These products help the body to “adapt” to stress and increase recovery and work output. They are not muscle building agents but they can go a long way to help you have a much better workout and reduce fatigue. They have history as herbal products that increase energy and, for the most part, they seem to live up to their reputation. Although not really critical in building muscle, these ingredients can go a long way in increasing overall ability to work out more often.
Ginseng – The first and most popular adaptogen, I don’t really see ginseng as a useful ingredient for most males. It has been shown to have some estrogenic constituents and should probably be avoided. That being said, so many people like it for its mental stimulation effects, that I guess it should be considered as “under consideration” for bodybuilding purposes. It can help increase NO and thus helps with erectile issues, which is probably why it is classified as a sexual stimulant.
Bacopa Monniera – This is another herbal adaptogen that has been shown to increase memory and mental acuity. Unfortunately, it is a mild sedative, which makes it good for relaxing at night, but not really great to take before a workout because you want your senses at their height. Only take this if you have chronic stress or as a relaxing supplement at night. Otherwise, avoid items that have a sedative effect. One other interesting thing about Bacopa is that it increases the conversion of T4 to T3, making it a pretty good thyroid stimulator.
Rhodiola rosea – This is really the premier adaptogen since it has human clinical data showing it increases exercise performance. Performance doesn’t exactly mean muscle growth but it does seem to help the bodybuilder recover from workouts faster and increase intensity while reducing fatigue. It would be best to have this on-hand to help you recover from grueling workouts or to use prior to a tough workout where you just “don’t feel like it”. According to the literature, rhodiola’s effects seem to wear off after a couple of days, so it is best to use it only when needed.
Ashwagandha – This is another adaptogen that has positive effects on the neurological system. It has been shown to lower cortisol by up to 28% and increase feelings of restfulness, energy, sleep quality and well being. This herb has some positive benefits for the bodybuilder since reduced cortisol can certainly be a good thing in general and following a cycle of any hormone product. Of all the adaptogens this is probably the best for the bodybuilder!
Terminalia Chebula – This herb seems to have many positive effects. It has been shown to be an anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, anti-oxidant and helps with gastric clearing. By the profile this is probably an adaptogen, but there is not clear data showing it to have this effect.