To be completely honest, most of us have gained a pound or 10 over the past year and a half. Matter of fact, more than half of Americans have gained weight according to the latest report by the American Psychological Association.
Experts believe that social isolation and sedentarism were mostly to blame, but the constant and unyielding stress we’ve all been experiencing during the pandemic is also a major contributing factor.
If you are looking to lower stress and maybe help your body drop a few pounds naturally, you’ve come to the right place. This article looks at the traditional and modern uses of Ashwagandha and its potential effects on weight loss and stress relief.
What is Ashwagandha?
There are hundreds of medicinal plants in Ayurveda. Yet, Ashwagandha is one of just a handful of herbs that successfully crossed over to modern medicine thanks to its countless benefits for health and well-being.
Ashwagandha, an evergreen shrub of the Solanaceae family, is one of the central herbs of Ayurvedic medicine. It has been used for over 4,000 years to treat all kinds of ailments, from stress and sleep problems to inflammation and sexual dysfunction.
Western medicine classifies it as an “adaptogen,” which are natural substances that help the body adapt to stress. Studies show that extracts from the roots and berries of the Ashwagandha plant may boost memory and cognition, support normal thyroid functioning, and may even promote weight loss.
Stress and weight gain — is there a connection?
Nothing throws off your inner balance — i.e., your metabolism, circadian rhythm, hormones, etc. — like chronic stress. Each morning when you wake up, your adrenal glands release normal levels of cortisol, sometimes called the “stress hormone,” into your bloodstream. It also gets released when you perform strenuous activities, like high-intensity exercise which is critical to the control and regulation of energy metabolism and thus exercise performance capacity.
But your body also secretes higher levels of cortisol when you are under stress in order to activate your “fight or flight” response. This temporarily halts your regular functions and slows down your metabolism. If you are under continuous stress, this reaction becomes chronic and puts your body in a constant state of alert. Unfortunately, many people consider stress as just a part of normal everyday life and don’t recognize it for what it is, a threat to one’s health and longevity.
Weight gain is one of the most common side effects of chronic stress. Under normal circumstances, when your adrenal glands secrete cortisol, the hormones trigger an influx of glucose to deliver a quick shot of energy to your large muscles (in case you need to fight or flight).
But when this process becomes chronic, your cells need more and more energy, which manifests in the form of cravings for sweet, fatty, and carb-rich foods. In fact, studies have shown that there is a direct association between increased levels of cortisol and higher calorie intake. All that unused energy (the calories you ate from that milkshake craving) is eventually stored as body fat.
How can Ashwagandha help with weight loss?
Although Ashwagandha is not directly associated with weight loss, experts believe that this mighty herb may support shedding unwanted body fat through the following mechanisms:
Adaptogenic effects: chronic stress wreaks havoc in each of your bodily functions, including metabolism. Ashwagandha is labeled as an adaptogen because it helps fight the physiological effects of tension in the body, including weight gain. This was demonstrated in a 2016 study of individuals under chronic stress, where participants who took 300 mg of Ashwagandha daily reported improvements in body weight, BMI, cortisol levels, and happiness scores.
Antioxidant activity: when your immune system is weak or compromised, your metabolism slows down, and your body loses its ability to burn fat effectively. Ashwagandha is loaded with antioxidants that support and strengthen the immune system, promote better fat burning, and support digestion to help you lose weight in a faster and more sustained way.
Energy boost: if your problem is that you just can’t find the energy and motivation to work out, Ashwagandha might help with that, too. In a study in the Journal of Ayurveda and Integral Medicine, 40 elite cyclists reported increased endurance and aerobic performance after taking 500 mg Ashwagandha daily. Adaptogenic herbs like Ashwagandha seem to naturally boost energy levels by stimulating the central nervous system and decreasing high cortisol levels, which can cause chronic fatigue, sleep issues, and obesity.
Alongside a healthy diet and regular exercise, taking an Ashwagandha supplement could enhance your weight loss efforts and help lower stress — something we all desperately need these days! But also keep in mind that not all Ashwagandha supplements are created equal.
For maximum safety and potency, opt for full-spectrum Ashwagandha supplements extracted from the roots alone and not the leaves or the stems. Like Akeso’s Calm & Clever supplement, our expertly curated formula that contains 600 mg of KSM-66 Ashwagandha — the most clinically studied Ashwagandha on the market — and a carefully curated blend of adaptogens, vitamins, and herbs that counter the effects of tension and stress on the body and support healthy cognitive function.
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