset, nausea, and diarrhoea, especially when taken in large doses. To avoid this, it is recommended to start with a small dosage and gradually increase it over time.

2. A drop in blood pressure

Another potential side effect of Ashwagandha is a drop in blood pressure. It is known to have a hypotensive effect, which can be dangerous for people who already have low blood pressure. Therefore, it is important to consult your doctor before taking Ashwagandha if you have any blood pressure issues.

3. Reaction with Certain Medications

Ashwagandha can also interact with certain medications, including sedatives and thyroid hormones. Before taking Ashwagandha, you should consult your doctor if you take any medication.

4. Not Good for Pregnant Women / individuals with autoimmune diseases

The Ayurvedic herb, Ashwagandha, is not recommended for pregnant or nursing women, as it can impact hormonal balance. It is also not suitable for individuals with autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, as it can stimulate the immune system.

How to Use Ashwagandha for Maximum Benefits?

How to Use Ashwagandha
Source: Canva

Ashwagandha can be incorporated into your daily routine in several ways. 

  • One of the most popular ways is to take it in supplement form. Ashwagandha supplements are available in capsules, powders, and tinctures. When selecting a supplement, it’s essential to choose a reputable brand and follow the recommended dosage instructions.
  • Another way to use Ashwagandha is to add it to your favourite recipes. Ashwagandha powder can be added to smoothies, tea, or even baked goods for an added boost of nutrients. It’s important to note that while Ashwagandha is generally considered safe, it’s always a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider before adding any new supplements to your diet. 

Ashwagandha oil is often used in Ayurvedic massage therapy to promote relaxation and reduce stress. You can also find Ashwagandha in skincare products, such as facial masks and serums.

Wrapping Up

Improve Athletic Performance and Build Muscle Mass
Source: Canva

Ashwagandha is a potent and adaptable herb. It has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine for its numerous health benefits. Ashwagandha also has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, immune-boosting, and brain-boosting properties. Multiple studies have shown that Ashwagandha can significantly increase muscle strength and size. 

It has also been found to improve exercise performance, including both endurance and power-based activities. These benefits are likely due to the herb’s ability to boost testosterone levels and enhance the body’s ability to utilise oxygen during exercise.  

Athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike can benefit from adding Ashwagandha to their supplement regimen. It is a natural and safe way to improve physical performance without any negative side effects. Ashwagandha is an excellent addition to any health and wellness routine.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can ashwagandha enhance athletic performance?

Yes, ashwagandha has been shown to improve endurance, strength, and stamina, making it beneficial for athletes seeking performance enhancement.

Can ashwagandha help build muscle mass?

Absolutely! Ashwagandha can promote muscle growth by increasing testosterone levels, reducing exercise-induced muscle damage, and enhancing muscle recovery.

Is ashwagandha safe for athletes to consume?

Yes, ashwagandha is generally safe when taken within recommended doses. However, it’s always best to consult with a healthcare professional before adding any new supplement to your routine.

References

  1. Choudhary, S., Bodakhe, S. H., & Gupta, S. K. (2015). Assessment of the efficacy of Withania somnifera root extracts for sedentary workers’ endurance and resistance to fatigue. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, 5(4), 249–252. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jtcme.2014.10.004[]
  2. Wankhede, S., Langade, D., Joshi, K., Sinha, S. R., & Bhattacharyya, S. (2015). Examining the effect of Withania somnifera supplementation on muscle strength and recovery: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12, 43. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-015-0104-9[]
  3. Pratte, M. A., Nanavati, K. B., Young, V., & Morley, C. P. (2014). An alternative treatment for anxiety: a systematic review of human trial results reported for the Ayurvedic herb ashwagandha (Withania somnifera). The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 20(12), 901–908. https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2014.0177[]
  4. Choudhary, B., Bhattacharyya, S., & Joshi, K. (2015). Body weight management in adults under chronic stress through treatment with Ashwagandha root extract: A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine, 22(1), 96-106.[]
  5. Wankhede, S., Langade, D., Joshi, K., Sinha, S. R., & Bhattacharyya, S. (2015). Examining the effect of Withania somnifera supplementation on muscle strength and recovery: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12(1), 43.[][][]
  6. Lopresti, A. L., Drummond, P. D., & Smith, S. J. (2019). A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study examining the hormonal and vitality effects of ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) in aging, overweight males. American Journal of Men’s Health, 13(2), 1557988319835985.))

    4. Modulating Cortisol Levels

    Ashwagandha may also support muscle growth by modulating cortisol levels. High cortisol levels can inhibit muscle growth and promote muscle breakdown. A study by Auddy et al. (2008) demonstrated that Ashwagandha supplementation significantly reduced cortisol levels in participants experiencing chronic stress. ((Auddy, B., Hazra, J., Mitra, A., Abedon, B., & Ghosal, S. (2008). A standardized Withania somnifera extract significantly reduces stress-related parameters in chronically stressed humans: A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study. Journal of the American Nutraceutical Association, 11(1), 50-56.[]

  7. Chandrasekhar, K., Kapoor, J., & Anishetty, S. (2012). A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults. Journal of Ayurveda and integrative medicine, 3(3), 111-114.[]
  8. Salve, J., Pate, S., Debnath, K., & Langade, D. (2019). Adaptogenic and anxiolytic effects of ashwagandha root extract in healthy adults: A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical study. Cureus, 11(12).[]
  9. Langade, D., Kanchi, S., Salve, J., Debnath, K., & Ambegaokar, D. (2019). Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) Root Extract in Improving Memory and Cognitive Functions. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 246, 867-872.[]
  10. Wankhede, S., Langade, D., Joshi, K., Sinha, S. R., & Bhattacharyya, S. (2015). Examining the effect of Withania somnifera supplementation on muscle strength and recovery: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12(1), 43[]
  11. Raut, A., Rege, N., Tadvi, F., Solanki, P., Kene, K., Shirolkar, S., … & Kumbhar, L. (2012). Exploratory study to evaluate tolerability, safety, and activity of ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) in healthy volunteers. Journal of dietary supplements, 9(2), 96-118.[]