What is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha is an incredible adaptogenic herb, with many benefits, and amongst those are the ashwagandha benefits for weight loss. This ancient medicinal herb originated in India at least 5000 years ago in the traditional healing system of Ayurveda. However, it can be traced back to 6000 BC, appearing in ancient Ayurvedic texts, the Charaka and the Sushruta Samhitas.
Adaptogens adapt to biological and psychological stress by making it easier for you to balance your hormonal systems. They adapt to what your individual body’s needs are at that given time, whether that be boosting energy, recovering faster from intense physical exertion, replenishing adrenals, or reducing cortisol levels. They help a person deal with persistent fatigue and stress by balancing hormones.
This rejuvenating herb was used by Indian and Chinese soldiers for centuries to help with faster recovery in combat and boost energy for optimal performance.
Ashwagandha translates to mean ‘smell of the horse’ in Sanskrit, and this possibly has a double meaning. Not only does the herb exude the odour of a horse, but it’s also known for its ability to increase strength and virility, so this name implies the herb’s potential to impart the strength of a stallion.
Despite being around for all this time, it’s only in the last 50 years that ashwagandha has become known in the West.
Can Ashwagandha help with weight loss?
It's important to note that a single herb alone, or any single factor alone, will not help you magically lose all the weight you want to lose. There is no quick fix to a weight loss journey. Only by approaching losing weight holistically by considering all the potential factors that could be promoting weight gain will you start to lose weight in a healthy and sustainable way. There are many magazine articles titled with the likes of, ‘get slim quick with this one magic ingredient’, and many diets promising you the slim body you have dreamed of for years. A lot of what is marketed to us in the health and beauty industry is sold to us as ‘the dream’ i.e., if you buy this, you will achieve your dream of enjoying the best body of your life.
In desperate attempts to lose weight, many people follow drastic diets or embark on intensive fitness regimes to finally shed the weight. This is often a vicious cycle, promoting deprivation followed by binging where a person will eat anything in their sight after obsessing over and thinking about the food that they were telling their brains repeatedly they couldn’t have. This means that many people will lose a lot of weight and then put it all back on, often finding they weigh even more than before they lost the weight in the first place!
Finding ways to cut back on your sugar, make healthier choices overall, and learn moderation to still enjoy the little things you fancy is a much more sustainable way to maintain a healthy weight in the long-term. When we relax a little, and just start to listen to what our individual bodies need and be more aware of the fuel you’re putting in them, then losing weight becomes something that happens naturally with ease, without it being something you’re obsessing over and trying to force. It gives us the chance to adopt healthier lifestyle habits we will want to implement every day, instead of doing an extreme crash diet which is impossible to keep up without getting very sick eventually.
Losing weight too quickly is not considered safe by healthcare professionals, so none of the information on the ashwagandha benefits for weight loss suggests that ashwagandha will make you lose weight overnight. But incorporating ashwagandha into your wellness routine can help in your sustainable weight loss journey and small changes towards a healthier lifestyle over time. There are also added potential health benefits that will make you want to nourish and rejuvenate your system with ashwagandha every single day and make healthier choices around this to support longevity and long-term vitality.
Weight Loss for Those with Chronic Stress
Ashwagandha may be useful for weight loss in people with chronic stress, as it’s known to reduce cortisol levels in the body, the stress hormone. High cortisol levels are linked to weight gain, nervous eating, and muscle loss. Cortisol is known as the survival hormone, released during the Fight or Flight response. It helped our ancient ancestors to fight off lions, tigers and bears, and any other fierce predatory animal knocking about back then, and guess what? Our bodies biologically react in the same way today, not distinguishing between a lion and a modern-day stressor. Cortisol triggers a hunger response, stimulating glucose production. Stress-related weight gain is associated with fat accumulating around the belly.
A 2017 study indicated that ashwagandha may be useful for weight loss in people with chronic stress. Chronically stressed adults were given either ashwagandha root extract or a placebo twice daily for eight weeks. For the adults taking ashwagandha, there was a reduction in scores on a perceived stress scale at four and eight weeks, compared to the placebo. Other benefits experienced by the ashwagandha group showed significant improvements in food cravings, body weight, body mass index (BMI), cortisol levels, wellbeing, and happiness. This is an interesting result for those looking to reduce stress levels, feel calmer and manage/reduce body weight at the same time – a great combination of potential benefits.
By taking ashwagandha to contribute to reduced stress levels, you’re less likely to overeat, and grab the sugary or salty foods when comfort eating. Research indicates that taking ashwagandha can help you reduce cortisol levels in the body by nearly 28 percent!
Weight Loss for Those with a Sluggish Metabolism
Ashwagandha improves the digestive system. By helping the body to digest food, the metabolism is boosted too, aiding in weight loss. Ashwagandha is rich in antioxidants that help your body burn fat better. Not only do these antioxidants improve overall vitality, but they boost your metabolism as well. In some cases, a malfunctioning thyroid could be the cause of hard-to-shift body weight. The thyroid regulates the metabolic rate of the body. As ashwagandha stimulates the production of T4 thyroid hormone from the thyroid, the basal metabolic rate (BMR) remains high. Hypothyroidism is a condition where the thyroid gland is underactive and doesn’t produce enough hormones. Symptoms of this can include weight gain, as well as tiredness and depression. Ashwagandha can mitigate the weight gain by triggering the production of T4. This, in turn, improves metabolism, helping with weight loss.
Weight Loss for Those Needing to Improve Fatigue and Circulation
Ashwagandha is renowned for its ability to boost energy in people. For people with fatigue, ashwagandha can assist with boosting the energy needed for the motivation to even start exercising in the first place. Upping the exercise and movement each day is essential for losing weight, but this can be hard to do if you’re plagues with persistent fatigue. Studies have shown that ashwagandha can improve aerobic performance, cardiorespiratory and cardiovascular endurance. As there is a high iron content in ashwagandha, it allows the body to create more red blood cells, to give your blood circulation a boost.
Weight Loss for Those Needing to Boost Immunity
A strong immune system makes it easier to lose weight, because instead of using all its reserves to survive with a weak immune system, the body can burn excess fat. On the journey to fitness, it’s important to fight inflammation, because this is commonly seen in people who are overweight. Targeting inflammation supports the body’s healing and weight loss.
Tips for Losing and Maintaining a Healthy Weight
The following tips can be incorporated into your weight loss plan, in addition to taking ashwagandha.
1) Set smaller goals to reach before getting to the big one. Each time you reach a new goal, reward yourself. Maintaining the weight is not easy and you should not assume that the weight will naturally keep itself off if you start eating more of the sugar and salt again. Any reward that motivates you to keep reaching those goals is sufficient, and maybe a slightly bigger reward for reaching your end target will motivate you even more. This technique of rewarding yourself has been shown to help achieve success in weight loss maintenance.
2) Keep a consistent routine going. If you keep your exercise and diet consistent, it becomes second nature, and you will stay on the right track to being consistently motivated to keep going. Planning ahead and knowing when you will schedule in the time to exercise helps to keep it consistent, and the more you keep the routine going, the more motivated you will feel to not only lose weight but be and feel the fittest you’ve ever been.
Try to keep your routine if you go on holiday – this is where many people fall off the wagon, and struggle to get back into it when they come home. If there’s anywhere where you can make time for enjoying exercise, it’s on holiday where you have the space and time to choose to do the things you enjoy away from work. When not on holiday, learn how to fit it into your busy work schedule (and everything else you’re running around for) because achieving and maintaining your health and fitness goals are important to you
3) Make sure to eat breakfast. Even if you practice intermittent fasting and eat a bit later after waking up, having a hearty, substantial first meal of the day can prevent you from overeating later in the day, and eating too heavy at night can affect sleep as your body is tasked with digesting all the food. It has been suggested by the UK National Health Service that eating this meal can help control weight and make it less likely you will snack or binge eat.
4) Use visualization and remember why you’re doing it. Visualization has been used as a very powerful tool to achieve not only fitness goals, but any type of goal. According to research, when the mind enters a deep state of relaxation, it becomes primed for suggestion, so when you see positive visuals and listen to positive thoughts, you are much more likely to be inspired into action and sticking to your goals.
What does your new body look like? How do you want to feel in your new body? There are so many free visualization videos on YouTube, and many fascinating books on this subject. Find some visualization exercises, and then learn how to access this free tool whenever and wherever you need it. Visualize your ideal body with no limits on what you think is realistic. Visualize what you want and use your visualizations to inspire you to make that happen.
You can also use visualization as a tool to reduce stress, which in turn can help with weight management. When cortisol (the stress hormone) levels get too high, the metabolism slows down and we get hungry quicker, leading to weight gain. Visualization and other relaxing tools like meditation and mindfulness can help to manage stress and reduce stress-related weight gain. These powerful tools are free and can be accessed at any time, empowering you to relieve anxiety and stress whilst promoting calm. Life will get crazy and chaotic and there will always be daily stressors, but there are always tools you can use to navigate through the storm of life.
5) Track progress. It’s better not to do this obsessively but weighing yourself every couple of weeks can help give you an indication as to if you’re losing the weight. But it’s also important to remember that if you’re doing a lot of muscle building exercises, the scales might not pick up on your progress (inches lost) because muscle is heavier than fat. The number might not necessarily change from week to week if you’re building muscle, so don’t be hard on yourself. Developing muscle helps you burn more fat, for a leaner, stronger physique.
6) Keep active as your body becomes used to higher activity levels. When you reach your healthy weight, it’s important to keep the metabolism strong by staying active and exercising every day, or at least frequently. After tracking weight loss of enrolled individuals who have lost significant weight, the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR)reports that the men and women who keep off the weight partake in significant amounts of physical activity, with both genders burning many calories per week, specifically 3293 kcal/week for men and 2545 kcal/week for women. Did you know that over three-quarters of the NWCR take part in brisk walks, cycle, lift weights or perform aerobics? You don’t need to pay extortionate amounts of money to keep fit.
7) Keep it up. It can be so tempting to go back to old habits thinking that we have reached our goal and it would be hard to put all the weight back on. Let me tell you: it’s very easy to gain it all back if you want this. Keep up all your new habits and focus on how good you feel in yourself. Avoid situations where you could potentially slip up, such as social situations where people might put pressure on you to stray. Keep including the good foods you enjoy to your diet, which will encourage healthier eating as a whole.