syn. Trigonella foenum-graecum
PERFORMANCE VALIDATION SCORES
Clinical Support Rating 3
Empirical Evidence Rating 3
Fenugreek is a medicinal plant originally of Indian and North African origin. It has been an integral part of Ayurvedic and Chinese traditional medicine for ages, used for such things as the treatment of indigestion, baldness, edema of the legs, the induction of labor, and the stimulation of lactation. It has also been widely used as a tonic, to increase metabolism, energy, and a sense of wellbeing. Additionally, Fenugreek has been applied to help increase the appetite
and promote weight gain.20 More recently, Fenu-
greek, specifically extract of the seeds, has been sold as a sport supplement for increasing testosterone levels and improving exercise performance. The most pronounced activity of fenugreek seed extract seems strong hypoglycemic effect. Clinical research sts that it lowers blood sugar through several distinct mechanisms.
The most pronounced activity of fenugreek seed extract seems to be a strong hypoglycemic effect. Clinical research suggests that it lowers blood sugar through several distinct mechanisms. For one, the seed extract contains high levels of an amino acid called
4-hydroxyisoleucine. This amino acid helps
stimulate the release of insulin from the pancreas in response to serum glucose (blood sugar). Fenugreek also seems to increase the number of insulin receptors in various tissues, increasing hormone sensitivity… It also appears to inhibit intestinal enzymes involved in the breakdown of sugars and starch. Together, these factors may allow this extract to be an effective supportive treatment in type-2 diabetic patients, helping to regulate both resting glucose levels and the insulin response after meals.
Fenugreek also appears to exhibit a measurable antihyperlipidemic effect, which means that it might improve lipids in patients suffering from high cholesterol. It has specifically been shown in studies to lower total and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, an activity that should create an environment more favorable
(less atherogenic) for the cardiovascular system. This biological activity may be due in part to other components of Fenugreek seeds called sapogenins, which are known to increase the excretion of cholesterol in the bile. Fenugreek’s cholesterol lowering effect may also be due in part to another compound called diso-
genin, which has some estrogenic activity. Some
components of the fenugreek seed have also been shown to stimulate the release of growth hormone in rats. Additional human studies are necessary to determine if fenugreek seed extract can improve human exercise performance.
Fenugreek seed extract is promoted to elevate testosterone, increase glycogen storage, and improve muscle mass and athletic performance.
This ingredient has been shown in human placebo-controlled studies to improve a metabolic marker (glycogen synthesis) often linked to positive changes in body composition or performance. It has a Clinical
Support Rating of 3 (3/5).
One study examined the addition of hydroxy-
isoleucine (extracted from Fenugreek seeds) to a post-exercise carbohydrate drink high in dextrose… The amount of 4-hydroxyisoleucine used was 2 mg/kg of bodyweight. Each of the study participants was subject to 90 minutes of intense exercise, which was aimed at depleting muscle glycogen stores. A baseline measure of the muscle tissue glycogen level was taken immediately after exercise. This was compared
to samples following carbohydrate replenishment during a 4-hour recovery window. The study demonstrated that the addition of 4-hydroxyisoleucine from fenugreek seeds improved glycogen resynthesis rates
by 63% over the consumption of carbohydrates alone. Another study on mice examined the effect of fenugreek seed extract on endurance exercise performance. Four weeks of fenugreek supplementation resulted in a significant increase in the time to exhaustion during prolonged swimming exercise. Body fat
levels also decreased significantly in the supplemented animals. Blood sample analysis demonstrated a concurrent rise in blood non-esterified fatty acid levels, suggesting an increase in the utilization of fat for energy
Presently, there are no known published peer reviewed clinical studies supporting the use of fenugreek seed extract for increasing testosterone levels
in humans. Further research is needed to determine if fenugreek has a strong performance-enhancing effect in exercising adults.
Fenugreek seed extract has been widely used as a stand-alone product. The empirical evidence on this supplement has been very mixed. A good percentage of users do believe they notice some benefit from this supplement, usually with regard to an increase in muscle endurance. At the same time, an equally strong percentage of users cannot attribute positive results to the use of this supplement. It is possible that
the ergogenic value of this supplement is isolated to its effect on insulin and glycogen resynthesis rates
(presently the only action supported by placebo-controlled studies). In this case, the physiological
changes may be too minor for many individuals to notice, especially if they are not closely in-tuned with their threshold for glycogen depletion. Fenugreek has an Empirical Evidence Rating of 3 (3/5).
Based on clinical studies and empirical evidence, a dosage of 1-3 grams per day of fenugreek extract, or 2 mg/kg of 4-hydroxyisoleucine, is recommended.
Side Effects / Safety
Fenugreek seed extract has been well tolerated during clinical studies, with few significant side effects. Note that fenugreek can lower blood sugar and cause a state of hypoglycemia. Care should be taken to assure sufficient carbohydrates are taken to maintain optimal blood glucose levels. Other common side effects include diarrhea and flatulence. Fenugreek also contains coumarin derivatives, which may increase bleeding time. Fenugreek should never be used during pregnancy due to its hormonal/uterine stimulating properties. Note that many bodybuilders and athletes prefer the use of purified 4-hydroxy-isoleucine, and report fewer side effects compared to fenugreek seed extract. Studies comparing the safety of the two have not been conducted.