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Ashwagandha: Strength of a Horse with Peace of Mind

What is Ashwagandha Powder?

Ashwagandha is a well known Ayurvedic supplement that many people take for its stress-relieving and anti-anxiety benefits. However, its name implies a much different function. Also known as Withania somnifera, Ashwagandha means ‘Smell of Horse,’ which refers to the supplement’s distinct smell as well as the conventional ideology that it will give you the power and virility of a horse.

Ashwagandha for Physical Performance

ashwagandha plantWhile Ashwagandha powder may not truly confer the power of a horse upon you, there is scientific evidence to back up its claim as a performance enhancer. Many performance supplements are limited in their scope; they commonly boost performance for athletes in tandem with an exercise program, but do not improve performance for sedentary individuals. Ashwagandha is rare in that it works for both groups.

One study looked at healthy, but primarily sedentary individuals. Each participant was given 750-1250mg of Ashwagandha extract per day for a 30-day period. Despite a complete lack of exercise, participants were able to increase their lower back performance by 15.4% and their quadriceps output by 21.5%. [1] Ashwagandha has also proven effective for boosting lean muscle growth and decreasing fat in sedentary individuals, although in minute amounts. [1]

A different study aimed at elite cyclists measured Ashwagandha’s ability to affect maximal oxygen consumption (VO2 max), which indicates relative aerobic physical fitness. Participants were given 500mg of Ashwagandha extract for an 8 week period. The results were impressive. Individuals VO2 max increased by 12.5% and their time to fatigue increased by 7.2% as well. [2] This means that Ashwagandha not only increased these elite athlete’s aerobic fitness, but also boosted their exercise duration, allowing them to perform better for longer periods of exertion.

In addition to improving physical performance, Ashwagandha can also reduce Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL), also known as the “bad” cholesterol. In studies, Ashwagandha reduced LDL cholesterol by 10%, regardless of whether the participant had high cholesterol or not. [1, 13, 14]

When it comes to virility, Ashwagandha has some interesting benefits. Supplementing with Ashwagandha can improve sperm quality by regulating reproductive hormones levels and oxidative stress. [9] It is also able to boost testosterone in infertile men, though further study is needed for men not affected by this condition. [9]

Ashwagandha for Anxiety

Find the Correct Ashwagandha Dosage for AnxietyAshwagandha is a powerful adaptogen, meaning it is an efficacious way to prevent the effects of physical and mental stress. [3] Ashwagandha is able to reduce cortisol levels, a hormone that releases in response to stress as well as suppress neuron excitation as a direct effect of stress. [4, 10, 11] Plus, Ashwagandha, like l-theanine, is effective at improving social interactions by reducing anxiety. [4]

Ashwagandha is also great for fatigue, another hallmark of stress. In fact, one study showed that Ashwagandha combined with counseling was able to reduce anxiety symptoms by 56.5%, while individuals given a placebo only saw an anxiety reduction of 30.5%. [5] However Ashwagandha isn’t just known for its anxiolytic effects, it is also an effective method for improving mood. [4]

Ashwagandha for Cognition

Ashwagandha is a neuroprotectant and generates antioxidant enzymes within the brain. [6] This supplement is also able to stimulate neurogenesis, which boosts the growth of brain cells and communication between neurons; it also plays a part in recovering from cognitive decline. [7] Ashwagandha has some anti-amnesic benefits as well, which have positive implications for age-related memory loss. [8]

Ashwagandha is also able to improve longevity. In one study, Ashwagandha supplementation resulted in a 20% increase in cellular lifespan. [12] Ashwagandha is also able to protect brain cells against oxidative damage. [12]

Ashwagandha Dosage

The proper Ashwagandha dosage is going to depend on the extract strength. For an Ashwagandha Extract containing 2.5% Withanolides, a standard dosage is 500mg two to three times per day.

Ashwagandha Review

Video Transcript

The reason I’m taking Ashwagandha is mostly for performance purposes, because I’ve heard claims that it can increase performance in fitness and exercise. I like to work out. I do a lot on my time. I like to lift a lot of weights. Also, I’ve heard that it’s really good at increasing sociability.

Now, I’m not exactly anxious. When it comes to social encounters I’m pretty social, but I don’t look forward to them. I think that’s something pretty cool that Ashwagandha Is capable of. I know a lot of people have the same issue and concerns, so if those claims hold up, that would be pretty awesome.

I meant to mention that I’m also interested in the research showing Ashwagandha to be an effective cognitive enhancer. I want to find out personally how well it does that. Researchers in Japan discovered that it’s capable of causing neurogenesis, which is basically causing brain cells to grow, and making them more easily capable of communicating with one another, which increases cognition.

To set a baseline of where I’m at now,I tested myself with dual n-back tests, which is basically used to assess working memory. Before taking Ashwagandha I scored 88%, which is all right but nothing too impressive. After taking Ashwagandha at 200 milligrams, I waited about 15 minutes for it to kick in, and then I did the dual n-back test again and scored 70%. To make sure my results were accurate, and I wasn’t distracted by anything, I did it again. I actually scored less this time, at 57%.

So, it definitely had an effect on me. I felt really out of it, and a little loopy. The Ashwagandha has a tendency to have that effect, so it wasn’t exactly the best thing for working memory. At the end of this, I’ll be testing myself again, with another dual n-back test, but not after having dosed Ashwagandha , just after waking a little bit. Now I have an idea of whether or not it actually improved my cognition, or whether that’s mostly for people with brain damage, and other diseases that the study showed.

Day one of taking Ashwagandha , I decided to take 400 milligrams before I went to a workout, which, on this date, was boxing. I did that about an hour before. It kicked in about 15 minutes afterwards, and I didn’t necessarily feel too tranquilized, which was good, because you don’t want to be too relaxed when you’re boxing. But, I felt a little out of it, somewhat of a detached state. It wasn’t too bad.

I went to work out. Had a great workout. I noticed I was very relaxed, very loose, and I was reacting naturally, which is ideal when you’re boxing, versus forcing anything. I was in a great mood. I was really almost annoyingly in a good mood, and I was very sociable, which is different when I’m working out, boxing especially. I tend to keep to myself at that time in particular.I didn’t feel any kind of slowdown or none of that that I expected, which was awesome. So, that’s day one.

Day two, I split my 400 milligram doses over the day. Two 200 milligram doses and I noticed the same things as day one. The same effects – the same calming effect – within 15 minutes. Other than that, there was really nothing noticeable this day.

Day three was a bit more factful than day two. I took my 200 milligram pills in the morning. It kicked in almost immediately. I had an improved mood, and I felt more clear-headed in my priorities. It seemed more obvious. I’m pretty sure that was because I was less stressed, so I was functioning a little more, mentally well. I was thinking more clearly.

My second dose, I decided to go with 400 milligrams because the 200 milligrams wasn’t affecting me quite as much as I had hoped, and seeing as how I’m bigger than most people – I’m 250 pounds – I figured maybe I should be taking a bigger dose because of my weight.

The 400 milligram dose, I actually only feel a bit out of it, and I still felt a bit anxious mentally in the same situations, which was strange, because normally I wouldn’t be so anxious in those situations. What was really interesting was even with the bit of anxiety that I was feeling, I felt more motivated to deal with those situations than I normally would, prior to taking Ashwagandha .

It was an increase in anxiety, but there was also an increase of the drive to deal with that specific anxiety. Anybody that’s dealt with anxiety, knows that there’s usually more of a desire to escape, rather than face the situation. It compounds upon itself. I think it’s pretty cool that I had more of a motivation to deal with the situation, rather than get out of there.

Something I forgot to mention about day three was this really intense feeling of detachment from everything. It’s almost that feeling when you’re dreaming, except you’re wide awake and you’re not quite sure if you’re dreaming or awake. A really uncomfortable feeling.

Day four, that feeling went away quite a bit and I was feeling much more sociable than even prior to that. I actually almost went up to some random guy at the gym and started telling him something, which is something I – that’s just, you know, you don’t do.

Part of me wonders if the dreamlike feelings are a result of some kind of chemical change or something, because the day before, I felt completely different from day four. That dreaminess was gone, but this day I felt very sociable, and I went out. I typically spend my weekends a little more isolated. It’s just how I usually prefer it, but I wanted to go out. I was pretty sociable with people in general. I thought the effects would have subsided by day four, but it just seemed like they continued to increase and benefit me.

Day five there was not much to report. I just felt a little less inhibited, and the anxiety effects were a little less noticeable. I think this is where [Collin’s time 07:38] set in, but not so much.

Day six was just about the same as day five. There was not much to report, and the effects of Ashwagandha felt diminished quite a bit. But, they were still noticeable enough.

Day seven, the effects of AstroGin aren’t coming on quite as strongly as they were before, but they’re still somewhat noticeable. I think it’s one of those things you just grow accustomed to, and it kind of works in the dark now. It’s not so much that it stopped working, or you grow too tolerant of it. It’s just that you grow used to it, for lack of a better term.

I’ve noticed that my sleep has improved a lot, because I do have trouble sleeping big time, at night. Getting to sleep. Typically, I’ll lay in bed for 30-40 minutes at a time, with my eyes closed, and nothing happens. But with this, after about 10 minutes, I’m out. I’m asleep, which is pretty awesome, because normally I have a lot of trouble getting to bed, staying in bed.

As far as negatives, the only real thing I can think of is the taste, which I don’t think is that bad, but I also don’t really think pramiracetam or piracetam are that bad tasting, so my opinion probably doesn’t count on this one.

The only drawback I can think of right now of Ashwagandha , is that I’m feeling it may be making me feel a little too relaxed and too laid back in certain situations where I don’t want to be relaxed or laid back. For example, getting something done by a due date. Or, let’s say, when I’m boxing, and I’m a little too relaxed about the guy punching me in the face. That’s not something where you just want to be overly calm.

Basically, I’m just saying that stress, in certain situations, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Also, I’m starting to think that it’s making me a little sleepy during the middle of the day, so I may be switching up my dosing regimen. We’ll see.

Sources

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23125505
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23326093
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17959291
  4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23439798
  5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19718255
  6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10816336
  7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15956813
  8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15711595
  9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19501822
  10. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1718335
  11. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19444606
  12. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19587106
  13. http://www.lifeforce.net/pdfs/withania_review.pdf
  14. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11116534

Mind-Body Connection Stack Critique

A reader recently wrote in asking for my input on their theoretical stack. After looking it over I realized this was a fairly extensive question that deserved a detailed response.

Many nootropic stacks are geared toward boosting one particular thing, usually memory or intelligence. But what about a stack that doesn’t stimulate a certain area per-se so much as give you an all-around platform for mental and physical health?

Keeping your brain and body healthy while building a strong mind and body connection is a sure fire way to see cognitive improvements across the board. It’s not just about enhancing your brain: it’s about giving your body the nutritional tools to keep itself in tip-top shape. Supplementation can be tricky, though, since overstimulation of one part of your brain can have negative effects on others.

If you’re looking for a more holistic stack, it’s crucial you have the right mix of supplements taken at the right time in the right combinations. With that in mind, here’s a three-part daily stack designed to maximize your brain’s own innate potential.

Morning (before meal):

Caffeine 50 mg
L-theanine 100 mg
Noopept 20 mg
Lion’s Mane Extract 1000 mg

Morning (after meal):

Pramiracetam 250 mg
Choline Bitarte 500 mg

Before work-out (or other exercise):

Rhodiola Rosea 250 mg
ALCAR 500 mg
Ashwaganda Root 950 mg
Lion’s Mane 1000 mg

Evening, before bed

L-theanine 100 mg
Valerian Root 200 mg
Magnesium 400 mg
GABA 400mg

Now it’s time for a closer examination of the how and why of this stack. Essentially, it’s targeting three crucial aspects of holistic health: focus, energy, and rest. A substance-by-substance breakdown of how you’re benefitting from this stack:

FOCUS

Caffeine/Theanine: Caffeine’s stimulatory effects aren’t exactly a secret; caffeine is the most common nootropic, even though it’s not usually perceived as such.  Here’s the thing: it’s way more than a jittery energy booster that makes you crash a few hours later.

Caffeine increases levels of numerous neurotransmitters – norepinephrine, acetylcholine, dopamine, serotonin, epinephrine, and glutamate [1]. All of these are associated with focus and mental performance. Its critical downside is its notorious “crash”. This is where a theanine supplement comes in.

Theanine, found naturally in green tea, boosts and normalizes your GABA function [2]. Broken down, this has a calming affect which is directly synergistic with caffeine. Add a spoonful of a theanine in your morning coffee and you’re basically looking at all the benefits of caffeine minus the crash and jitteriness [3]. It’s hands-down the ideal way to kick off your daily nootropic regime. Take theanine on its own in the evening to settle into a calm, relaxed state.

Noopept: An offspring of the esteemed racetam family, noopept has shown to have dramatic impacts on memory and cognition with little to no side effects [4]. Even better, noopept powder also boosts neuroprotective effects. So you’re not only improving your focus with a daily dose of a noopept powder – you’re making your brain safer and stronger.

Lion’s Mane Extract: Extract from lion’s mane mushrooms has a unique function: it stimulates nerve growth factor, or NGF [5]. NGF belongs to a family of proteins that play a part in maintaining and regenerating neurons during our adult life. Bad news is as we age, our body produces less and less.

Lion’s mane, however, ensures high levels. Absence of NGF has been linked to age related memory loss [6], so if you’re looking for long-term upkeep of your cognitive health, lion’s mane is crucial. You’ll want to take it again later, since cumulative dosing is more effective.

Pramiracetam/Choline: Pramiracetam, usually found in the form of pramiracetam powder, is a bit different from other substances on this list in that it’s fat-soluble. In other words, pramiracetam powder won’t get metabolized correctly if it isn’t broken down by some fat or oil. This makes it an ideal substance to follow up with after a meal. Taking pramiracetam with a choline source boosts pramiracetam powder’s efficacy while simultaneously keeping your acetylcholine levels from dropping too low.

ENERGY/PRE-WORKOUT

Rhodiola Rosea: Rhodiola Rosea is derived from a flower that has been used for centuries to prevent fatigue. As an adaptogen, it both stabilizes your physiological processes and reduces stress on cells. It gives you energy, boosts focus, and allows your body to work harder and longer with less fatigue [7]. It’s an ideal supplement to any physical activity – which is itself crucial to a healthy mind-body connection.

ALCAR: ALCAR, or acetylcarnitine, is an essential nutrient, which means your body needs it but doesn’t naturally produce it. ALCAR will give your physiological processes an all-around boost. Cells rebuild faster (great for exercise,) immune functions are boosted (maintains health,) and mental and physical energy increase [8]. It does all this by getting fatty acids to your mitochondria (cellular power houses) faster.

Ashwaganda Root: Like the other two energy-boosting compounds, Ashwagandha root extract reduces cellular stress, allowing you to do more at least cost. It’ll also boost your immune functions, grant some neuroprotective benefits, and increase physical energy [9]. Crucially, it also indirectly promotes testosterone production: important for sexual health, overall energy, and muscle building [10].

REST

Valerian Root: While its mechanisms aren’t completely understood, valerian root functions by affecting your GABA system. This is the neurotransmitter responsible in large part for mood and calmness. At low doses, valerian has a calming effect, while at higher doses it’s been hailed as a sedative [11]. Either way, it’s a great way to transition into restful part of your day and prepare for sleep. You’ll want to take this and the rest of this part of the stack no more than an hour before bed.

Magnesium: Magnesium isn’t naturally produced in the body, but has a whole slew of benefits when you sufficiently supplement with it. It allows your muscles to relax (they tense up if you’re low on magnesium) and helps your body produce protein [12]. In other words, it’s a great way to follow up a strenuous day and make sure your body fully maximizes its recovery phase.

GABA: As you may have guessed from the name, GABA directly affects your GABA transmitters, meaning it will work synergistically with your valerian and theanine supplements. On its own, it’s a powerful amino acid that helps reduce stress and anxiety while increasing nerve signaling. Cap off your stack with this to make sure your sleeping body is doing everything it can to recover and prepare for the next day.

Remember, as with any stack, it’s important to cycle your nootropics to maintain maximum efficiency. Look to take a day or two off every few weeks, or to cycle your nootropics individually.

SOURCES:

  1.  http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1182710-overview
  2.  http://www.drhoffman.com/page.cfm/417
  3. http://jn.nutrition.org/content/138/8/1572S.long
  4.  http://examine.com/supplements/Noopept/
  5.  http://examine.com/supplements/Yamabushitake/
  6. http://curezone.org/forums/am.asp?i=587180
  7. http://examine.com/supplements/Rhodiola+Rosea/
  8. http://examine.com/supplements/L-Carnitine/
  9. http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2006/jun2006_report_ashwa_01.htm
  10.  http://nutrientjournal.com/ashwagandha-extrac-may-suppress-cortisol-increased-testosterone/
  11. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Valerian-HealthProfessional/
  12. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional