Ashwagandha, commonly known as Indian ginseng or winter cherry, is one of the most valuable medicinal herbs in traditional Indian medicine. The plant is also used as a dietary supplement as it contains a variety of nutrients and phytochemicals. Ashwagandha is a Rasayana (Rejuvenating Tonic) in Ayurveda. The plant roots are known as rasayanas because they promote good health and longevity by augmenting defense against diseases, the aging process, revitalizing the body, and creating a sense of mental well-being.
Ashwagandha Benefits for Athletes and Bodybuilders
Ashwagandha is a classic Ayurveda herb that offers several health benefits to the average person. But, when it comes to elite athletes and bodybuilders, the benefits are just as good.
Let's review some of the significant benefits an athlete or a bodybuilder can reap from supplementing Ashwagandha:
A study of 2015 published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition took on the long-standing claims of Ashwagandha boosting strength.
They took 57 young men and divided them into two groups. Subjects in the test group were supplemented with 300 milligrams of Ashwagandha twice daily, while the control group consumed starched placebos. They all tested their one-rep max strength on the bench press and leg extension and then performed the same training sessions for eight weeks. At the end of eight weeks, they all tested their one-rep max strength. Compared to the placebo group, the group consuming Ashwagandha gained significantly more strength. The placebo group packed on an average of 26.4 Kgs onto their bench press, the Ashwagandha consuming group, packed on 46 Kgs on an average. Similar results followed with the leg extensions too.
Increases Muscle Size
The study above also concluded that the subjects could build considerably more muscle compared to the placebo group. There could be two explanations for this - the increase in strength enabled the subjects to lift more and pack on muscle mass and consumption of Ashwagandha leads to the rise in testosterone levels in the body, enhancing the muscle size.
Decreases Cortisol Levels and Provides Energy
Cortisol is a chemical secreted in the body that is catabolic in nature, meaning it encourages muscle breakdown, fat storage and enhances recovery. Ashwagandha assists the body to oversee the release of cortisol. This herb regulates vital physiological processes, including rapidly returning the stress levels to normal. Due to its stress-regulating effects, Ashwagandha makes the body more energy efficient. Rather than letting stress consume cellular energy or both mental and physical tasks, Ashwagandha increases the Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) levels, the body's cellular energy currency. Ashwagandha lessens the enzyme that breaks down ATP, therefore not bankrupting the energy currency. Not only does Ashwagandha decrease the breakdown of ATP, it also increases cellular energy by boosting levels of succinate dehydrogenase (SDH), an enzyme found in the mitochondria (the part of the cell responsible for cellular respiration). It functions in mitochondrial cell respiration and energy generation and plays a role in tumor suppression. Ashwagandha increases energy production in muscles by making mitochondria function more effectively. Ashwagandha also increases creatine levels, which in turn generates ATP, providing rapid energy.
Increases VO2 Max
Supplementing with Ashwagandha significantly increases the cardiorespiratory endurance and improves VO2 max (the amount of oxygen the body uses during exercise). In a study, 50 endurance athletes were supplemented with Ashwagandha for twelve weeks. The performance of their VO2 max improved by 13.78 % compared with the placebo group.
To know more on VO2 max, read our blog – What is VO2 Max? & Why is it Important? You also can check your VO2 max by using our VO2 Max Calculator to know your maximum aerobic ability.
Withanolides - Ashwagandha's Primary Compound
Ashwagandha has many bioactive compounds and thereby exerts antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulatory activities. The plant extract and its bioactive compounds come in handy to prevent and treat many diseases, such as arthritis, impotence, amnesia, anxiety, cancer, neurodegenerative and cardiovascular diseases, etc.
What are Withanolides?
Withanolides are the active ingredients or an adaptogen found in Ashwagandha. Ashwagandha tends to work the best when it includes a high concentration of withanolides. Withanolides have physiological actions that help fight inflammation and reduce stress and cortisol levels. It also enhances metabolism. About 40 withanolides are found in Ashwagandha, each having a different neurochemical effect and benefits on the body.
The Bottom Line
Adding Ashwagandha to the supplement stack can enhance both the aerobic and anaerobic performance of an athlete. Before buying an Ashwagandha supplement, always remember to check the Withanolides content on the ingredients list to reap the best results. Epicvita Maximult for Men contains 20mg Ashwagandha with 7% Withanolides (highest possible purity) in one serving. Consider Maximult Men as your daily multivitamin to reap the benefits that Ashwagandha has to offer.