Withania somnifera, commonly known as Ashwagandha or Indian ginseng, is a perennial flowering shrub that is commonly used in Indian traditional (Ayurveda) medicine. In Sanskrit, Ashwagandha means “the smell of a horse”, as it is believed to produce vigor and strength in those who take it. In scientific terms, Ashwagandha is known as an adaptogen, which means it increases the body’s ability to handle stress and fatigue by maintaining hormonal balance.
Recent research published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition investigated the effects of taking an Ashwagandha root extract supplement on muscle mass and strength in healthy young men undergoing an 8-week weight-training program. In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study, the researchers reported that those who took Aswagandha root extract (300 mg, twice daily) had remarkably greater increases in upper and lower body strength, upper body muscle size, and fat loss compared to placebo. These results were (at least partially) due to the 15% increase in serum testosterone levels observed with Aswagandha treatment.
ACTION POINT: As with most herbal supplements, choose extracts that have been standardized to the active component. In the case of Ashwagandha, products should be standardized to % withanolides. Based on the current study, we recommend taking 300 mg Ashwagandha extract (standardized to 5% withanolides) upon waking and before bed.
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. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015 Nov 25;12:43.