The truth behind Ashwagandha
ASHWAGANDHA THE ADAPTOGEN
In the last few years, adaptogens - herbs and mushrooms thought to have health benefits, have become increasingly popular in trying to improve health and wellbeing. One such natural remedy is the ancient medicinal herb – Ashwagandha. Not only does it sound good to say, but repeatedly saying it, already goes a long way to reducing stress, anxiety and improving your overall mood. It is not just hear say though; there has been an increasing number of clinical trials that have reported some very positive results. I’m Gareth Nicholas, Head Nutritionist at Maximuscle, let us go through some of potential benefits and advantages in taking Ashwagandha..
Below is just a few result findings from scientific studies of Ashwagandha. Of course, more research is needed to cement Ashwagandha as a clinically sound adaptogen with approved EFSA health claims, but this herb is definitely growing in the right direction.
Benefits to Ashwagandha supplementation
- Improves physical performance (strength/power, cardio fitness and recovery) in healthy adults and athletes.
- Cognitive benefits, reaction time and attention in an older population.
- Ashwagandha supplementation improved overall quality of sleep.
- Improved diet-induced obesity by enhancing energy expenditure via promoting mitochondrial function in adipose tissue and skeletal muscle.
I reiterate that more research is required to explicitly support the above benefits, its worth talking about the potential modes of action. The how and why Ashwagandha works.
How does Ashwagandha work?
Like many herbal plants, the secret seems to lie with the antioxidant properties of the root extract. This has and will continue to split the scientific community. It has long been understood that a level of oxidative stress is essential to instigate the adaptations to physical training. However, non-direct exercise stressors caused by poor nutrition, inadequate sleep and overtraining, are likely to blunt potential adaptations, rather than promote them. In spite of this, antioxidant studies have shown that having the right dose at the right time can actually delay muscle fatigue and prolong exercise, therefore providing an opportunity to do more, work harder and ultimately see greater results.
Still in the early stages, but animal and in vitro studies have identified that root extracts seems to identify particular molecular and metabolite targets. This could account for why these physiological adaptations are seeing results rather than a blunting of reactive oxygen species (ROS) as a consequence to strength and power training.
For cardiovascular exercise, Ashwagandha supplementation has been reported to promote red blood cells and other haematological markers while preventing oxidative stress. A perfect combination to aid any increases in VO2max, the number one marker for cardio fitness. Not skipping over the research finding that Ashwagandha has shown to promote testosterone production in healthy males.
Last but not least, Ashwagandha has shown to not only improve but also induce sleep and therefore further promote training adaptations, exercise recovery and rehabilitation.
Too good to be true?
Reading through the potential benefits and how Ashwagandha works you could be forgiven to jump straight on to google and start buying it by the truckload, but as always nothing is that straight forward. It certainly seems that Ashwagandha can play a positive role in promoting physical performance, but we should not just take research studies in isolation and apply these results to everyone.
It is also worth mentioning, that I have not referred to the source, type or amount of Ashwagandha that is required to elicit these results. Looking through the current research, consumption timings varied across the day, with morning and evening being most popular. Dosages and the related results range from 120-1250mg per day. It appears that higher dosages (300-500mg twice-a-day) were preferred for individuals undergoing strenuous training. Lower dosages were used more in non-active or untrained participants.
For ingredient quality, Ashwagandha supplements can be created from the stem, roots or leaves of the plant; however, research has shown that the roots are safe, the purest and well tolerated up to and including 600mg of Ashwagandha per day, for 8 weeks without any adverse reactions.
Stand aside for MAX-ZMA
MAX-ZMA contains 200mg of KSM-66® Ashwagandha. KSM-66® is a branded, full spectrum extract of Ashwagandha (preserving all the goodness during production). KSM-66® provides the highest concentration of extracts available, by harvesting just the roots and strictly avoiding the leaves from production.
We suggest taking MAX-ZMA before bed. It is my belief that ashwagandha, zinc, magnesium and vitamin B6 are proven sleep and recovery aids, working in synergy with your body clock and hormonal changes. MAX-ZMA should be consumed on an empty stomach, as zinc, in particular, competes for absorption with calcium, therefore reducing its effectiveness and nutrient bioavailability, if consumed with food. The last and more anecdotal reason for evening consumption is that MAX-ZMA supplementation is to help reduce stress, anxiety and help you to relax. Exactly what we are looking for in a healthy bedtime routine.
As with all supplements, try to improve your daily diet through the foods you eat. Ensure that you are maximising on natural goodness, but if a good night’s sleep still eludes you then maybe MAX-ZMA is just the support you need.
- Pérez-Gómez J, Villafaina S, Adsuar JC, Merellano-Navarro E, Collado-Mateo D. Effects of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) on VO2max: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Nutrients. 2020 Apr 17;12(4):1119. doi: 10.3390/nu12041119. PMID: 32316411; PMCID: PMC7230697.
- Ng QX, Loke W, Foo NX, Tan WJ, Chan HW, Lim DY, Yeo WS. A systematic review of the clinical use of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) to ameliorate cognitive dysfunction. Phytother Res. 2020 Mar;34(3):583-590. doi: 10.1002/ptr.6552. Epub 2019 Nov 19. PMID: 31742775.
- Deshpande A, Irani N, Balkrishnan R, Benny IR. A randomized, double blind, placebo controlled study to evaluate the effects of ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract on sleep quality in healthy adults. Sleep Med. 2020 Aug;72:28-36. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2020.03.012. Epub 2020 Mar 21. PMID: 32540634.
- Lee DH, Ahn J, Jang YJ, Seo HD, Ha TY, Kim MJ, Huh YH, Jung CH. Withania somnifera Extract Enhances Energy Expenditure via Improving Mitochondrial Function in Adipose Tissue and Skeletal Muscle. Nutrients. 2020 Feb 7;12(2):431. doi: 10.3390/nu12020431. PMID: 32046183; PMCID: PMC7071232.
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