Ashwagandha Improves Athletic Endurance and Muscle Strength

September 19, 2016 | Wellness Resources

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Ashwagandha Improves Athletic Endurance and Muscle Strength
Ashwagandha, also known as Withania somnifera, is a valued herb of the Indian Ayurvedic system of medicine. Although it is best known for its abilities in boosting stress tolerance and balancing thyroid hormones, its body rejuvenating properties reach even further. Multiple studies have been performed demonstrating ashwagandha’s ability to boost immunity, lower cholesterol, balance blood sugar, reduce anxiety and depression, reduce cortisol, and combat the effects of stress. There’s no doubt about it, the benefits of this adaptogenic herb are quite impressive!

Furthermore, recent investigations have looked at ashwagandha’s abilities to help improve athletic performance. One study out of the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition reported that ashwagandha supplementation is associated with significant increases in muscle mass and strength, indicating that it may be useful in conjunction with a resistance training program.

Within the study, 57 young male subjects between 18-50 years of age with little experience in resistance training, were divided into a treatment and control group and followed for 8 weeks.
Subjects in the treatment group received 300 mg of ashwagandha twice daily while the control group consumed starch placebos. Following baseline measurements, both groups of subjects underwent resistance training for 8 weeks and measurements to assess efficacy of muscle strength were repeated at the end of the training period.

Compared to the placebo subjects, the group treated with ashwagandha had significantly greater increases in muscle strength on the bench-press and the leg-extension exercises and significantly greater muscle size increase at the arms and chest. The subjects receiving ashwagandha also had greater reduction of exercise-induced muscle damage as indicated by the stabilization of serum creatine kinase levels, a greater increase in testosterone level, along with greater decrease in body fat percentage.

Studies have also shown that ashwagandha can improve athletic performance by boosting endurance during physical activity due to its unique anti-stress properties. One study in particular found that when lab rats were given ashwagandha, they actually were able to swim nearly twice as long compared to the same type of rats that were not given the supplements. Researchers believe that the increased endurance seen in the rats is mainly due to the extract’s ability to balance adrenal hormones, most notably cortisol, that are involved in physical exertion.

Furthermore, studies performed on well-conditioned athletes indicate that ashwagandha also helps improve physical endurance by increasing oxygen carrying capacity in the blood during exercise. In a study performed on teenage hockey players, ashwagandha was given to 16 players while a placebo was given to 16 other players. After taking 500mg ashwagandha capsules twice a day for 8 weeks, players in the experimental group had better hemoglobin levels and improved VO2max (capacity to carry oxygen) in blood compared to players in placebo group. This demonstrates that ashwagandha improves energy supply to muscles during exercise.

Overall, ashwagandha is an adaptogenic superstar that can have some tremendous health benefits. Not only does it possess properties which promote stress tolerance, hormonal health, and overall body rejuvenation, research now also shows that ashwagandha is an important herb to promote athletic performance, improving both physical endurance and muscle strength. So, if you’re looking for a nutrient with exceptional benefits on both mind and body, ashwagandha is the supplement for you!

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