I don’t know about you but I often find myself stressed to the max. Between balancing athletic pursuits, running a business, and family time my anxiety can shoot through the roof.
As endurance athletes, we want to optimize both our performance and recovery and stress can be a real debbie downer when it comes to feeling our best during training and racing.
Heck, even exercise can stress our bodies physically. Combined with regular day to day stress this can snowball out of control to the point where our bodies are one hot mess!
Traditionally, there have been a handful of ways to reduce life and exercise stress. These are:
- Take recovery days
- Don’t go crazy on the caffeine
- Get enough sleep
- Realize there are things you cannot control
- Have a strong network of friends
- Limit screen and social media time
- Learn to manage your time
- Take deep breaths/meditate
- Eat a healthy diet
- Stay hydrated
While I fully endorse these recommendations, sometimes they are still not enough to prevent the tension and pressure when you’re trying to juggle a million responsibilities. That’s why I also recommend trying supplements that can help with stress.
One supplement has been clinically proven to reduce stress and improve athletic performance. This supplement is KSM-66 ashwagandha. In this article we will discuss what it is, how it works, benefits, how much to take, and if there are any negative side effects.
What Is KSM-66 Ashwagandha?
KSM-66 is a patented, highly concentrated and bio-available, full spectrum ashwagandha extract made by the company Ixoreal Biomed. They spent fourteen years of research and development to create this highly refined super ashwagandha.
Unlike other ashwagandha, KSM-66 is produced using a “green chemistry” process where the extract is obtained without the use of alcohol or chemicals.
Due to this proprietary process, KSM-66 has an industry leading 5% concentration of withanolides (stress reducing compounds) as measured by HPLC testing (high performance liquid chromatography).
KSM-66 is also GRAS status by the FDA, vegetarian, and most importantly safe for consumption.
Where does KSM-66 Ashwagandha come from?
A key difference between KSM-66 and other ashwagandha is what part of the plant extract is taken from. Cheaper and less superior forms of ashwagandha will get the extract from the leaves of the plant. This extract is less concentrated and bio available.
KSM-66 ashwagandha, on the other hand, uses only the root of the plant to derive the extract. Why is this you ask? Glad you asked! Here’s why:
- The majority of independent clinical trials use the root to examine the adaptogenic (adapt to stress) of ashwagandha.
- Ashwagandha root extract is better absorbed by the body than leaf extract.
- Extract taken from leaves is generally used for topical treatments and not meant for ingestion.
- Regulatory bodies in some countries only allow the root of the ashwagandha plant to be used for supplements and medicine.
KSM-66 Ashwagandha benefits
KSM-66 has a multitude of benefits. I’ll list these briefly here and we will discuss them more in the next section that examines research on KSM-66 ashwagandha.
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Enhances sleep quantity and quality
- Combats insomnia
- Lowers cortisol levels
- Helps stress-related food cravings
- Improves memory and cognitive function
- Promotes endurance, strength, and recovery
- Enhances libido
- May increase testosterone in men
Research on KSM-66 Ashwagandha
KSM-66 reduces stress & anxiety
Results: The treatment group that was given the high-concentration full-spectrum Ashwagandha root extract exhibited a significant reduction (P<0.0001) in scores on all the stress-assessment scales on Day 60, relative to the placebo group. The serum cortisol levels were substantially reduced (P=0.0006) in the Ashwagandha group, relative to the placebo group. The adverse effects were mild in nature and were comparable in both the groups. No serious adverse events were reported.
Conclusion: The findings of this study suggest that a high-concentration full-spectrum Ashwagandha root extract safely and effectively improves an individual’s resistance towards stress and thereby improves self-assessed quality of life.
KSM-66 improves male fertility
Results: There was a 167% increase in sperm count (9.59 ± 4.37 × 106/mL to 25.61 ± 8.6 × 106/mL; ), 53% increase in semen volume (1.74 ± 0.58 mL to 2.76 ± 0.60 mL; ), and 57% increase in sperm motility (18.62 ± 6.11% to 29.19 ± 6.31%; ) on day 90 from baseline. The improvement in these parameters was minimal in the placebo-treated group. Furthermore, a significantly greater improvement and regulation were observed in serum testosterone levels with the Ashwagandha treatment as compared to the placebo (p<0.001).
Conclusion: The present study adds to the evidence on the therapeutic value of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), as attributed in Ayurveda for the treatment of oligospermia leading to infertility.
KSM-66 enhances cardiorespiratory endurance
Results: There was a greater increase from baseline (P < 0.0001) in the mean VO2 max with KSM-66 Ashwagandha (n = 24) compared to placebo (n = 25) at 8 weeks (4.91 and 1.42, respectively) and at 12 weeks (5.67 and 1.86 respectively). The QOL scores for all subdomains significantly improved to a greater extent in the Ashwagandha group at 12 weeks compared to placebo (P < 0.05).
Conclusion: The findings suggest that Ashwagandha root extract enhances the cardiorespiratory endurance and improves QOL in healthy athletic adults.
KSM-66 boosts muscle strength & recovery
Results: Compared to the placebo subjects, the group treated with ashwagandha had significantly greater increases in muscle strength on the bench-press exercise (Placebo: 26.4 kg, 95 % CI, 19.5, 33.3 vs. Ashwagandha: 46.0 kg, 95 % CI 36.6, 55.5; p = 0.001) and the leg-extension exercise (Placebo: 9.8 kg, 95 % CI, 7.2,12.3 vs. Ashwagandha: 14.5 kg, 95 % CI, 10.8,18.2; p = 0.04), and significantly greater muscle size increase at the arms (Placebo: 5.3 cm2, 95 % CI, 3.3,7.2 vs. Ashwagandha: 8.6 cm2, 95 % CI, 6.9,10.8; p = 0.01) and chest (Placebo: 1.4 cm, 95 % CI, 0.8, 2.0 vs. Ashwagandha: 3.3 cm, 95 % CI, 2.6, 4.1; p < 0.001). Compared to the placebo subjects, the subjects receiving ashwagandha also had significantly greater reduction of exercise-induced muscle damage as indicated by the stabilization of serum creatine kinase (Placebo: 1307.5 U/L, 95 % CI, 1202.8, 1412.1, vs. Ashwagandha: 1462.6 U/L, 95 % CI, 1366.2, 1559.1; p = 0.03), significantly greater increase in testosterone level (Placebo: 18.0 ng/dL, 95 % CI, -15.8, 51.8 vs. Ashwagandha: 96.2 ng/dL, 95 % CI, 54.7, 137.5; p = 0.004), and a significantly greater decrease in body fat percentage (Placebo: 1.5 %, 95 % CI, 0.4 %, 2.6 % vs. Ashwagandha: 3.5 %, 95 % CI, 2.0 %, 4.9 %; p = 0.03).
Conclusion: This study reports that ashwagandha supplementation is associated with significant increases in muscle mass and strength and suggests that ashwagandha supplementation may be useful in conjunction with a resistance training program.
KSM-66 improves sexual function in women
Results: The analysis indicates that treatment with HCARE leads to significantly higher improvement, relative to placebo, in the FSFI Total score (p < 0.001), FSFI domain score for “arousal” (p < 0.001), “lubrication” (p < 0.001), “orgasm” (p = 0.004), and “satisfaction” (p < 0.001), and also FSDS score (p < 0.001) and the number of successful sexual encounters (p < 0.001) at the endof the treatment.
Conclusion: This study demonstrated that oral administration of HCARE may improve sexual function in healthy women.
KSM-66 helps stress/weight management connection
Results: KSM-66 Ashwagandha caused significant reduction in Perceived Stress among the subjects. At the end of the study, KSM-66 Ashwagandha produced a 32.74% reduction in PSS scores from the baseline compared to placebo group. KSM-66 Ashwagandha reduced desire or cravings for food in the study subjects. The FCQ scores for Planning, Positive and Negative reinforcement, Lack of control, Emotion and Environment domains were reduced significantly (P < 0.05) in the Ashwagandha supplemented subjects. A statistically significant (P < 0.05) decrease of 22.2% was observed in serum cortisol (a stress hormone) levels as a result of KSM-66 Ashwagandha supplementation compared to placebo group. KSM-66 Ashwagandha supplementation resulted in a 3.0% and 2.9% reduction in bodyweight (P < 0.05) and BMI (P < 0.05) respectively. Supplementation with KSM-66 Ashwagandha resulted in a significant (P < 0.05) increase in OHQ scores and a significant (P < 0.05) reduction in TFEQ scores for ‘Uncontrolled’ and ‘Emotional Eating behavior’ compared to placebo group.
Conclusion: The outcome of this study suggests that Ashwagandha root extract can be used for body weight management in adults under chronic stress.
KSM-66 improves memory and cognitive function
Results: After eight weeks of study, the ashwagandha treatment group demonstrated significant improvements compared with the placebo group in both immediate and general memory, as evidenced by Wechsler Memory Scale III subtest scores for logical memory I (p = 0.007), verbal paired associates I (p = 0.042), faces I (p = 0.020), family pictures I (p = 0.006), logical memory II (p = 0.006), verbal paired associates II (p = 0.031), faces II (p = 0.014), and family pictures II (p = 0.006). The treatment group also demonstrated significantly greater improvement in executive function, sustained attention, and information-processing speed as indicated by scores on the Eriksen Flanker task (p = 0.002), Wisconsin Card Sort test (p = 0.014), Trail-Making test part A (p = 0.006), and the Mackworth Clock test (p = 0.009).
Conclusion: Ashwagandha may be effective in enhancing both immediate and general memory in people with MCI as well as improving executive function, attention, and information processing speed.
KSM-66 enhances telomerase activity
Results: It has been observed that, KSM-66 Ashwagandha increased telomerase activity through TRAP assay, with highest enhancement of ~45% at 10-50μg concentration.
Conclusion: Ashwagandha root extract has the anti-aging inducing potential
KSM-66 helps hypothyroidism
Results: A total of four subjects (two from each group) withdrew their consent before the second visit. Eight weeks of treatment with ashwagandha improved serum TSH (p < 0.001), T3 (p = 0.0031), and T4 (p = 0.0096) levels significantly compared to placebo. Ashwagandha treatment effectively normalized the serum thyroid indices during the 8-week treatment period in a significant manner (time-effects: TSH [p < 0.001], T3 [p < 0.001], and T4 [p < 0.001]). Four subjects (8%) (ashwagandha: 1[4%]; Placebo: 3[12%]) out of 50 reported few mild and temporary adverse effects during this study.
Conclusion: Treatment with ashwagandha may be beneficial for normalizing thyroid indices in subclinical hypothyroid patients.
How much KSM-66 per day/dosage?
The recommended dose of KSM-66 per day to combat stress is 300 - 500mg root extract standardized to at least 1.5% withanolides. More research is needed to see if higher doses produce greater benefits.
Lower doses (50-100mg daily) might reduce stress induced immunosuppression and enhance the effectiveness of other anxiolytic agents.
When to take KSM-66
KSM-66 should be taken with meals or 30 minutes before bedtime as it can cause a sedative effect.
How long does it take for KSM-66 Ashwagandha to work?
KSM-66 works immediately to reduce stress and anxiety. For other benefits KSM-66 should be taken daily for at least two months.
Is KSM-66 Ashwagandha safe?
According to examine.com ashwagandha “seems to be safe, but it needs more long-term research that's specifically designed to evaluate its safety.”
The only side-effects noted with KSM-66 are drowsiness and sedation. This could be extremely beneficial for people who have a hard time falling and staying asleep at night.
Ashwagandha should never be taken with the following medications:
- CNS depressants
- Thyroid medications
Where to buy KSM-66 Ashwagandha
KSM-66 can be purchased as a stand alone supplement at places like amazon or other supplement sites for $15 - $50 OR it can be found in a comprehensive sleep supplement like EndurElite SleepElite which contains 600mg of KSM-66 plus ten other sleep and stress relieving ingredients.
Matt Mosman (MS, CISSN, CSCS) is a research scientist, endurance athlete, and the founder and Chief Endurance Officer at EndurElite. Matt holds his B.S. in Exercise Science from Creighton University and his M.S. in Exercise Physiology from the University of California. Matt and his family reside in Spearfish South Dakota, where they enjoy running, mountain biking, camping, and all the outdoor adventures Spearfish has to offer.
- A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of Ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults. Chandrasekhar, K., Kapoor, J., & Anishetty, S. (2012). Indian journal of psychological medicine, 34(3), 255.
- Clinical Evaluation of the Spermatogenic Activity of the Root Extract of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) in Oligospermic Males: A Pilot Study Ambiye, V. R., Langade, D., Dongre, S., Aptikar, P., Kulkarni, M., & Dongre, A. (2013). Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2013.
- Efficacy of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera [L.] Dunal) in improving cardiorespiratory endurance in healthy athletic adults Choudhary, B., Shetty, A., & Langade, D. G. (2015). Ayu, 36(1), 63.
- Examining the effect of Withania somnifera supplementation on muscle strength and recovery: a randomized controlled trial Wankhede, S., Langade, D., Joshi, K., Sinha, S. R., & Bhattacharyya, S. (2015). Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12(1), 43.
- Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) Root Extract in Improving Sexual Function in Women: A Pilot Study Dongre, S., Langade, D., & Bhattacharyya, S. (2015). BioMed research international, 2015.
- Body Weight Management in Adults Under Chronic Stress Through Treatment With Ashwagandha Root Extract: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial Choudhary, D., Bhattacharyya, S., & Joshi, K. (2017). Journal of evidence-based complementary & alternative medicine, 22(1), 96-106.
- Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal) Root Extract in Improving Memory and Cognitive Functions Choudhary, D., Bhattacharyya, S., & Bose, S. (2017). Journal of Dietary Supplements, 1-14. Chicago
- Withania somnifera root extract extends lifespan of Caenorhabditis elegans Kumar, R., Gupta, K., Saharia, K., Pradhan, D., & Subramaniam, J. R. (2013). Annals of neurosciences, 20(1), 13.
- Withania somnifera Root Extract Enhances Telomerase Activity in the Human HeLa Cell Line Raguraman, V., & Subramaniam, J. R. (2016). Advances in Bioscience and Biotechnology, 7(04), 199.
- Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha Root Extract in Subclinical Hypothyroid Patients: A Double-Blind, Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial. Sharma, A. K., Basu, I., & Singh, S. (2017).The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.