By Charles Poliquin
Use the herb fenugreek to lose fat and gain strength. Two recent studies show that taking the herb fenugreek with meals can help you lose fat, gain muscle, and gain maximal strength while resistance training.
The mechanism behind the benefits of fenugreek for body composition and athletic performance appears to be twofold. First, this herb decreases aromatase in which testosterone is converted to estrogen (it affects men and women but men have a lot more testosterone that can be unfavorably turned into estrogen).
For example, in one study, young men who took 500 mg of fenugreek daily in conjunction with strength training, increased free testosterone by 12.25 percent and total testosterone by 6.57 percent, whereas a placebo group had no change. In addition, the fenugreek group lost 2 percent body fat compared to a small 0.5 percent body fat loss in the placebo group. The fenugreek group increased peak power by 3 percent as measured by a sprint cycle test, while the placebo group decreased peak power by 12 percent.
The second way that fenugreek can support body composition and training gains is that it appears to modulate blood sugar. It also may be involved in nutrient partitioning, which has to do with whether the food you eat is turned into fat, muscle, or stored as muscle glycogen.
For example, the second study that used the same research design as the first showed that participants lost 2.3 percent body fat compared to only a 0.4 percent loss in the placebo group. Strength gains were more impressive in the fenugreek group in this study: A comparison of the 1RMs indicated that the placebo group had a 4 percent increase in bench press and a 15 percent increase in leg press, while the fenugreek supplement group had a 9 percent increase in bench press and a 25 percent increase in leg press. The fenugreek group also experienced and anabolic effect from the herb with higher free testosterone as well.
Take away the understanding that fenugreek can help you gain muscle, lose fat, and gain strength because it supports anabolic hormone response to training. It may increase energy stores, while shifting the body away from fat storage. Fenugreek can also be taken in place of carbohydrates to help load nutrients such as creatine and carnitine into the muscles because of its effect on blood sugar and insulin.
Poole, C., et., al. The Effects of a Commercially Available Botanical Supplement on Strength, Body Composition, Power Output, and Hormonal Profiles in Resistance-Trained Males. 2010. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 7(34).
Wilborn, C., et al. Effects of a Purported Aromatase and 5 Reductase on Hormone Profiles in college-Age Men. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. 2010. 20, 457-465.