What Does Ashwagandha Do For Lifting?

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By Jack Cincotta, MS

Reviewed by Juliana Tamayo, MS, RDN - Last Updated

what does ashwagandha do for lifting

Ashwagandha is one of the hottest herbal supplements out there. And many people are taking it for a variety of possible benefits, including enhanced strength and athletic performance.

If you’re a weightlifter or bodybuilder, you’ll want to pay attention to this review as we go over the potential benefits of ashwagandha for lifting. 

Keep reading to see how ashwagandha works and what the evidence really says about its utility as a strength booster!

What is Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is a shrub that grows in India, North Africa, and the Middle East. For thousands of years, it was used in Ayurveda and other traditional medicine systems to reduce stress, boost energy, and promote overall vitality.

Typically, the roots of ashwagandha were used because they contain most of the bioactive components, such as withanolides. 

And today, many supplements standardize their products to contain a certain percentage of withanolides for optimal results.

What Does Ashwagandha Do For Lifting?

Ashwagandha has a number of effects that are potentially relevant for bodybuilders, weightlifters, and other athletes who strength train.

Anti-Stress Effects

For one, ashwagandha is most well-known for its adaptogenic effects, which means it decreases stress and helps the body more easily manage high-stress loads.

And since weightlifting is a form of stress, taking ashwagandha may make it easier for your body to adapt and get stronger, rather than crashing and burning from training too hard and not recovering!

ashwagandha supplement

It is known that ashwagandha reduces the stress hormone, cortisol. And cortisol is generally catabolic (meaning it breaks down muscle), so decreasing this hormone can help preserve muscle mass and boost strength.

Reduced Inflammation

Also, ashwagandha is known to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, which may help you recover faster and train more often, leading to faster gains. 

Boosted Testosterone

On top of that, it’s also important to know that ashwagandha may be able to increase testosterone levels. 

This is key since testosterone is a natural anabolic hormone, meaning it helps you build muscle and, as a result, boost strength. Higher T levels also make you less likely to store body fat, so it’s overall a great hormone for body composition.

Altogether, this makes ashwagandha a potentially valuable supplement for weightlifters. In fact, research shows that ashwagandha supplementation can significantly increase muscle mass and strength over time compared to a placebo, while also boosting muscle endurance and recovery

Ashwagandha Dosage for Lifting

Based on the research, an effective dosage of ashwagandha for lifting is about 300 to 600mg per day, although the total range is really anywhere from 100mg all the way up to 1,200mg. 

But it’s best for most people to start in the average range of 300 to 600mg.

Larger individuals (200+ lbs) are probably better off with 600mg, while lighter folks (120-140lbs) probably can just start with 300mg. 

Importance of Supplement Quality

Within this, it’s also important to know the supplement quality. Specifically, it’s best to choose supplements that are made from the root extract and standardized to contain a certain percentage of withanolides (typically around 5 to 10%). 

Made in this way, ashwagandha becomes more bioavailable and potent. 

Is Ashwagandha Safe?

Ashwagandha is generally well-tolerated when consumed in the recommended doses. However, there are possible side effects, such as:

  • Headache
  • Blurred vision
  • Drowsiness
  • Anhedonia
  • Decreased appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain

When choosing an ashwagandha supplement, it’s best to purchase from established, well-reviewed brands, especially those that are third-party tested by accredited labs. 

When to Take Ashwagandha for Lifting

Ashwagandha can be taken at any time of the day, but lifters may find it slightly more beneficial to take it before a workout to potentially maximize the natural testosterone boost while also minimizing cortisol.

Some individuals may find that ashwagandha is best taken at night, especially if their goal is to improve sleep quality and recovery. 

ashwagandha caps

You can take it one, two, or even three times per day, although most people take it once or twice daily.

Ultimately, there is some flexibility in when to take ashwagandha. But whatever option you choose, it’s best to just stick with that and be consistent. 

Is Ashwagandha Safe/Legal for Competitive Athletes?

Yes. Currently, there aren’t any bans on ashwagandha supplementation in competitive sports or athletic organizations.

However, it’s always best to check with your organization to ensure that what you’re taking is appropriate and legal. 

What Results Can I Expect With Ashwagandha?

If you’re a lifter looking to use ashwagandha, understand that, like any supplement, the effects aren’t going to be massive. It’s just the way natural products work.

But, if you’re consistent, you may see a mild to moderate boost in strength and muscle growth over the course of several weeks to months. Additionally, you may have lower stress levels, improved sleep, and better recovery. 

Again, nothing monumental for any of these benefits, but many people do find them to be at least noticeable.

Summary: Ashwagandha For Lifting

Ashwagandha has solid potential to boost strength, muscle mass, and improve recovery in weightlifters. This is because of its effects on key hormones, inflammatory pathways, and muscle growth and strength adaptation processes.

Lifters looking to get the most benefits of ashwagandha should start with about 300 to 600mg per day, and possibly up to 1,000+mg if they’re in very intense training or stressful states.

While it’s not a miracle drug, ashwagandha definitely has the potential to help lifters increase their strength, boost muscle growth, manage stress, and improve overall workout quality.

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Jack Cincotta, MS

Jack Cincotta is a certified holistic health coach through AFPA and a board-certified holistic health practitioner through AADP. He has written hundreds of articles on nutrition and supplementation. Jack has a M.S. degree in Psychology and is passionate about researching the science behind nutrition. He often uses research-backed supplementation protocols for many of his clients to optimize results.