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Study under review: Examining the effect of Withania somnifera supplementation on muscle strength and recovery: a randomized controlled trial.
Being stressed sucks. However, stress has its benefits. It’s been long-known that a moderate amount of psychological stress can improve physical performance. And, as many of our readers probably know, exercise is a stressor on the body that actually strengthens it in the long run.
Recently there has been increased interest in a class of herbal supplements known as “adaptogens” (some common ones are shown in Figure 1). Adaptogens are purported to help the body cope with both physical and mental stressors. Well-known examples of adaptogens include ginseng and rhodiola.
Another adaptogen that may help in this context is the root of Withania somnifera, also known as ashwagandha, Indian Ginseng, or Winter Cherry. Ashwagandha is a perennial shrub that grows primarily in parts of Asia, and is a member of the nightshade family. Ashwagandha root is classified in traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine as a rasayana, or a rejuvenator. Initial research on ashwagandha has indicated that it may live up to this classification. Supplementation of ashwagandha in humans may decrease the stress hormone cortisol, increase testosterone, and even improve cardiovascular performance. Yet many of these studies were published in lower-impact journals, which may somewhat call into question the validity of the results.
With that many effects to its name, it is plausible that ashwagandha may also be beneficial for strength training. This is the question the authors of the study under review intended to answer.
Ashwagandha is classified under the loose umbrella of “adaptogen,” meaning an herbal supplement that helps the body cope with stressors. The purpose of this study was to determine if ashwagandha supplementation could improve strength gains during resistance training.
Other Articles in Issue #14 (December 2015)
Investigating vitamin D as a performance enhancer
Having sufficient vitamin D levels has been associated with better muscle recovery. This trial not only looks at the question of causality, but also addresses some potential mechanisms of vitamin D’s benefit for exercise.
Trans fats: “natural” might not mean “healthy”
In the nutrition community, a common message has been that artificial trans fats are bad, however natural trans fats are not only okay but beneficial. This trial on blood lipids puts that to the test.
High versus low fat diets for insulin sensitivity
More body weight means more risk for metabolic syndrome. But the question of whether more fat (and especially saturated fat) impacts insulin sensitivity hasn’t been adequately addressed until now.
Exercise, with a (tart) cherry on top!
Berries have burst onto the research scene in recent years. Tart cherries have shown some of the most promise in certain areas, leading to this study of powdered tart cherry on exercise recovery.
Interview: Dan Pardi MS PhD(c)
Dan Pardi is an entrepreneur and researcher whose life’s work is centered on how to facilitate health behaviors in others.
Does the Food Guide make my butt get fat?
By Francy Pillo-Blocka, RD
We’ve covered antioxidants and strength training before. This study is a bit different — it investigates whether vitamin C and vitamin E might impact adaptations to endurance exercise.
I <3 green tea
When it comes to curbing cardiovascular disease, it’s not all about reducing cholesterol. Green tea may help prevent oxidation of LDL, as is explored in this trial looking at green tea catechins both in vivo and in vitro.
Investigating slow carbs for metabolic rate
Glycemic index, glycemic load, insulin index: only one of these is widely known by the public. But when it comes to keeping weight off, does glycemic index and total carb content actually have any impact?