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Ashwagandha For Muscle Growth: Everything You Should Know

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Hailing from ancient Indian ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha is an herb that is gaining a lot of traction for its numerous health benefits. But what about ashwagandha for muscle growth? Today we will answer the question; what does ashwagandha do for muscles? 

Ashwagandha For Muscle Growth. When talking about ashwagandha for muscle growth, yes, it does work. There are several potential mechanisms that could explain this effect; lower cortisol levels, improved sleep and increased testosterone levels.

Ashwagandha For Muscle Growth

Ashwagandha For Muscle Growth: Does It Work Or Not?

The most common supplements that come to mind when we talk about muscle growth are usually creatine, whey protein, and BCAAs. These supplements stand on their own yes, but, the herb known as ashwagandha is becoming popular as well.

With ashwagandha supplementation in conjunction with resistance training, you may experience an increase in muscle strength and mass.

Ashwagandha is an adaptogen, a plant substance that helps the body to adapt to stress. This may result in a reduction of elevated cortisol levels in the body.

Even though the body releases cortisol in normal amounts to adapt to exercises, chronically elevated levels of cortisol can inhibit these functions.

So to answer the question: Does ashwagandha help with muscle growth? Yes, it can help!

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Does Ashwagandha Affect Muscle Hypertrophy?

The data available on this topic is limited. However, existing evidence suggests that supplementing with ashwagandha can be effective in increasing strength and muscle size.

There have been a couple of clinical trials examining the influence of ashwagandha for bodybuilding leading to muscle size and strength in the context of resistance training. These tests indicate that ashwagandha may have a positive impact on factors such as testosterone levels, recovery, and stress.

Trial 1: 

The first one was an eight-week study. Participants took a dosage of 500mg of Sensoril ashwagandha extract or a placebo every day. They engaged in three resistance training sessions each week, targeting the full body. They increased the intensity and volume of their workouts each week over a 12-week period. It was a combination of muscular strength, power, and endurance training.

In the end, there were no differences within or between the groups in muscle mass or body composition. The group supplementing with ashwagandha did, however, gain significantly more upper and lower body strength compared to the placebo group. A 500 mg dose of ashwagandha extract improves upper and lower-body strength, and was well tolerated clinically in recreationally active men over a 12-week resistance training and supplementation period.

Researchers also noted an attenuating effect of ashwagandha on gain of visceral fat compared to placebo. This was reported as a favorable distribution of body mass, or favorable android/gynoid ratio.

Athlete in the gym

Trial 2:

The other study spanning 8 weeks focused on individuals with prior training experience. There were 57 young men between 18 to 50 years old, and were given either 300mg of ashwagandha root extract or placebo twice daily. They engaged in resistance training four times per week, targeting the upper and lower body, increasing the workout intensity and volume each week.

The results showed that the group supplementing with ashwagandha gained significantly more muscle size in the chest and arms compared to the placebo group.

Additionally, the results indicated that ashwagandha enhanced strength in exercises like the squat and bench press when compared to the placebo.

Other studies show similar results; increased strength compared to placebo. Ashwagandha has positive effects on muscle strength in physically active healthy individuals.

1. Effect On Strength

As described in the studies above, ashwagandha does enhance strength. These effects have been observed in athletes and healthy adults.

If you’re taking ashwagandha for strength, here are some ways in which it indirectly contributes to increased strength:

• Stress Reduction

As an adaptogen, it may help the body adapt to stress. Chronic stress can lead to muscle fatigue, so reducing stress may indirectly support strength.

• Better Sleep

When you sleep well, your body has the opportunity to repair and build muscle tissue. Ashwagandha has been shown to improve sleep quality in some individuals. We’ll explore this below.

• Lower Inflammation

Ashwagandha has anti-inflammatory properties, which may curb excess inflammation that can hinder muscle recovery and growth.

• Hormonal Balance

Testosterone plays a role in muscle growth and strength development, and ashwagandha can help maintain testosterone levels.

Ashwagandha has also been associated with improved cognitive function and concentration. It may help you maintain focus during workouts, which is something many trainers struggle with.

Outdoor Workout

2. Effects On Mental Health

Some evidence indicates that ashwagandha can alleviate symptoms of mental health conditions, including depression. However further research is required to fully understand and confirm these potential applications.

The present research does show promising effects of ashwagandha on mental health. It can help people who struggle with motivation and focus for exercise due to poor mental health.

Potential Mechanisms Of Action

We need more research to explain how Ashwagandha extracts improve physical performance and reduce muscle fatigue at a molecular level.

Current studies show that its root extract can enhance cardiorespiratory fitness, and reduce fatigue and recovery time.

1. Indirect Effect Due To Improving Sleep Quality

There is evidence to suggest that ashwagandha can enhance sleep quality. A 12-week study involving 50 adults aged 65–80 revealed that a daily intake of 600 mg of ashwagandha root improved sleep quality and morning mental alertness compared to a placebo.

Another review also displayed anxiety reduction and heightened alertness upon awakening among users. These benefits were evident in individuals dealing with insomnia and those who consumed more than 600 mg daily for a period extending beyond eight weeks.

Improved sleep also has an indirect effect on muscle growth and strength. When you’re asleep, your body produces hormones to rebuild damaged tissue. It also stimulates the growth of muscle fibers. Likewise, if you are not getting enough restful sleep, your muscles will not recover, which will hinder growth.

2. Antioxidant Properties

Antioxidants are essential for our bodies to adapt to exercise but in limited dosages. For instance, some studies found antioxidants like N-acetylcysteine can delay muscle fatigue during a long workout. Based on this, is ashwagandha good for working out? The answer may be yes!

Animal and lab studies have also identified potential ways Ashwagandha’s compounds regulate oxidative stress at the cellular level.

For example, withaferin A, a compound in Ashwagandha, can activate a protein called Nrf2, which controls antioxidant enzymes. It helps cells deal with oxidative stress.

Female Side Lunges

3. Cardiorespiratory Fitness

Regarding cardiorespiratory fitness and endurance, Ashwagandha supplementation has been linked to an increase in red blood cell markers. These effects might explain the boost in VO2 max, a measure of endurance. Some research has shown a connection between hemoglobin concentration in the blood, and VO2 max in athletes.

Both women and men seem to benefit from Ashwagandha supplementation.

How Much Ashwagandha Should I Take For Muscle Growth?

To answer that question, ashwagandha supplementation for muscle growth can vary depending on your level of physical activity and training experience.

If you have limited activity and no training experience, go for a lower dose of ≤300 mg per day. If you are trained or an athlete, you can go for a higher dose of 300–500 mg twice per day.

Important Note: These recommendations are guidelines and may vary with individual responses and goals.

Consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen. It is necessary because individual responses to supplements can vary.

The concentration of withanolides in the Ashwagandha supplement may vary. So choose a reputable product with consistent quality and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

When Should I Take Ashwagandha For Muscle Growth?

You can take Ashwagandha every morning for once-a-day supplementation. Unlike other medications and supplementation, the benefits of ashwagandha are not immediate. You can make it a part of your supplemental routine and take it in the morning after your first meal. This way you can benefit from the herb for the day.

Important Note: Like most supplements, it is NOT recommended to take ashwagandha on an empty stomach.

Alternatively, taking ashwagandha at night with milk before going to sleep is also a good idea. Here is a recipe that contains a blend of spices and adaptogens that help in getting a good night’s sleep. Adaptogens are plants and herbs that have been used as Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. The recipe is as follows:

To a glass of warm milk, add half a teaspoon of ashwagandha extract powder with half a teaspoon of cinnamon powder and a teaspoon of honey. Whisk them all together until properly mixed, and drink it all up!

KSM-66 Ashwagandha By Transparent Labs – Our Recommendation

KSM-66 Ashwagandha by Transparent Labs
  • Item Form: Capsule
  • Best for: Muscular Strength, Reducing Fatigue, Enhanced Recovery
  • Flavor: None
  • Special Ingredients: 5% bioactive withanolides
  • Package Information: 60 servings per container
  • Serving: 600mg
  • Price per Serving (per capsule): ~ $0.33
  • Company Founded: 2015
  • Recommended by Athletes: Hafþór Júlíus BjörnssonTerron BeckhamPaul Sklar

If you’re looking for the best ashwagandha extract supplement, we recommend the KSM-66 Ashwagandha from Transparent Labs. The company claims to have private ashwagandha farms in India. The location has a climate and soil ideal for top-quality ashwagandha cultivation.

Ixoreal Biomed, manufacturer of the ashwagandha extract known as KSM-66®, contains the highest concentration of essential root bioactive compounds.

Each capsule packs a substantial 600 mg of ashwagandha full spectrum root extract. It makes for convenient dosing, requiring just one capsule daily. The capsules are easy to swallow, making the supplement user-friendly.

You can just take the tablet with a sip of water once a day. Apart from strength training, users have also claimed to experience improvement in mood. Some users, however, claimed the product causes itching.

Positives:

  • No artificial anything
  • Non-GMO and gluten-free
  • 600 mg of ashwagandha extract per serving
  • Suitable for vegans

Could be better:

  • Unlike creatine or pre-workout supplements, ashwagandha doesn’t show immediate results

FAQ

Do Bodybuilders Take Ashwagandha?

Yes, some bodybuilders take ashwagandha as a supplement for its potential benefits. These include enhancing testosterone levels, lowering muscle damage and inflammation, stimulating muscle protein synthesis, and reducing stress.

Is 1000MG Of Ashwagandha Too Much?

1000mg of ashwagandha may not be too much for trained individuals and athletes. But it is better to take it in two or three doses every day. Also, consult a physician before determining dosage.

Which Is Better: Ashwagandha Or Creatine?

The choice depends on your fitness goals and preferences. While ashwagandha has gained traction recently for its muscle-building properties, creatine has been tried and tested for decades by athletes all over the world. You can also combine them too, albeit with expert advice.

Should I Take Ashwagandha Before Or After Lifting?

The timing can vary. You can take it in the morning and before sleep, but most studies don’t specify timing with exercise. However, as a general guideline, you can take the ashwagandha supplement 30 minutes before the lifting session.

It is supposed to improve both muscular strength and recovery so taking it before or after a weight lifting session can work for you both ways.

You can take it in a variety of forms, including powdered form, pills, and add it to shakes or juices, but is most frequently found as a powder.

What Does Ashwagandha Do For Lifting?

Ashwagandha benefits for lifting include an increase in muscular mass and strength when taken daily in doses of 600mg per day. The same benefits apply to ashwagandha for weight lifting. 

Conclusion

Ashwagandha is a promising natural supplement for muscle growth. Current data has limitations, but ashwagandha gym benefits include enhanced strength and potentially leading to muscle hypertrophy.

This is why we recommend KSM-66 Ashwagandha from Transparent Labs. It is sourced from top-quality ashwagandha plants cultivated in their native lands of India. This ensures that the product you’re getting has the highest concentration of essential root bioactive compounds.

This supplement can indirectly affect your stress, sleep quality, inflammation, and hormonal balance while also contributing to better muscle development.

However, when considering supplementation, it’s better to consult with a healthcare professional first!

Now that you know everything there is to know about ashwagandha and muscle growth, we’d love to hear your thoughts and experience! Have you tried Ashwagandha for muscle growth? What were your results? Please share your questions and insights in the comment section below.

Also read:

References:

  1.  Bindiya Gandhi, “7 Health Benefits of Ashwagandha, Backed By Science”, Forbes,  https://www.forbes.com/health/body/ashwagandha-benefits, Updated: Jul 6, 2023
  2.  Sachin Wankhede, “Examining the effect of Withania somnifera supplementation on muscle strength and recovery: a randomized controlled trial”, National Library of Medicine, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26609282/,  2015
  3.  “What are adaptogens and should you be taking them?”, UCLA Health,  https://www.uclahealth.org/news/what-are-adaptogens-and-should-you-be-taking-them, February 16, 2022
  4.  Adrian L. Lopresti, “An investigation into the stress-relieving and pharmacological actions of an ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract”, National Library of Medicine, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6750292/, Published online 2019 Sep
  5.  Tim N Ziegenfuss, “Effects of an Aqueous Extract of Withania somnifera on Strength Training Adaptations and Recovery: The STAR Trial”,  National Library of Medicine, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30463324/, 2018 Nov
  6.  Sachin Wankhede, “Examining the effect of Withania somnifera supplementation on muscle strength and recovery: a randomized controlled trial”, National Library of Medicine, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4658772/, Dec 2015
  7.  Diego A. Bonilla, “Effects of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) on Physical Performance: Systematic Review and Bayesian Meta-Analysis”, National Library of Medicine,  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8006238/,  Published online 2021 Feb
  8.  “Exploratory study to evaluate tolerability, safety, and activity of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) in healthy volunteers”, National Library of Medicine, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23125505/, 2012 Jul 
  9.  Sunil B Kelgane, “Efficacy and Tolerability of Ashwagandha Root Extract in the Elderly for Improvement of General Well-being and Sleep: A Prospective, Randomized, Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Study”, National Library of Medicine, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7096075/, 2020 Feb
  10. Bakhtiar Choudhary, “Efficacy of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera [L.] Dunal) in improving cardiorespiratory endurance in healthy athletic adults”, National Library of Medicine, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4687242/, 2015 Jan-Mar

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David Sasha Schulz avatar

Author: David Sasha Schulz
Doctor of Chiropractic, BSc Human Biology, CSCS

Chiropractor – 4 years
Strength coach (CSCS) – 10 years

Sasha is a Chiropractor and Kinesiologist practicing in Kelowna, BC, Canada. He has been practicing Chiropractic since 2019, integrating manual therapy, strength training and programming principles, and nutritional strategies to get his patients optimal results. He currently scratches the competitive itch in fitness, and the occasional endurance race, and plays golf and snowboards for fun. He has an interest in all strength and fitness-related sports.

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