Huge increases in muscle strength, muscle size, and testosterone – massive decrease in body fat and muscle damage post-workout. What more could a man want for his fitness goals?
Every now and then, I come across research on a medicinal herb that totally blows my mind and leaves me asking “why haven’t we heard about this?” This always has me running to my medicine cabinet, where I keep my bulk herbs, and dreaming up new concoctions, tinctures and mixtures.
This was exactly the case when I came across this gem from the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (an open access research journal on sports supplementation and performance). As always, I checked out the research methods and publication process of the article, and was delighted to find it met all the criteria for a solid, trustworthy source of new information. And about that new information: it’s staggering.
Let me ask you active men out there: if you could increase your fitness gains overall by 35% or more by taking a supplement, wouldn’t you be crazy to not take it? That is, of course, when it shows no side-effects, as is the case with this supplement: Ashwagandha. The only downside here is in not taking it and missing out on its potent effects.
And about those effects, let’s get straight to the important bits!
First, what is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha (pronounced Ash-wah-gone-duh) is a plant with a long history of use in India’s Folk medicine. It has been used for a variety of conditions, including: stress, chronic fatigue, male infertility, and low immunity. You could think of it as an Indian Ginseng, because the general health-promoting effects are similar, with Ashwagandha being far less stimulating. I’ll go ahead and add ‘massive improvements in male fitness gains’ to the list of benefits.
Interested? Read on!
In the study, 57 people were randomly assigned to either take a placebo (28 unfortunate souls who unknowingly took starch pills) or Ashwagandha (29 lucky people who gained much from this experiment). Current fitness levels were tested and recorded, and all participants underwent resistance training (weight lifting, essentially) for 8 weeks.
So, what happened when they compared the two groups at the end? The difference was staggering.
For those who value strength and function, Ashwagandha is your choice supplement. While both groups in the study experienced strength gains over the 8 week period (as expected of a proper resistance training program), the difference in strength gains between the two is astonishing. The average for the placebo (starch pill) group, measured by a one-rep maximum on bench press, improved by about 57 pounds. Not bad, starch pill guys, not bad. However, the Ashwagandha group improved on average by a massive 101 pounds. That’s nearly double.
If your goal is to transform your body and to achieve a fit, strong look, Ashwagandha can help there as well. So, what did the researchers find? I’m going to drop the units of measurement – just to simplify things – but the difference is clear. Comparing the groups side-by-side, the Ashwagandha group’s muscle growth was: about 40% more at the arms, about double at the chest, and around 20% at the thighs. This is a no-brainer. Imagine training with a friend, and overall he puts on 40% more muscle over a year than you do – from one supplement! If you didn’t know any better, you would suspect he was using some ‘other’ substance.
Like liquid gold for a man’s health and happiness, and lacking in such a large percentage of the male population, testosterone levels going up is exactly what we want for fitness and (of course) masculinity. So, how did the Ashwagandha group compare this time? You probably already know. But you probably wouldn’t have guessed this: the Ashwagandha group’s testosterone increase from the resistance training program was around 5.5 times greater than the placebo group.
A primary goal for some, fat loss is another great benefit of Ashwagandha (while under a resistance training program, as in the study). The results speak for themselves once again: the placebo group lost on average 1.52% body fat, and the treatment group lost 3.47% body fat. Two times the results for the same amount of effort.
Lastly, let’s take a look at the recovery difference in the groups. The researchers measured creatine kinase, a marker of muscle damage found floating around in the blood. Higher levels of this muscle protein indicate slower recovery. Since percentages and units won’t make a lot of sense here, I’ll borrow some words from the study to sum it up: “the results showed that recovery is substantially higher in the Ashwagandha group than in the placebo group.” That’s just icing on the cake to me.
To summarize, Ashwagandha is a man’s best friend if he’s looking to be as fit as he can be. The difference in muscular improvements and general fitness level indicators could separate a hobbyist from a pro – an athlete from a world-class athlete. Or, Ashwagandha can just speed along the process of your own, personal fitness goals. If you’d like to start taking this supplement, I highly recommend the Himalaya brand Ashwagandha (670 mg caplets) found here, as it contains almost identical properties to the type and dosage used in the study. If you’d like to replicate the dosage used in the study, take one capsule in the morning and one before bed. I personally take about twice that dosage, and have never experienced any side-effects.
So, with nothing to lose and everything to gain, there’s no excuse to not give it a shot! As always, let us know your thoughts/experiences in the comments!
S. Wankhede, et al. “Examining the effect of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) supplementation on muscle strength and recovery: a randomized controlled trial.” Journal of the International Society of Sport Nutrition. 2015, Web Accessed 2015
(Study details: Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Double-Blind, Clinical Trial, Human Participants [age 18-50] [57 total], 8-Week Period)