Ashwagandha may sound like a strange word (or kind of like I’m sneezing!) but is a supplement that athletes need to know about.
Used commonly in Ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha is a herb that falls into the category of natural adaptogens.
Adaptogens are herbs that interact directly with the nervous system to help balance out the stress hormones in the body. Ashwagandha has numerous human clinical studies supporting it and some pretty astonishing results that are applicable to the everyday athlete! Not only does it increase overall strength and muscle mass, it can also help curb your sugar cravings by modulating blood sugar levels.
In an 8 week, double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical study, 57 men were split into two groups to test the effects of this herb on their muscle size, strength, and recovery in conjunction with a resistance training program. The group supplementing with ashwagandha had significant increases in all areas tested, including exponentially higher levels of testosterone in comparison to the placebo group.
This study also showed major decreases in body fat percentage. The placebo group lost 1.5% body fat while the group taking the adaptogens clocked in at 3.5%!
Even if you’re someone who skips the weights, ashwagandha can still benefit you when it comes to curbing your sweet tooth. Because it is an adaptogen, it works to bring our stress hormone cortisol back to homeostasis. Cortisol is one of the primary reasons that blood sugar levels so often dip during the day (hello sugar cravings!). Extremely high or extremely low levels of blood sugar have been linked to an excess of adipose fat tissue in the body.
When our blood sugar spikes after eating a carb dense meal, insulin is released by the pancreas, and it triggers our cells to uptake glucose to be used as fuel or stored as fat and glycogen. The problem with most standard North American diets, is that more often then not, blood sugar is spiking extremely high due to an excess consumption of sugar found in processed foods.
This causes the pancreas to produce more insulin than our bodies need, which in turn rapidly lowers blood sugar levels. When our blood sugar levels drop it triggers the release of cortisol. It’s this release of cortisol that signals our bodies to reach for sweets to bring blood sugar levels back up. The problem is, that more often than not, the foods chosen in this moment of panic are ones that spike blood sugar levels too high and start the circle over again.
A double-blind, placebo-controlled study was conducted to see the effects ashwagandha had on chronically stressed individuals and the findings were conclusive. It concluded that daily supplementation of ashwagandha reduced feelings of anxiety and stress in comparison to the placebo group and also lowered serum concentrations of cortisol. In turn, this shows that ashwagandha has the ability to control blood sugar levels by affecting the excess secretion of insulin and stopping cortisol induced cravings in their tracks.
So whether you’re training hard in the gym, trying to stick to your diet, or maybe just trying to chill out a little more, ashwagandha is a supplement that can benefit you! My favourite way to use it is by taking it in a pure encapsulated form (100% Ashwagandha), although you can also find powdered vesions as well.
Chloe Logan is an avid fitness enthusiast, provincially qualified competitive bodybuilder, and a member of Team Reflex. After losing 30 lbs through proper diet and nutrition, she knows what it takes and works hard to motivate and educate others to live a healthy fit life. For more inspiration from Chloe be sure to follow her on Instagram.
Please consult your doctor before supplementing with anything if you’re pregnant, nursing or on medication.
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