Category: Exercise

Ashwagandha Improves Athletic Performance

Ashwagandha is an important herb in traditional Indian medicine because of its wide-ranging health benefits. As it turns out, there’s a lot of mainstream science surrounding this ancient herb that validates its potential in terms of benefit.

One recent study was designed to determine if providing Ashwagandha could have an effect on the aerobic capacity in elite athletes. The study involved dividing 40 athletes into experimental and placebo groups. The experimental group took 500 mg capsules of Ashwagandha twice daily for eight weeks, while the placebo group took capsules of starch.

The researchers performed baseline studies of the cyclists and measured their aerobic capacity in a variety of ways with some fairly sophisticated equipment. After eight weeks they repeated the evaluation and compared the two groups.

At the end of the study the differences is between the two groups were found to be significant, and in fact this improvement was seen in all the various parameters that were evaluated. The authors concluded:

To date, most of the properties of Ashwagandha have been studied, investigated and reported only in sedentary healthy subjects having low fitness levels. Thus, this study was designed to analyze its effectiveness in improving performance in well-trained athletes. Considering the fact that it is difficult to detect minor changes in elite athletes, this study was the first of its kind to document the significant improvements in aerobic performance with regard to cardiorespiratory and cardiovascular endurance of elite athletes. Thus this study supports the reference to Ashwagandha as the ‘queen of herbs’.

Ashwagandha is a classic ayurvedic herb. Ayurveda is one of the oldest forms of medicine, dating back thousands of years, and practitioners of this form of medicine have long known about the utility of Ashwagandha.

Now, we’re beginning to understand more of the science that might explain why Ashwagandha has wide ranging effects in human health with other studies demonstrating reduced inflammation, improve response to stress, lower levels of anxiety, and even a role in cancer treatment, although most of the research with respect to these issues has been done in laboratory animals.

In terms of explaining how Ashwagandha may have proven so beneficial with respect to these athletes, laboratory studies involving animals have shown that it increases hemoglobin and red blood cell count. Certainly other effects of Ashwagandha may have come into play in terms of its significant effectiveness with respect to these athletes and I would expect that with time, we will learn more as scientists continue to explore this intriguing herb.

  • TechnoTriticale

    The subject diets were unspecified, and presumably full-time glycemic. Results with athletes on VLC or keto diets would be interesting.

    The placebo “starch capsules” are, of course, no such thing, but a common confounder in what passes for modern nutrition science. This might be a “control”, if the effects are well understood for the subject population, but that might be asking too much of these researchers.

    I’m suspect that “(CCRAS) and Dabur India Ltd.” were pleased with the result, given that the Conclusion reads like marketing copy.

    • Kent J Grégoire

      Okay, so which 2 or 3 does consumerlab rate to be highest quality?

      • TechnoTriticale

        re: Okay, so which 2 or 3 does consumerlab rate to be highest quality?

        These passed (as of 2015-10, it will change over time):
        The Vitamin Shoppe’s plnt™ by V® Ashwagandha
        Pure Encapsulations Inc. Ashwagandha
        Nutraceutical Corp. Solaray Ashwagandha

        They didn’t rank these by quality. They have further info on how to choose and dose. Frankly, anyone consuming supplements needs to subscribe to CL. They are doing the job most people think the FDA is doing, but isn’t.

        The cacao report in particular is pretty sobering…

  • SandyandKenny Samuels

    Can it reduce anxiety and could you take it while weaning off 5mg of Valium?

    • maria

      I was taking a large amount for awhile and it did seem to induce a peaceful feeling.

  • houyhnhnm

    How does it work?

  • Jerry

    Great news for me! As a 67 year old health care provider AND martial artist, it is wonderful to know that Ashwagandha can likely assist my performance in continued combative arts training. It’s exciting to find that this research supports what many have known for so long. I am also an advocate of Indian Tulsi teas, and believe in the famous quote by Hippocrates, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.”

  • Deb Doherty

    Could it treat cardiotoxicity in cancer survivors?

  • Jake Brooks

    This is a fantastic article. I am really trying to learn more about ayurveda and this is a great starting point. I shared the article to http://www.daocloud.com so more wellness enthusiasts can learn from it.

  • thomas

    I am a runner and use ashvagandha daily. It’s very clear to me when I take Ashwaganda for a period of time my performance go up. I can run faster and do not get as tired as I get when I don’t take the pills. The question is if its considered as doping?

    • David Perlmutter

      You’d probably have to speak to the governing body of your sport to get an answer to that.

    • Jody Alexander Williams

      I would not worry if its doping or not. Once it helps with your running is already a A++. But there is a possibility that it may be banned in the future along with others like Creatine and Arginine. I also agree with your comments about Ashwa.

  • Lisa Gorskaya

    Do you recommend people with MS to take adapеogenes like this one?

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