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Increasing Muscle Strength with Fenugreek

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 – 2015 presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More than an Apple a Day, From Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.


Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.

44 responses to “Increasing Muscle Strength with Fenugreek

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  1. 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.

  2. 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:)

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

  4. 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
    -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.

  5. 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.

    1. 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!!

      Santa Monica

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

    1. That sure wasn’t my experience. I think of amla as one of the most bitter substances I’ve ever tried. Perhaps if you get it fresh from the source, it taste better as you say.

  7. 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!

  8. 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!

  9. 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 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

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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?

  13. 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.

  14. 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!

  15. 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

    For cracker recipies, see

  16. Hello All, am from India. We use fenugreek seeds in almost all dishes, very moderately since the seeds are little bitter. The best method is you can buy fenugreek leaves called ” Methi leaves” in any Indian grocery store. Clean them and saute as you do with spinach. I usually heat 1 tsp olive oil in a pan, add cumin, mustard seeds, minced ginger, garlic and add these methi leaves. add salt and turmeric, cover pan for 5 mins and its ready. Or, you can buy split lentils, pressure cook lentils till t hey become mushy. add the before mentioned sauteed to this cooked lentil, add salt, chilli powder. its taste yummy and healthy. Thanks and let me know if anyone interested in more interesting recipes.

  17. I took fenugreek and had dizziness. Three times, each time separated by one full week, same outcome. Always research side effects (potential) before starting any substance. Instead I’d suggest carnosine and PQQ, plus apple polyphenols (ursolic acid). Mitochondrial density in muscle tissue varies greatly by person and age but if it’s dense, it explains more than other factors why a 165 pound man could lift 489 pounds from the floor to overhead (Google Varbanov 222).

  18. I drink it as a tea, with grounded flaxseeds and honey. The honey pretty much masks the taste of the fenugreek. Also I use a teaspoon of each.

  19. Traditionally, in our North Indian diet especially in winters we’ve been blending the leafy fenugreek into a paste and then incorporating that with whole wheat or corn flour making a dough out of it. Then we make delicious indian chapatis with that. Yummmyy.

  20. Hey Michael or whoever else can give me any ideas. I weight-lift 6 times a week (my hobby). I was wondering how much Fenugreek I should take and how to take it to get the maximum benefit without any downsides? I also like the idea of the maple syrup :) Thx- Jake

  21. I am from southern part of India,Kerala.Traditionally we are using roasted Fenugreeg seeds and coffee bean roasted and powdered together and blended to make coffee.Good in taste.We use in our Curries too,some times to garnish the curries.
    The leaf of Fenugreek is used as vegetable,very tasty along with Chappatti and Rice.

  22. Hi, I found a very easy way to incorporate important spices to my daily nutrition regimen. I make a tea using 2 quarts of water in a saucepan, with maybe three tea bags of various teas I like, (hibiscus, green, dandelion, stinging nettle), and add about a tablespoon each of powdered ginger, cardamon, cloves, coriander and fennel. I drink it throughout the day, sometimes cut it with a little water.

    Fenugreek, which was the topic of this comment, I painlessly incorporate like I do other spices and herbs, in the several soups that I make and eat everyday. Each serving, whether it be lentil, other bean, chili, bone broth, or my vegetable fish stew gets about 1/4 teaspoon each of several, whatever I feel like tossing in: fenugreek, turmeric, pepper, fennel, mustard powder, rosemary, celery seeds, basil, oregano, thyme, dill, marjoram, tarragon.

    By preparing soups, I can get the daily dozen in practically every meal. Every serving also gets mushrooms, greens, onions, garlic, tomatoes, everything.

    In the last couple of years I’ve gone from a sickly 260 lb to a fit 176, my diabetes medications have been and are being further reduced, my blood glucose and blood pressure are normal, my psych meds have been discontinued, psoriasis has cleared up, everything works just fine.

  23. Hi, following up on a few posts here, wanted to know how much fenugreek would be appropriate to take for someone trying to incorporate into a weight lifting program? Is it something I could take in the morning with a protein shake, or is it something that should be consumed right be exercising?

    Thank you

  24. Hi, Dylan Ellis! If you click the link for the video that accompanies this blog post, and then click the “Sources Cited” link beneath the video window, you will find links to the studies mentioned in the post. The study on muscle strength used a proprietary fenugreek extract at a dosage of 500mg, taken in the morning on non-training days, or prior to workout on training days. I like to sprout fenugreek, and add it to salads or smoothies. We don’t really know how much fenugreek would correspond to the proprietary extract, because it is…proprietary. That said, it is often true that whole plant parts are more potent than extracted “active constituents” because of synergies that exist between and among various phytochemicals in plants and our own body chemistry. That’s a long way of saying that sometimes the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. You could try using fenugreek the way I use it, or you could look for the supplement. I hope that helps!

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