Definition: "An ergogenic aid is any substance or phenomenon that enhances performance "

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Speed up your sprints with ashwagandha

When healthy young men and women use a 500 mg extract of the Indian herb ashwagandha, their maximum sprint speed increases by 3 percent and their VO2max by 7 percent. Sports scientists at the Guru Nanak Dev University in India, who are studying the effect of Ayurvedic herbs on sports performance, discovered that ashwagandha is an interesting herb for athletes. As is Terminalia arjuna.

Ashwagandha [Withania somnifera] has become a well-known supplement in the west. It's promoted as having ginseng-like properties.

And not without reason. In an Indian study of men with fertility problems, a 5g daily dose of ashwagandha boosted the subjects' testosterone levels by a few dozen percent. Some animal studies also indicate that ashwagandha has an anabolic effect. [J Ethnopharmacol. 1994 Dec;44(3):131-5.]

The active substances in ashwagandha are plant steroid compounds, such as withanine, somniferine, somnine, somniferinine, withananine, pseudo-withanine, tropine, pseudo-tropine, cuscohygrine, anferine and anhydrine.

Speed up your sprints with ashwagandha

It's not unlikely that, in high doses, ashwagandha has side effects. There are reports of people who have developed heart palpitations after using ashwagandha as a result of excessive thyroxin production.

Arjuna [Terminalia arjuna] is less well known in this part of the world, but it's available in almost all Ayurvedic webshops. According to recent scientific research, arjuna extracts have positive cardiovascular effects.

The researchers gave 40 healthy male and female students [average age 20] either a daily placebo, 500 mg ashwagandha, 500 mg arjuna or both supplements, for 8 weeks long.

The researchers examined their subjects before and after the 8 weeks. They got the students to sprint, and measured their maximum speed; they got them to cycle and measured their VO2max; and they measured the power the students had in their legs when they did jumping tests.

Ashwagandha increased the maximum sprint speed by 3 percent, the VO2max by 7 percent and the students' average power by 9 percent.

Arjuna had no effect on the maximum sprint speed, but increased the students' VO2max by 5 percent and their average power by 4 percent.

Speed up your sprints with ashwagandha

Speed up your sprints with ashwagandha

Speed up your sprints with ashwagandha

The combination of ashwagandha and arjuna improved the maximum sprint speed by 2 percent, the VO2max by 7 percent and the average power by 11 percent.

The combination also seems to spare the heart and blood vessels and lowers systolic blood pressure [blood pressure during a heartbeat].

Athletes looking to speed up their sprints or boost their oxygen uptake may want to consider using ashwagandha. For athletes who for whatever reason need to take care of their heart, a combination of ashwagandha and arjuna may be an option.

The researchers observed no side effects. "Both drugs appear to be safe for young adults when given for mentioned dosage and duration", they write in their conclusion.

Int J Ayurveda Res. 2010 Jul; 1(3): 144-9.

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