Long story short:
In young men (n=50, age of ~28 years) participating in a weight training program, given 300mg of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera – standardized to 5% withanolides) twice daily:
- Randomized, Placebo controlled clinical trial (Considered the gold standard set-up)
- Increased muscle strength (bench press, leg extension)*
- Increases in total testosterone*
- Lowered body fat*
- Increased arm and chest size* (Yes, bigger arms and a broader chest)
- Helped adaptation to strength training
- No adverse effects
Ashwagandha is an adaptogen, which means it helps your body adapt to different stressors. It helps to normalize your response to stress, and so if you’re too stressed it helps reduce how you deal with it and if your adrenal glands are too sluggish it can pick them up.
Exercise, is a type of stress, but if done right it’s a good stress to the body. In order for your muscles to grow they need to be stressed with resistance. Ashwagandha here is helping these young men respond to their stress, and when the body responds best to the stressors it can grow and thrive. That’s what we see here with the increased muscle mass, strength and increased testosterone.
The authors don’t explain the explain how, and these smart plants may be outsmarting us. But I do suppose it has to do with reducing cortisol levels. Cortisol, a stress hormone, can have negative effects on growth and testosterone. Just a thought. What I really like about this study is it showed significant improvements in young men’s (~28 YO) T levels, which are normally in the high end (typically). Now I would assume these results would be more significant in older men, that would be a nice follow up study.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see ashwagandha start slipping into some sport supplements.
Wankhede S, Langade D, Joshi K, Sinha SR, Bhattacharyya S. Examining the effect of Withania somnifera supplementation on muscle strength and recovery: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2015;12:43. doi:10.1186/s12970-015-0104-9.