Increasing Muscle Strength with Fenugreek

Increasing Muscle Strength with Fenugreek
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The spice fenugreek appears to significantly improve muscle strength and weight lifting power output while possessing anti-cancer properties in vitro. In my 2-min video Benefits of Fenugreek Seeds I profile a study entitled “The effects of a commercially available botanical supplement on strength, body composition, power output, and hormonal profiles in resistance-trained males.” Something had a “significant impact on both upper- and lower-body strength and body composition in comparison to placebo in a double blind controlled trial. These changes were obtained with no clinical side effects.” Something allowed these men to leg press an extra hundred pounds compared to placebo. And the magical substance? Powdered fenugreek–a spice that may even double as an anti-cancer agent.

In the video I show human prostate cancer cells in a petri dish before and after being exposed to various concentrations of fenugreek compared to the effect of the spice on normal prostate cells. The effect was striking. The study concluded: “In summary, fenugreek seeds may possess potent anti-cancer properties.”

So what’s the downside? Well, there is a side effect of fenugreek seed consumption—it makes your armpits smell like maple syrup! See my 2-min. video Side-Effect of Fenugreek Seed Consumption for more.

What happens to the armpit odor of those embracing entire diets full of plants? See Body Odor Diet. Then check out Asparagus Pee for another funky odor video.

Fenugreek may be to strength training what beets and arugula are to cardio. My ten video series on improving athletic performance with vegetables starts with Doping With Beet Juice and ends with So Should We Drink Beet Juice or Not?.

Other plants with apparently remarkable benefits include amla (see, for example, Amla Versus Diabetes), saffron (Saffron for the Treatment of Alzheimers), the tea plant (Dietary Brain Wave Alteration), and humble broccoli (Broccoli Versus Breast Cancer Stem Cells). More on the power of plants in general in Power Plants and spices like fenugreek in particular in Antioxidants in a Pinch. See what a whole diet of plants can do to prostate cancer cell growth in Ex Vivo Cancer Proliferation Bioassay.

Fenugreek is certainly something I’ve been trying to incorporate more into my family’s diet based on all this amazing new data. It’s strong stuff though! I’d be interested to hear any tips on how folks have been able to sneak it into their diets. I make these mean chia seed-encrusted dried mangoes that I sprinkle with fenugreek powder using the mix-a-yummy-with-yucky technique for adding less-than-delicious things to one’s diet (like putting amla in smoothies). I find home-dried mangos so yummy I figure I could rub them with just about anything!

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here and watch my full 2012 – 2014 presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More than an Apple a Day, and From Table to Able.

Image credit:  sportsandsocial / Flickr

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  • Gerard

    You can make a tasty tea from fenugreek and water.

  • http://www.facebook.com/devells Devin Ellsworth

    You can buy ground fenugreek as a supplement, something I have been trying for a few weeks as I am weight training. I have definitely noticed the maple syrup odor! Pretty funny… Not sure if I’ve noticed an increase in my strength yet but it’s only been a couple weeks yet. Also read online that it helps lower your blood sugar (and thus is helpful as a supplement with those with low appetite) and I have noticed this too, anecdotally, so I take mine with food.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=518021344 Cheyanne Imbriaco

    We buy whole fenugreek seeds and grind them to powder in our vitamix. Then we add a tablespoon to our smoothies everyday. Our armpits do smell like maple syrup! It’s so weird but we are used to it now:)

  • Rob

    Michael what are your thoughts on Fenugreek pills versus Fenugreek powder? Will that have the same effect on athletic performance?

    • http://www.facebook.com/devells Devin Ellsworth

      In the study in question they were using ground fenugreek in pill form

  • Patty

    We sprinkle on top of our sprouted muffin and crunchy almond butter. Yummy!

  • Soymoon

    Here’s a wonderful recipe using fenugreek:
    http://www.ivu.org/recipes/african/ethiopian-style.html
    Enjoy!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=725986334 Wendy Alfaro

    For adding more fenugreek into the diet:

    1. Mix equal parts of fenugreek, cumin and paprika into the coffee
    grinder and process.
    Use this as herb mix por adding to veggies. Some of my favorite options:
    -Roasted cauliflower florets: cut a medium cauliflower into florets,
    rub some olive oil and lemon juice, sprinkle spices and bake until
    crispy.
    -Zucchini sticks: same procedure as with cauliflower.
    2. Make some pesto/hummus: add herbs mixture to 1/2 cup of soaked
    nuts, lemon juice or apple cider vinegar and blend in the Vitamix.
    3. Also may add powder fenugreek+flax meal to oatmeal.

  • JohnC

    Any idea how to grind whole fenugreek seed to produce powder? I have a spice and herb grinder and the grinder can t handle fenugreek seeds -they are too hard.

    I wonder if the nutritional value of the sprouts is comparable to eating the ground seeds.

    • Clifford Burton

      Sprout them!! It only takes two to three days in a glass jar depending on ambient temperatures. Sprouting seeds–ANY seeds–”wakes them up” and increases Vitamin C content. It’s also renders them even easier to digest than it would be for the body to extract nutrients in dried powder form. Besides all of that, it’s fun!!

      Clifford
      Santa Monica

      • JohnC

        Good point.
        And Fenugreek seeds are very easy to sprout.

  • Jessica

    Amla is yucky? I recently had the opportunity to travel to India, where I bought some organic dried amla. It tasted like dried strawberries!

  • Paul August

    I went out and purchased the ground fenugreek yesterday and this morning i had toast with Black Strap Molasses and a generous sprinkling of the fenugreek. What I would like to know is how much of this spice do we need to match the requirements used in the experiment? Thanks!

  • B

    I soak a teaspoon of seeds in water overnight then chew them or add to smoothie. Not yummy, but It works for me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rmrsullivan Rachel Sullivan

    Dr. Gregor, Please let us know if any data is published about *women* and fenugreek. If I recall correctly, it was only in men that it showed the benefits you mentioned.

    In the meantime, my husband and I just toss a spoonful of whole fenugreek seeds into our smoothie batch and don’t notice a different taste at all. Our smoothie recipe is fluid, but always contains flax seeds, kale, spinach, broccoli, pineapple (canned) for taste, mixed frozen berries, and maybe an apple or citrus fruit or two, and molasses. Sometimes we toss in a hibiscus flower, since we have a bush in our yard. It can’t taste too bad, since my 6 and 8 year olds will drink it! We tried adding amla powder….no way, made the whole thing too bitter!

  • zohar

    What is the recommended amount per day for strength training?

  • Nalini Dave

    Hi Dr. Greger,
    Love watching your videos and reading blogs.
    Fenugreek is very popular in India.
    I sprout the fenugreek seeds, ready in 3 to 5 days ,easy to sprout.it an get sticky if u add too much water.
    Sprouted fenugreek seeds used in soups, salads specially sprouted moong bean salad.
    I use it in detox broths.
    I remember my mom and my grandmother eating a tsf or two of fenugreek seeds raw,just swallowing,not chewing.
    It is easier to swallow if soaked for few hours.
    They said it was good for” joint pains”.
    The most popular Ayurvedic food,Khichari which has rice and lentils also has fenugreek seeds for health.
    When sown in the ground, fenugreek seeds produce slightly bitter greens called methi leaves,used in making Indian Roti or corn breads.Dried methi leaves are available in

  • http://www.facebook.com/brenda.ross.5074 Brenda Ross
  • Benjamin Grunewald

    Fenugreek seeds are easily sprouted. I bought seeds claiming to be for that purpose. They are organic and have a very high germination rate. I don’t know if the seeds at your local ethnic market would work just as well but probably worth a try. Once sprouted they are very mild and agreeable. I eat them raw in salads or my homemade sauerkraut. (Also very easy to make!) Presumably they have the same benefits as unsprouted fenugreek and may be more bioavailable. Or maybe not but they sure are easy to eat this way.

  • GD

    The title of this article is totally misleading.

    The study was done on Torabolic, paid by its manufacturer (Indus Biotech), Torabolic is extracted from Fenugreek. and it consists of 70 percent of galactomannan and who knows what else.
    You could consume pounds and pounds of Fenugreek and yet not see any of the benefits of Torabolic. Worse yet, it seems Torabolic causes muscle mass to grow the, but researchers have no idea how, so the long term effects are unknown.
    To imply that just taking fenugreek is going to induce strength and muscle growth is misleading and irresponsible.
    It is sad that this website is resorting to the same misinformation tactics used by the meat and dairy industry.

    • Myron Schwarzennecker

      aha

    • http://willkriski.com/ Will Kriski

      Very valid points. Your comment has shaken my confidence in Dr. Greger’s reports, which are supposed to save us time and be expertly reviewed.

  • Alison

    I see a lot of articles about increasing muscle strength, or building more muscle, but are there any dietary adjustments that can increase muscle flexibility?

    • Myron Schwarzennecker

      Do you really mean tendons?

  • Olly

    Will my breast reduce to its original size if I stop taking fenugreek

  • David

    Recently started taking fenugreek seeds, really cheap here where I’m at.. I usually take it at night before bed, boil some water and put in teaspoon of this stuff.

  • Aaron Kester

    This study seems to indicate there was no difference between those who consumed fenugreek vs a placebo – http://www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/1550-2783-7-34.pdf

  • Chris Hamilton

    Was this study independently done? I read that the lab who conducted the study is a supplier of metrx.

  • Sherry

    Sprout them! I learned to do this at the Optimum Health Institute in
    San Diego. Take a handful, put them in a sprouting bag or jar (follow sprouting instructions) and in 3-4 days you have a powerhouse of fenugreek sprouts. Way more effective and nutritious than the grounded seeds alone. The taste? Not my personal favorite but combined with other foods like chicken, beef, avocado or cheese the sprout flavor transforms into pure deliciousness and enhances the flavor of the entire dish!

  • gauri

    Soaking & sprouting it is a wonderful way of consuming it. No bitterness & more nutrition

  • Thomas Hansen

    The best way to consume large quantities of the sprouts is not in salads although they do enhance any salad. To eat one pound of sprouts puree the sprouts by blending with 1 cup of water or, better, 1 cup of rejuvalec. Add the puree to the batter of any flax cracker mix.

    For rejuvelac, see
    http://www.helynskitchen.com/2013/11/cultured-cashew-pimento-cheddar-cheese.html?m=1

    For cracker recipies, see
    ( http://www.livway.org/dehydratedfoods.htm)

    • Thea

      Thomas: Nice tip! Thanks for sharing both the idea and the links!