Ashwagandha is growing in popularity and for good reason. In this article, you'll learn why it's beneficial for athletes and how it can improve your training.

Ashwagandha has become extremely popular, because it’s one of the most effective supplements that has ever existed. Clear evidence suggests that Ashwagandha has many potential benefits, regarding training and exercise performance protocols as well as relieving anxiety and stress. We’re going to dig a bit deeper and explore why Ashwagandha is beneficial for athletes and how it can improve your training.

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What Is Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha is an ancient apoptogenic herb, traditionally used for its medicinal properties in Ayurvedic medicine to increase energy, improve overall health, reduce inflammation, and anxiety. 

The term “adaptogen” applies to herbs with phytonutrients that regulate metabolism when your body is under mental or physical stress, and helps you adapt by normalizing system functions, developing resistance to future stress, therefore elevating your body’s functioning to a higher level of performance. It’s similar to how muscle growth occurs, from your body’s adaptation to physical stress, building more muscle to resist future stress. 

Close up shot of Swolverine's Ashwagandha bottle in a gym bag

Benefits Of Ashwagandha For Athletes

Reducing Stress And Anxiety 

Life is riddled with stress, whether mental, physical, or emotional, and stress can be debilitating. Ashwagandha is an adaptogen, and one of its most-well known benefits is reducing stress and anxiety by adjusting your body’s coping mechanisms to stress.

In addition to everyday stressors, reducing stress and anxiety in relation to athletic performance can be very beneficial to performance, mentally and physically. Part of the challenge competitively, is mental acuity and focus. Reducing cortisol levels, can significantly improve exercise performance and competitive outcomes.1

In a double-blind, randomized controlled trial, 64 subjects were administered 300mg of full spectrum Ashwagandha root for 60 days to evaluate the efficacy of Ashwagandha in reducing stress and anxiety. The treatment group exhibited a significant reduction in scores on all stress-assessment scales compared to placebo, improving stress levels and overall quality of life.2

Improving Muscle Mass And Strength

Building strength is one of the foremost goals of gym-goers and athletes alike. More strength translates into more maximal effort, and therefore more muscle mass. Research shows that supplementing with Ashwagandha may significantly benefit and promote more muscle mass. 

Related: Need help building muscle? Take our Free Muscle Building Course

A study published in the Journal Of The International Society Of Sports Nutrition examined the effects of Ashwagandha on strength and recovery. Subjects were administered 300mg of Ashwagandha root twice per day, or starch placebo. Results showed that the Ashwagandha group had significantly greater increases in strength, with a significant gain in muscle size, greater reduction in exercise induced muscle damage, increased testosterone levels, and reduction in body fat.3

Front shot of a brunette female athlete doing cardio on the assault bike in the gym

Enhances Endurance Capacity

With more endurance capacity you can outpace your competition, achieve greater gains in strength, improve time trials, and physically perform at a higher level. More aerobic capacity provides fuel during prolonged exercise bouts.  Research indicates one of the benefits of Ashwagandha for athletes could be an increase in aerobic training parameters. 

Research conducted at the Faculty of Sports Medicine and Physiotherapy, Guru Nanak Dev University, in India investigated the effects of Ashwagandha on cardiorespiratory endurance in elite cyclists. 40 elite cyclists were randomized into two groups, one which received 500mg of Ashwagandha twice daily for eight weeks, and the other placebo. 

The study concluded that after eight weeks of Ashwagandha supplementation, cyclists significantly improved VO2 max, increased time to exhaustion, and improved endurance capacity.4

Improves Sleep 

With our eyes fixated on our phones, tablets, and computers all day, mindlessly scrolling through the heaps of information, interpreting and processing data, the constant exposure to blue light can keep us up at night, disrupting sleep schedules and patterns, leading to adverse effects and sub-optimal productivity.

A study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology evaluated the pharmacological effects of Ashwagandha on sleep. 80 healthy participants were assessed on sleep parameters, such as sleep efficiency, sleep duration, wakefulness, and sleep onset. 

In both healthy and insomnia groups, Ashwagandha produced a significant improvement in all studied sleep parameters, proving to help sleep quality and managing insomnia.5

Improving sleep quality and duration, will provide your body the opportunity to optimally recover, and rebuild muscle mass, for bigger gains, and better performance. 

Related: Hacking Your Sleep 101: Nine Tips For Better Gains

Strong female athlete doing dumbbell tricep kickbacks in the gym

Naturally Increases Testosterone Levels

Natural testosterone levels decline as you age. Low T can cause significant adverse effects such as irritability, fatigue, loss of muscle mass, and tank your sex drive. Evidence suggests that Ashwagandha may have a significant impact by improving testosterone levels.  

A study published in the American Journal of Men’s Health, enrolled 50 healthy male participants in a 16-week double blind, randomized controlled trial, to investigate the effects of Ashwagandha, testosterone, cortisol, and vitality markers. The results showed an 18% increase in DHEA levels as well as a 15% increase in testosterone levels compared to placebo.6

Therefore, supplementing with 300-600mg of Ashwagandha per day, can result in elevated testosterone levels, improving body composition, and overall vitality.

Ashwagandha Dose

Clinical evidence suggests that to elicit ergogenic benefits and reproduce study outcomes Ashwagandha dosage for anxiety, stress, improved testosterone levels, and cardiorespiratory endurance ranges from 300-600mg taken daily for a minimum of 60 days.

Ashwagandha Benefits For Athletes: Takeaway

As an athlete your body demands more. More exerted effort, requires more effective nutrition and supplementation. When it comes to Ashwagandha, the hype is real. As a powerful and proven adaptogen, Ashwagandha can ultimately improve stress and anxiety, athletic performance, cognitive function, sleep, and optimize your performance on all levels. The evidence suggests that adding 300-600mg of Ashwagandha per day can make a substantial difference in your training performance.

  1. Singh, Narendra et al. “An overview on ashwagandha: a Rasayana (rejuvenator) of Ayurveda.” African journal of traditional, complementary, and alternative medicines : AJTCAM vol. 8,5 Suppl (2011): 208-13. doi:10.4314/ajtcam.v8i5S.9
  2. Chandrasekhar, K et al. “A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults.” Indian journal of psychological medicine vol. 34,3 (2012): 255-62. doi:10.4103/0253-7176.106022
  3. Wankhede, Sachin et al. “Examining the effect of Withania somnifera supplementation on muscle strength and recovery: a randomized controlled trial.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition vol. 12 43. 25 Nov. 2015, doi:10.1186/s12970-015-0104-9
  4. Shenoy S, Chaskar U, Sandhu JS, Paadhi MM. Effects of eight-week supplementation of Ashwagandha on cardiorespiratory endurance in elite Indian cyclists. J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2012 Oct;3(4):209-14. doi: 10.4103/0975-9476.104444. PMID: 23326093; PMCID: PMC3545242.
  5. Langade D, Thakare V, Kanchi S, Kelgane S. Clinical evaluation of the pharmacological impact of ashwagandha root extract on sleep in healthy volunteers and insomnia patients: A double-blind, randomized, parallel-group, placebo-controlled study. J Ethnopharmacol. 2021 Jan 10;264:113276. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2020.113276. Epub 2020 Aug 17. PMID: 32818573.
  6. Lopresti, Adrian L et al. “A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Crossover Study Examining the Hormonal and Vitality Effects of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) in Aging, Overweight Males.” American journal of men's health vol. 13,2 (2019): 1557988319835985. doi:10.1177/1557988319835985