Research: Ashwagandha For Increased Testosterone

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Ashwagandha is an herb used extensively in Indian Ayurvedic medicine.  But does it have benefits for someone living in the modern world?

The research says “Yes!”

What is ashwagandha?

ashwagandha witheria somnifera plant

It is an herb that belongs to the same plant family as the tomato, and has oval leaves and yellow flowers.  It bears tiny red fruit.  Native to India, Africa, and the Middle East, ashwagandha is now grown all over the world.

The plant is called withania somnifera in Latin, which means “sleep inducing.”  This refers to the plant’s ability to relieve insomnia and reduce anxiety.  The translation from Sankrit comes out as “the smell of a horse” because the herb imparts the vigor and strength of a stallion.

black horse rearing

According to research, ashwagandha…

  • protects the immune system (and rebuilds immune function after illness)
  • combats the effects of stress and lowers stress hormones
  • improves learning, memory, and reaction time
  • reduces anxiety and depression without causing drowsiness
  • keeps blood sugar stable
  • lowers bad cholesterol levels
  • reduces brain-cell degeneration
  • helps prevent malaria
  • is a systemic anti-inflammatory

And now the spotlight benefit for today: Ashwagandha increases testosterone.

A study from India shows increases in testosterone up to 40% from ashwagandha supplementation.  Here’s where to find the study, if you’re interested:

Fertil Steril. 2010 Aug;94(3):989-96.
Withania somnifera improves semen quality by regulating reproductive hormone levels and oxidative stress in seminal plasma of infertile males.
Ahmad MK, Mahdi AA, Shukla KK, Islam N, Rajender S, Madhukar D, Shankhwar SN, Ahmad S.

The researchers focused on sperm, quantity and motility.  But they also measured testosterone.

The control group was 75 normal (fertile) men, and the ashwagandha takers were 75 men who were deemed infertile (low test, low sperm count, slow sperm).

Here is a chart showing the results:

ashwaganda studt chart

In infertile men with normal sperm, the supplement increased testosterone by 15%.

Men with slow moving sperm increased testosterone by 21%.

And men with a low sperm count increased testosterone by 40%!

Even if someone doesn’t have fertility issues, ashwagandha is a safe and natural way to increase testosterone.  You can find it in most health food stores and even in the supplement section of organic grocers – but you can source the same brands a lot cheaper online.  (Here is the brand I take Nutrigold Ashwagandha)

Taking 500 to 1000 milligrams twice daily is a good maintenance dosage, and 2500 milligrams twice daily is what we use to raise test levels in clients with low testosterone.

Research: Eating Kelp Helps Lower Estrogen (And Fight Cancer!)

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What is brown kelp? Wikipedia has the answer:

bladder wrack fucus vesiculosus

Fucus vesiculosus, known by the common name bladder wrack or bladderwrack, is a seaweed found on the coasts of the North Sea, the western Baltic Sea, and the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, also known by the common names black tang, rockweed, bladder fucus, sea oak, black tany, cut weed, dyers fucus, red fucus, and rock wrack. It was the original source of iodine, discovered in 1811, and was used extensively to treat goitre, a swelling of the thyroid gland related to iodine deficiency.

Researchers from the University of California at Berkeley have found that brown kelp has an anti-estrogenic effect in the body.  They were looking for an alternative theory as to why Japanese women are less likely to develop breast, womb, or ovarian cancer.  These types of cancer are caused by estradiol, the predominant estrogen in the female body during reproductive years.

estradiol molecule

A traditional Japanese diet contains between 3 and 13g of seaweed every day.  Could this be the reason why estrogen-related cancers are relatively unknown in Japan?  The research points towards Yes.

The study below was a simple one: feed rats seaweed and see if it lowers their estradiol levels.  They gave rats either 175 or 350mg of seaweed per kg of bodyweight and measured estrogen levels.  The rats receiving the higher dose of seaweed lowered their estradiol levels by 40%.


Since eating seaweed definitely lowered estrogen levels in rats, the researchers next tested the effect of seaweed on human ovary cells.  And again, the higher the concentration of kelp, the lower the amount of estradiol the ovary cells made.

In the final part of this study, the researchers tested whether kelp would block estradiol and progesterone receptors in human cells.  Again, kelp beat estrogen.

The reason why kelp is such a powerful anti-estrogenic remains unknown.  All we can say for sure is that it definitely works.

Adding in seaweed supplements and eating foods containing seaweed on a regular basis will be a valuable anti-estrogenic tool for your health and nutrition toolbox.

seaweed salad

Here’s the citation for this study (it has graphs and lots more cool sciency stuff if you’re interested):

J Nutr. 2005 Feb;135(2):296-300.
Brown kelp modulates endocrine hormones in female sprague-dawley rats and in human luteinized granulosa cells.
Skibola CF, Curry JD, VandeVoort C, Conley A, Smith MT.

How To Raise Your Testosterone: Root For Winners

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I’m researching natural testosterone boosters for a blog post – finding proven ways to raise your testosterone without steroids.

Thought this study was particularly relevant (because it’s Super Bowl Sunday):

Testosterone changes during vicarious experiences of winning and losing among fans at sporting events.

sports fan 1

The researchers took saliva samples before games and after games.

Fans of the losing teams had lowered testosterone levels.

Fans of the winning teams had elevated testosterone levels.

So if you want a testosterone boost, root for winners.

Here’s the reference:

Physiol Behav. 1998 Aug;65(1):59-62.
Testosterone changes during vicarious experiences of winning and losing among fans at sporting events.
Bernhardt PC, Dabbs JM Jr, Fielden JA, Lutter CD. University of Utah, Department of Educational Psychology

sports fan 2

Improve Your Run Times By… Running Less?

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If I told you there was a way to shave 48 seconds off your 5k time… by running 54% less, is that something you might be interested in?

is that something you might be interested in bob ryan

Well, a study published in the Journal Of Applied Physiology shows you how to do exactly that.

The researchers wanted to see what effect switching from traditional endurance-type training to an interval training scheme would have on runners’ health, muscle, oxygen uptake, and race performance.

Training for the interval group looked like this:

  • 30 seconds jogging (less than 30% intensity)
  • 20 seconds running (about 60% intensity)
  • 10 seconds sprinting (higher than 90% maximum intensity)

This was repeated 4 more times, then followed by 2 minutes of recovery.  And the whole thing was done 3-4 times total.  (I actually detailed this training plan back in 2009, here it is: A Simple Plan To Run Faster)

interval training race

For seven weeks the study group did this training protocol during all running sessions, while the control group continued their standard steady-state endurance training.  The crew doing the 30-20-10 plan did 54% LESS running than the control group.


The interval training group:

  • Improved VO2max (oxygen uptake) by 4%
  • Dropped 21 seconds off their 1500m run times
  • Dropped 48 seconds off their 5k times
  • Lowered their systolic blood pressure
  • Reduced both total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol

The endurance group:

  • No changes!

Keep in mind that the interval group was running less than half as much… and making much better progress.

Interval training takes less time and since you’re not running as much there is less overuse wear-and-tear on your body.

And it wasn’t shown in this study (because it wasn’t tested) but interval training is better for burning fat.

AND since you don’t have to log tons of miles, your appetite will be easier to control.

You can use the exact 30-20-10 training protocol for any endurance sport: biking, swimming, running, cross country skiing…

Plus the idea behind the study – interval training – can be used in any type of workout for better health and fitness results.  Instead of locking yourself into a comfortable steady pace, push yourself into all out “sprints” followed by recovery.

run like thief sign 5k

Here’s the reference for the study:

The 10-20-30 training concept improves performance and health profile in moderately trained runners.
Authors: Thomas Petursson Gunnarsson and Jens Bangsbo
Journal of Applied Physiology May 3, 2012

Health Study: Soda Makes You Fat

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A six-month Danish study compared the effects of drinking soda to the effects of milk, diet soda, or water.

After the six months, the soda group was significantly higher in:

The study’s conclusion says: Daily intake of sugar-sweetened beverages for 6 months increases ectopic fat accumulation and lipids compared with milk, diet cola, and water. Thus, daily intake of soda is likely to enhance the risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

If you’re interested in the study, here is the citation:

Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Feb;95(2):283-9. Epub 2011 Dec 28.
Sucrose-sweetened beverages increase fat storage in the liver, muscle, and visceral fat depot: a 6-mo randomized intervention study.
Maersk M, Belza A, Stødkilde-Jørgensen H, Ringgaard S, Chabanova E, Thomsen H, Pedersen SB, Astrup A, Richelsen B.
Department of Endocrinology and Internal Medicine MEA, Aarhus University Hospital, Denmark.

Another interesting soda study: Kids And Soft Drinks

Study Time: Fish Oil Reduces Body Fat

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Ok, the study I’m going to share with you here is pretty cool…

The researchers fed their subjects a control diet for four weeks and measured body fat mass and metabolism.

Then, they took 6 grams of fat out of the diet and replaced it with 6 grams of fish oil.

So, exactly the same calories, exactly the same fat.  Only change was swapping out other fats for fish oil – and only 6 grams of it at that.

What do you think happened?  Even though metabolism remained unchanged, the subjects LOST FAT!

The control group who kept on the original diet lost 0.7 pounds over the next 3 weeks.

The fish oil group lost 2.2 pounds (over 3x as much) in the same amount of time.

Diet was the same.  Calories were the same.  Exercise was the same.  The only difference was the switching in of fish oil, and they lost 3x as much fat.

What does this mean for you?

Start taking some freaking fish oil!!

I take 12-15 grams a day.  I recommend at least 6 grams a day.  Start with 2 grams, one capsule with breakfast, the other with dinner.  If you stomach still feels ok, add another capsule every few days until you reach six.

SPOILER ALERT:  This next paragraph is gross.

You’ll know when you’ve reached your temporary maximum dosage because your poop will turn grey and runny.  Back down a gram or two if this happens.  As your system adjusts over a few weeks, you can start adding again.

To keep fish burps to a minimum, take your capsules with food, get enteric coated capsules, take lemon-flavored fish oil, or keep your capsules in the fridge (good idea anyway).

If you’re interested in the study, here’s the citation:

Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1997 Aug;21(8):637-43.
Effect of dietary fish oil on body fat mass and basal fat oxidation in healthy adults.
Couet C, Delarue J, Ritz P, Antoine JM, Lamisse F.
Laboratoire de Nutrition et Clinique Médicale A, J.E. 313, Université François Rabelais, 37000 Tours, France.

And here’s a link to the abstract: Fish Oil Is Awesome

Study Time: Show Kids The Exercise Cost Of Soda And They Will Stay Away

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This is pretty cool: When Calorie information for sugar sweetened beverages (soda) is displayed in convenience stores, kids aged 12-18 years buy less of them.

A study in the American Journal of Public Health tracked buying behaviors of adolescents in low-income areas.  They put up one of three different posters in corner stores.  The posters were randomly chosen out of these three options:

(1) Absolute caloric count. Ex: This soda has 300 Calories

(2) Percentage of total recommended daily intakeEx: This drink has 12% of your daily Calorie need

(3) Physical activity equivalentEx: This one said they’d need to run for 50 minutes to burn off the Calories in the drink

The researchers found that sales of sugar-sweetened beverages dropped by 40% with any of the three posters.

The best-performing poster was the physical activity equivalent poster – it reduced drink purchases by 50%.

Food and Drug Administration officials are publishing regulations for restaurants to put Calorie information next to food items on the menu.  This study shows that providing ANY information is better than providing none, when it comes to making healthier choices.

Here’s my reference (do I get bonus points that it was released 2 days ago?):

Sara N. Bleich, Bradley J. Herring, Desmond D. Flagg, and Tiffany L. Gary-Webb (2011). Reduction in Purchases of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Among Low-Income Black Adolescents After Exposure to Caloric Information. American Journal of Public Health. e-View Ahead of Print.
doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2011.300350

And, as usual, here’s a link to the abstract: Posters Reduce Pop Sales

Study: Injury Rates In Gymnastics

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This was originally an email I wrote for a group of sports parents…

Silver State Gymnastics does a phenomenal job of keeping our young gymnasts healthy. Coach Dave focuses on the skills and conditioning levels necessary for being a top performer without pushing too far, too fast.

That said, gymnastics IS a sport, and injuries can happen. For small tweaks and strains, use the Rest/Ice/Compress/Elevate formula (Gymnastics R.I.C.E).

For anything bigger, go and see a qualified doctor. Leaving injuries untreated not only makes the injury worse, it can lead to more injuries.

A survey study was done on level 4 to level 10 gymnasts in the Seattle area.

It covered 96 athletes competing at the club level.

Acute injury rates were 1.3 injuries per 1000 hours training if looked at across the board. For gymnasts aged 10-17, the injury rate was 3-fold greater than athletes aged 7-9 years.

This increase in injury rate may be due to more complex skills, to small injuries stacking up, or to many other factors.

The majority of injuries occurred in practice, but the injury rate was higher during meets.

Most injuries occurred in:

  • Floor 32.1%
  • Beam 20.7%
  • Bars 17%

The most commonly injured body parts were:

  • Foot 21%
  • Ankle 19.3%
  • Knee 14%
  • Wrist 8.8%

Overuse injury rates were 1.8 per 1000 hours.

During their gymnastic careers, concussions occurred in 30.2% of gymnasts, and stress fractures (mostly low back and foot) occurred in 16.7% of gymnasts.

To prevent injuries, first you need to find a great coach (if you’re at Silver State Gymnastics you have this covered :)). Next, focus on proper mechanics of landing after a skill. Then conditioning.

As a parent, making sure your young athlete has plenty of rest and eats properly will go a long way towards preventing injuries and healing them faster if they happen.

The study referenced is:

Clin J Sport Med. 2011 Nov;21(6):486-92.
Survey of injuries in Seattle area levels 4 to 10 female club gymnasts.
O’Kane JW, Levy MR, Pietila KE, Caine DJ, Schiff MA.

Department of Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, University of Washington Sports Medicine Clinic, Seattle, Washington 98195, USA



Study Corner: Super-Slow Lifting Vs Normal Lifting

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Welcome to another edition of study corner!  Today we’re going to look at a study from the Journal Of Strength And Conditioning Research.

This study is titled… Effects of 4 weeks of traditional resistance training vs. superslow strength training on early phase adaptations in strength, flexibility, and aerobic capacity in college-aged women.

Aren’t you glad I read all these things for you? Just the title makes me want to fall asleep :)

So, why super-slow training?  Well, wanna-be fitness experts on the news have promoted slow-cadence lifting, and people believed it.  But what does the actual science say?

This study split college-aged women into 3 groups: No lifting, Slow Lifting, and “Regular” Lifting.

The No Lifting group didn’t make any changes during the study.  I’m sure they were very nice people, but let’s forget about them and forge onward.

Slow Lifting group trained for 35 minutes twice a week.  They used 50% of their one rep maximum (the amount of weight they could lift one time) and lifted 10 seconds up, 10 seconds down until they couldn’t do any more.

“Regular” Lifting group trained 25 minutes three times a week.  They used 80% 1RM and did 3 sets of 8 reps, with a 4 second contraction time for each rep.  This 4 second contraction is why I put quote marks around “regular.”  4 seconds is still very slow.

Both groups’ workouts consisted of 5 exercises: shoulder press, chest press, leg press, low row, and lat pull down.

At the end of the 4 week study, both groups had gained strength.  The super-slow group’s strength gains were so slight so as to be only “statistically significant.”  (Translation:  so little improvement you wouldn’t notice without having a degree in mathematics).

So only the regular speed training group made real improvements.

Conclusion: Slow speed resistance training is a waste of your time.

J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Nov;25(11):3006-13.
Effects of 4 weeks of traditional resistance training vs. superslow strength training on early phase adaptations in strength, flexibility, and aerobic capacity in college-aged women.
Kim E, Dear A, Ferguson SL, Seo D, Bemben MG.
Neuromuscular Research Laboratory, Department of Health and Exercise Science, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma, USA.

And here’s a link to the abstract if you want to see what it looks like: Slow Lifting vs Regular Lifting


Science: Omega-3s And Heart Disease

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A study published in Circulation looked at the impact of fish oil and fish consumption on heart disease risk.

The researchers did a review study because observational evidence showed that consuming omega-3 fatty acids lowered risk coronary heart disease and lowered blood triglycerides.

What Are Omega-3s?

I covered the basics of Omega-3s in this post: The Story Of Omega-3s

Fish and other marine life (such as krill) are great sources of omega-3 (or n-3) fatty acids.  These fats are called omega-3s  because the first of several double bonds occur three carbon atoms away from the end of the molecule’s carbon chain.

The three omega-3 fatty acids are alpha linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexenoic acid (DHA).

These fatty acids can’t be made in the body and are considered essential fatty acids that must be consumed in the diet.

Omega-3s And Triglycerides

Omega-3s will definitely help lower triglycerides (How To Lower Triglycerides 93.5% In 21 Days!).

In this study, they report that plant sources of omega-3s do NOT have the same triglyceride lowering effects as animal-based sources (fish and krill oil).


They then list five things that omega-3s help with in regards to cholesterol and triglycerides:

  1. Slows Very Low Density Lipoprotein (VLDL) triglyceride synthesis
  2. Decreases apoprotein B synthesis (apoprotein B is a part of “bad” cholesterol)
  3. Helps break down Low Density Lipoproteins (destroys bad cholesterol)
  4. Slows the manufacture of bad cholesterol
  5. Slows fat release into the blood stream after eating

Fish oil also reduces platelet build up at the same time it lowers bad cholesterol and triglycerides…

What does this mean?  Simply that omega-3 supplementation will reduce plaque build up in your blood vessels, which lowers blood pressure and your risk for heart disease.

Plus, the report says that diabetics taking fish oil could improve their blood vessels elasticity without negatively affecting their fasting blood sugar, cholesterol, or blood pressure. Pretty cool stuff!

Omega-3s And High Blood Pressure

Turns out that omega-3s lower blood pressure in people who have high blood pressure, but don’t lower you any further if you are at normal pressure already.

This goes along with my theory that there’s nothing magical about fish oil, it just allows you body to achieve its natural healthy state.  (Though if you look at most people today, that IS a magical benefit!)

Omega-3s And Blood Clots

Can omega-3s help prevent blood clots?  As someone with a family history of blood clots, this topic is of special interest to me…

Omega-3s affect the cellular responses in platelets, monocytes (type of white blood cell), and endothelial cells (lining of blood vessels) – all in a good way!

You may have heard that aspirin is prescribed to help prevent blood clots – well, this report states that when bleeding times are measured, the effects of fish oil are about the same as those of aspirin.

Taking an omega-3 supplement will reduce your risk of thrombosis (clots inside your blood vessels), so if the thought of a blood clot has ever worried you, take some krill oil and have some peace of mind.

Omega-3s And Immune Response

This review didn’t go in depth into omega-3s and immune response, mostly just that it looks promising and needs more research.

I reported on another study that looked at krill oil’s effects on inflammation: The Effect Of Krill Oil On Inflammation And Arthritis

Fish Intake And Coronary Heart Disease

Studies of the Inuit people highlighted their lower coronary mortality compared with their counterparts in areas that didn’t eat as much fish and other marine life.

The Eskimos’ diet included a much, much higher intake of omega-3 from sources such as seal and whale that resulted in the Inuit having lower blood cholesterol, lower triglycerides, lower LDL-C (bad cholesterol), lower VLDL cholesterol (very bad cholesterol), increased HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol), increased bleeding times (less risk of blood clots), and lower rates of coronary heart disease.

And in the Diet and Reinfarction Trial, men who were instructed to eat more fish after a myocardial infarction had a 29% decline in mortality rates.

Omega-3s And Sudden Death

The Diet And Reinfarction Trial created interest in the link between increased omega-3 consumption and decreased mortality rates.

A study was done comparing rates of sudden death (from cardiovascular problems) in people who ate a diet rich in omega-3s and in a group following a more standard diet.

The results speak for themselves: The group following a standard diet had 8 deaths, the group consuming more omega-3s had… none!

Another study from the Pacific Northwest found that patients who had a sudden cardiac arrest consumed much lower amounts of omega-3s than their age and sex matches in the community.  The data shows that eating fatty fish (a rich source of omega-3s) is associated with a 50% reduction in the risk for primary cardiac arrest (heart attack).

Omega-3 Conclusion

The heart-healthy benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids are indisputable. Plus they support a healthy immune system, pain-free joints, brain and nerve health, and have anti-inflammatory properties.  The research proves that we can all benefit from consuming foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids.

Unfortunately, the best natural dietary sources of Omega 3s – fatty fish – are frequently contaminated with heavy metals and pesticides, making it difficult to safely achieve a consumption high enough to make a difference. Therefore, supplementing your diet with pure, highly refined omega-3s is the best way to protect your health.

Krill oil provides the best quality source of omega-3 essential fatty acids, especially when concentrated and refined to be as pure as possible.  Prograde Nutrition makes an easy-to-swallow soft gelatin capsule that contains no contaminants and will not upset your stomach or give you “fish burps.”

Prograde Icon krill oil will supply you with the essential omega-3s that support your health, in a convenient supplement form and from the most trustworthy sources available.

Click here to learn more about krill oil:

Icon Essential Omega-3s <= highest quality source

And here is the review study referenced in this post:

Circulation. 1996;94:2337-2340
Fish Consumption, Fish Oil, Lipids, and Coronary Heart Disease
Neil J. Stone, MD
From the Nutrition Committee of the American Heart Association