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4 Ways Ashwagandha Can Enhance Your Fitness Routine

4 Ways Ashwagandha Can Enhance Your Fitness Routine

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Nothing can quite compare to the euphoria you experience after a good workout. Your endorphin levels are high, and you’re flooded with a gratifying sense of accomplishment. It’s as exhilarating as the realization that your body is changing, becoming faster, stronger, and more flexible.
One of the most crucial things for someone who leads an active lifestyle is to provide their body with the nutrients necessary to support more rigorous routines. Building endurance requires you to push your body just a little harder without causing any harm. Various dietary supplements have been formulated to help in this process, but before you purchase any, there are three things that you should consider:
  • Does it aid in muscle recovery?
  • Will it increase your athletic endurance?
  • Can it reduce exercise stress?
Ashwagandha is an evergreen herb grown in Asia that has been clinically proven to offer fitness enhancement via these three benefits. The herb acts as an adaptogen, helping the body deal with the stress of an intense workout.
So what can you expect when using Ashwagandha in your fitness routine, and how can you reap the maximum benefits for your athletic goals?

Ashwagandha and Cortisol

In today’s busy world, stress is one of the biggest issues individuals are facing. It has no favorites, from the stay-at-home mom to the campus student, the janitor, and the 7th-floor  executives.
The body’s response to a stressor, such as a lion randomly walking into your compound, is important. It is what enables us to run or fight. However, in a world where lions are not a common threat, people still have stress levels equivalent to those of the caveman era, only the stressors are not as quickly resolved. The result is consistently high levels of cortisol in the body.
During a high-stress situation such as a workout or walking into your home, and screaming because the coat hanging on the rack looks like a serial killer waiting for you; the body releases adrenaline.
This familiar hormone causes the following:
  • Increase in heartbeat and breathing for maximum oxygen intake
  • Sharpened senses such as hearing, smell, and sight
  • Release of blood sugar and fat from storage in the body for higher metabolism and energy release
Once the threat is resolved, the adrenal glands stop producing adrenaline and the body begins returning to a state of homeostasis. However, if the stress, whether physical or emotional, persists, the body produces cortisol.
Cortisol is a catabolic hormone produced by the adrenal glands to regulate energy and immunity during high-stress situations and keep the fight or flight response going. Continued levels of cortisol cause muscle breakdown, fat storage, and impaired muscle recovery. This is because the body begins to break down the muscle-building blocks in our bodies (amino acids) to keep the energy levels high continuously. It also increases your appetite and craving for sweet, fatty, and salty foods. This can serve as an impediment to your fitness goals: despite consistently working out, you experience limited results.
Studies have shown that Ashwagandha may reduce cortisol levels in the body by up to 27%, thereby mitigating many of its repercussions. The herb has a moderating effect on HPA axis activity in adults experiencing stress. The HPA axis activity is what enables the release of stress hormones; by making them less reactive to stressors, it reduces cortisol levels.
This, in turn, prevents muscle breakdown and enhances your strength training. The reduction in cortisol also reduces appetite and enables a better breakdown of fat in the body, aiding in weight loss. Additionally, lower cortisol levels may reduce inflammation in the body and lead to faster recovery after workouts.

Ashwagandha Effects Beyond Cortisol

Flower of an ashwagandha plant, Withania somnifera

Ashwagandha has other effects on the body that enhance physical training. First, the herb has been shown to improve muscle recovery through reduced levels of creatine kinase (CK) in the body. Working out, especially strength training leads to muscle damage, which increases the levels of creatine kinase. A study done among healthy male participants showed reduced CK levels among participants who took Ashwagandha during resistance training for 6 weeks compared to a control group that was on placebos. This indicates better muscle recovery and less fatigue, which in theory allows you to train more.
The herb also contains withanolides, which are anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. These may reduce inflammation and soreness after intense exercise sessions.
Furthermore, Ashwagandha aids in the increase of VO2 max. VO2 max is the maximum rate at which the lungs, heart, and muscles can use oxygen effectively during exercise. This improves the intake of oxygen in the body during cardio workouts. When doing aerobic workouts such as cycling and running, the ability of your lungs to take in and circulate more oxygen builds endurance and increases training time.
Interestingly, recent studies suggest that taking ashwagandha can increase testosterone levels in both men and women. Beyond its vital role in the reproductive health and fertility of both sexes, testosterone has been known to improve strength and muscle building.

So now that you have completed your workout, how can ashwagandha aid in recovery and self-care?

Ashwagandha as a Self-Care Tool

practicing self care

Self-care is a critical aspect of physical training that many people overlook. The more rested, nourished, and calm you are, the better the fitness results. Ashwagandha is a great tool to add to your post-workout self-care practices.
The herb may improve your sleep across different parameters, such as duration, onset, and quality. Sleep is not just an essential period of rest, but also an important self-care practice that improves our mood, physical recovery after workouts, and even appetite.
Research shows it is also possible that Ashwagandha influences GABAergic and serotonin activity, which changes your mood and reduces stress. It may be used to help reduce anxious thoughts and enhance a calm and lighter mood.

Combining Ashwagandha with Other Supplements

Ashwagandha, on its own, is used as a fitness supplement because of its adaptogenic nature. It supports the athlete's body by enabling it to handle more stress and shortening recovery time.
However, it can also be combined with other well-known pre-workout supplements, such as caffeine. This complementary combination can improve the overall workout performance. Caffeine is a stimulant, and when combined with an adaptogen like Ashwagandha, it gives you a prolonged energy boost without feeling jittery.
The herb can also be combined with other herbs, such as Kava, to induce muscle relaxation and improve recovery time post-workout.
Ashwagandha and Kava have very similar effects on the body, and taking them together may produce stress relief, reduce anxiety, and improve sleep, which are all very beneficial to a fitness regime.

Using Ashwagandha in Your Fitness Routine

athletic man running in the city

Ashwagandha is an herb that has been used for centuries in the ancient Indian medicinal system, Ayurveda. In modern medicine, the adaptogen is considered safe and proves beneficial for various applications. It is, however, important to be cautious when adding any herbal supplements to your diet, so consult your doctor before taking Ashwagandha.
As an athlete or fitness enthusiast, your body can use all the support it can get to enhance its resilience during workouts and its recovery post-workout. Ashwagandha is a safe and simple way to start. You can do this by adding a scoop of powder to your smoothie or enjoying beautifully crafted Ashwagandha and Kava Dark Chocolate Bars. They are made with 67% cocoa for an  Omega-3 boost and offer all the incredible fitness benefits of two ancient herbs.

Until next time, happy exploring, and mind your mind!

FDA Disclaimer: The statements made regarding these products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The efficacy of these products has not been confirmed by FDA-approved research. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. All information presented here is not meant as a substitute for or alternative to information from health care practitioners. Please consult your healthcare professional about potential interactions or other possible complications before using any product. The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act requires this notice.

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