High cortisol encourages muscle breakdown, fat storage, and impaired recovery
When we think of supplements for strength and muscle building, modern options like creatine monohydrate, whey protein, or BCAAs likely come to mind. But research continuously shows that ashwagandha, an herbal supplement with ancient roots, deserves equal attention from today's performance and strength building communities.
Cortisol is considered a catabolic hormone, meaning it stimulates the breakdown of muscle. This is done to increase the amount of energy available to our bodies in times of need, as the body can use amino acids (the building blocks of muscle) for fuel. However, this can negate some of our hard work and training in the gym if left unchecked. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there either. High cortisol levels will also slow down digestion, and, in turn, stimulate the storage of fats.
Here are a few other ways chronically-high cortisol can affect performance in the gym:
High cortisol levels can slow down testosterone production. When compounded with cortisol's impact on muscle breakdown, this can be crucial for gains—testosterone is an important player in muscle repair, growth and recovery.
Elevated cortisol prevents deep sleep. Cortisol levels naturally rise in the morning to stimulate a wakeful state. Chronically elevated cortisol can disrupt your natural sleep/wake cycle and ultimately prevent the body from entering restorative deep sleep and contributing to fatigue.
Increased cortisol suppresses the immune system. High levels of cortisol will slow down immune function, making us more susceptible to getting sick and preventing recovery after hard workouts.
Ashwagandha improves cortisol-mediated effects plus other measures of muscle building
Scientist haven’t yet nailed down the exact mechanism of action for ashwagandha's impact on cortisol, but the practical evidence of its usefulness is from a large and robust body of scientific evidence. As we just mentioned, elevated cortisol can be an archenemy for muscle building, so it's in our best interest to keep cortisol levels low—which is exactly where ashwagandha can help. But in fact, recent studies have shown that this herb's effects on strength and power aren't just cortisol-dependent:
- It can indeed decrease serum cortisol by up to 27% 
- It also has contributed to a 17% increase in total testosterone 
- It displays increases in raw strength, muscle size and VO2 max [3-5]
- It helps to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, blood glucose, triglycerides and hsCRP 
- It can increase HDL (good) cholesterol and DHEAS 
All in all, ashwagandha is proven to be effective at mediating the negative effects elevated cortisol has on our strength, as well as lots of other important markers in the body. While ashwagandha can’t remove the stresses from our lives, it can certainly help us cope with them. Keeping an eye on your cortisol levels and having an arsenal of solutions that work with your lifestyle will help you stay strong all season long.
Ashwagandha is an herbal supplement that's been used in naturopathic medicine for centuries. It's made from the roots of the Indian Withania somnifera plant and is typically classified as an adaptogen, as it helps our bodies adapt to certain situations. In fact, ashwagandha is best known for its ability to reduce stress and anxiety and restore "the strength of a horse,” as its loose translation implies. And while these effects are well-established, its lesser-known secondary impacts on glucose, testosterone, and strength levels make it an excellent addition to your gym bag.
Solgar's Ashwagandha Root Extract is one of a range of premium quality herbal formulas containing standardised extracts.
Solgar's Standardised Full Potency (SFP) Herbs are developed through a unique process that combines the ideologies of both traditional herbalism and standardised herbal technology. This blend of science and tradition creates a potent, premium-quality standardised herbal extract with all of the synergistic and beneficial qualities found in nature.
Ashwagandha has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic, Indian, and Unani medicine, and has been described as "Indian ginseng." It is classified as an adaptogen, helping the body to manage and adapt to stress. Ashwagandha Root Extract Vegetable Capsules are suitable for vegans. With 1 tablet a day you will nourish your body with 1.5% (4.5 mg) of the active ingredient withanolides.