Ashwagandha and Creatine: A Combination To Boost Strength?

In this article, we will take a close look at Ashwagandha and Creatine, two supplements often used in the fitness and health industry. We will dive into their individual benefits and mechanisms of action. We will also discuss their similarities and differences, providing a comprehensive understanding of these two supplements.
Greta Daniskova

Greta Daniskova

Greta is a BSc Biomedical Science student at the University of Westminster, London.

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What is Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha, scientifically known as Withania somnifera, is a plant often used in Ayurvedic medicine. Extracts of ashwagandha can contain as many as 35 different chemical components, although a specific active ingredient hasn't been determined yet [1].

What does Ashwagandha do?

Ashwagandha is claimed to have several health benefits. It is seen as a stress alleviator, and studies suggest that daily doses may reduce cortisol levels [2]. It is thought to be a pain-killer and is said to act as a sedative and anti-inflammatory agent, possibly helping with conditions such as arthritis [2].

Ashwagandha might also increase the quality of sleep, not to mention mental acuity after waking up [2]. Data shows that it enhances athletic performance and cardio health, and its benefits for men might even include increasing sperm quality, perhaps increasing the probability of pregnancy [2]. For women, ashwagandha may help treat PCOS.

In addition, it had preliminary benefits in other neuropsychiatric conditions, including generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, substance use disorders, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder [3].

How does Ashwagandha work?

Ashwagandha is thought to modulate the body’s response to stress, which activates overdrive on the nervous system. Its so-called ‘adaptogenic’ properties restore balance to essential stress hormones and alleviate anxiety. It also modulates neurotransmitters such as serotonin and GABA to improve mood and relax the body [4].

Ashwagandha can aid in neurodegeneration due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. Ashwagandha has shown antioxidant activity in animal models, and decreased apoptosis in addition to increased synaptic plasticity that could improve memory and actually reverse the induced cognitive deficits [3].

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What is Creatine?

Creatine is a naturally occurring compound produced in the body (in the liver, kidneys, and pancreas) and in dietary sources such as seafood and red meat. Most (over 90%) is stored in the skeletal muscle [5, 6, 7]. Creatine exists in two forms within the muscle: free creatine (~40%) and phosphocreatine (~60%) [8].

What does Creatine do?

Creatine actively participates in energy metabolism; specifically, it binds with a phosphate molecule, turning it into creatine phosphate (phosphocreatine). As such, it delivers ‘energy on demand’ for the performance of brief intense activities. [6] Although more widely used in the muscle tissues, Cr plays a role in brain metabolism as well. It helps produce more ATP, the neurotransmitter (one of the brain’s main sources of energy) [6].

In fact, creatine supplementation has been shown to increase muscle mass and enhance athletic performance [7], thanks in part to its ability to improve our muscles’ energy-producing potential, enabling us to work harder and longer [9].

How does Creatine work?

Creatine enhances the cellular availability of ATP, thereby supplying the body with extra energy, strength, and endurance [6]. When you take supplements, you simply ensure that more creatine is available in your muscles, potentially enabling your muscle fibres to generate more energy[7].

Furthermore, during high-intensity exercise, it provides the explosive energy to kick-start performance [10]. It’s beneficial to stamina, strength and recovery [10].

More recently, creatine has been exploring its benefits as an energy source and modulator of muscle performance. Additionally, it acts as a therapeutic molecule for a range of diverse clinical applications, such as neurodegenerative diseases, heart failure, and certain metabolic disorders [9, 11].

Combining Ashwagandha and Creatine

Combining Ashwagandha and Creatine may potentially enhance the benefits of each supplement, although there is currently no direct research on this specific combination.

Can Ashwagandha promote muscle growth?

Ashwagandha has been correlated with increases in muscle mass and strength. It has also been shown to improve recovery by reducing exercise-induced muscle damage, increasing testosterone, and decreasing body fat percentage. The supplementation with Ashwagandha resulted in a significantly greater reduction in exercise-induced muscle damage (as indicated by the stabilization of serum creatine kinase), a significantly greater increase in testosterone level, and a significantly greater decrease in body fat percentage compared with the subjects who were placebo-treated [12].

Similarities and differences between Ashwagandha and Creatine

Studies on clinical populations found that taking Ashwagandha root extract improved cardiorespiratory strength [13, 14], reductions in exercise-induced muscle damage, increased testosterone and reductions in body-fat percentage [12].

In contrast, Creatine is a widely used supplement in the fitness and sports world and is probably the best-known supplement for short bursts of high-intensity exercise. Creatine supplementation is widely used in athletes, given its ability to facilitate ATP regeneration in skeletal muscle, thereby increasing the rate of recovery and improving performance during repeated high-intensity bouts of exercise. Creatine supplementation improves training adaptations, increasing lean body mass, muscle fibre size and functionality, which may be a result of enhanced muscle protein synthesis.

On the side of similarities: they are both used to increase physical performance and improve body composition (leading to increased muscle mass and strength).

While there are many similarities between the two – in particular, the finding that exercise is associated with increased levels of both of these natural molecules – there are also several important differences. Ashwagandha is a botanical herb with longstanding traditional uses, including anecdotal reports on stress levels [15]. Creatine, while also a natural molecule in the body, has been established primarily as a means of enhancing high-intensity exercise performance – but it appears to lack the ability to enhance stress resistance or cardiorespiratory endurance.

Conclusion

In conclusion, there are no studies directly investigating the combination of Ashwagandha and Creatine, it's plausible that combining these two supplements could potentially enhance their individual benefits. However, more research is needed to confirm this. It's important to note that while Ashwagandha may offer potential benefits for muscle growth, it should not be relied upon as a primary strategy for muscle development. While both Ashwagandha and Creatine are utilized to increase physical performance and enhance body composition, they can both be used for different purposes.

Greta Daniskova

Greta Daniskova

Greta is a 2nd-year student currently pursuing her Bachelor's Degree in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Westminster in London. Currently, in her second year of undergraduate studies, she exhibits a keen interest in the dynamic field of healthcare. With a focus on understanding the intricacies of human biology and disease mechanisms, Greta is driven by a desire to contribute to advancements in medical research and patient care.