What is Fenugreek Extract Good For?
You'll see bags of fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) for sale in the spice section of most grocery stores — it's popular in dishes like Indian curries and Middle Eastern soups and stews. But this culinary herb can also spice up your health. Explore the surprising nutritional benefits of fenugreek for athletes and fitness enthusiasts, and how you can use fenugreek extract to level up your wellness game.
What is Fenugreek?
The herb thrives in warm climates like southern Europe and the Mediterranean, and chefs prize fenugreek for the nutty, maple syrup-esque flavor that its seeds add to dishes.
Yet its popularity has grown far beyond the kitchen and into the medical lab. Some of fenugreek's earliest medicinal uses tracing thousands of years back to traditional Chinese medicine where it is thought to help improve kidney health, boost male reproductive health, and even cure certain forms of cancer.
Today, you can find fenugreek seeds and dried leaves in your grocery store's spice aisle, or sold in health food stores as an extract, in herbal teas, and even in capsule form.
Fenugreek Nutrition: What is in Fenugreek?
If you're buying whole fenugreek seeds, a USDA laboratory analysis from 2019 shows that a single 1-tablespoon serving offers approximately:
- 35 calories
- 6 grams of carbohydrates (of which 3 grams is healthy fiber)
- 3 grams of protein
- 1 gram of fat
- High amounts of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium
- Small amounts of zinc, vitamin C, B vitamins, and vitamin A
What are the Health Benefits of Fenugreek?
Numerous small trials and medical studies suggest that fenugreek seeds and fenugreek extract may offer five specific health benefits.
1. Fenugreek Reduced Diabetes Risks and Improved Blood Sugar Numbers
Approximately 11% of Americans have diabetes — with nearly a quarter of them having no idea they have the disease — and an alarming 1 in 3 adults have prediabetes (meaning your blood sugar levels are so high, you're at a high risk of developing diabetes and heart disease).
Fenugreek may help with numerous risks associated with diabetes and prediabetes:
- It may improve your glucose tolerance (glucose tolerance refers to how quickly your body can metabolize sugar and move sugar out of your bloodstream)
- It may help improve your overall carb tolerance
- It may reduce your blood sugar levels and reduce your cholesterol numbers (in a separate study, people who took fenugreek extract lowered their blood sugar by more than 13%, while a placebo had no effect on their blood sugar)
2. Fenugreek May Reduce Inflammation and Provide Pain Relief
There's a strong, well-documented link between chronic inflammation and the development of numerous diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and arthritis. Chronic inflammation is so common that 3 out of 5 people die due to chronic inflammatory diseases.
Some research suggests that fenugreek extract may have an anti-inflammatory effect, as well as an analgesic (pain-reducing) effect.
3. Fenugreek May Boost Your Testosterone Levels
Testosterone is the main anabolic hormone linked with faster muscle growth and increased muscle strength and size.
And while the science behind testosterone-boosting supplements is often debated, research shows that men who take fenugreek as a health supplement may:
- Increase your testosterone by up to 46%
- Counter the side effects of age-related reductions in your natural testosterone (you produce less and less testosterone as you get older)
- Boost your libido and overall sexual health
4. Fenugreek May Support Healthy Weight Loss and Weight Maintenance
From green tea extract to caffeine, there are many natural substances that can help you lose weight or stay lean. Fenugreek is one of them:
- It may help you to stay full longer, thus reducing your appetite and total caloric intake (this may be due to the high fiber content in fenugreek seeds)
- It may help you to reduce how many calories from fat you consume (this study found that people reduced their fat intake by approximately 17% when taking a fenugreek extract supplement)
- It may help to target and reduce your actual body fat
5. Fenugreek May Boost Gym Performance by Enhancing Muscle Strength and Endurance
In one study, there were significant improvements in athletes' leg presses and bench presses when taking fenugreek supplements. However, the focus of this study was more on fenugreek's effects on hormones than it was on muscle strength or muscle endurance.
Another study found that fenugreek extract boosted both aerobic capacity and muscle strength when doing bodyweight workouts.
What are the Potential Health Risks of Fenugreek and Fenugreek Extract?
Just because something is "all-natural" does not mean it's always harmless, and it's important to talk to your doctor before taking a new health supplement or changing your diet.
Fenugreek is generally safe, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The NCCAM also notes the following:
- Taking more fenugreek than what's generally found in food has not been well-studied
- Taking fenugreek with other herbal supplements may cause negative side effects (e.g., liver toxicity)
- Fenugreek should not be given to children and taken cautiously if you're pregnant
Finally, some of the "benefits" of fenugreek may actually be detrimental if you have a pre-existing health condition or similar concerns.
For instance, athletes trying to gain weight — such as by doing a so-called "dirty bulk" — may not appreciate the appetite-reducing effects of fenugreek. Likewise, those who have health concerns about already low blood sugar numbers may need to avoid fenugreek because of its effects on blood sugar.
How Athletes Use Fenugreek
Specifically for gym-goers and athletes, fenugreek may help you to:
- Build muscle and boost endurance in the gym, helping you to get more out of each workout
- Increase your testosterone, further improving your muscle growth and strength
- Improve blood circulation by enhancing your cardiovascular health (improved blood circulation is key for athletic stamina and performance)
- Improve post-workout recovery by reducing inflammation
Dosage: How Much Fenugreek Should You Take?
There is no standardized dosage for fenugreek, and the previously mentioned studies reveal how widely dosages can vary depending on your health goals or the outcomes you desire.
In general, the amount of fenugreek you should take comes in at approximately:
- 2 - 5 grams of fenugreek seed a day, or
- 500 - 1,000mg of fenugreek extract (higher doses were reported in some of the studies where the goal was to influence testosterone levels)
For the best dosage:
- Take fenugreek or fenugreek extract with a meal
- Discuss with a medical professional to find the right dose for you
- Always follow all labeled guidelines on your supplements since fenugreek or fenugreek extract is often combined with other ingredients
Look for fenugreek supplements that have been certified by a third-party testing agency that can verify the purity of the fenugreek inside (e.g., U.S. Pharmacopeia, NSF International, National Science Foundation's Certified Good Manufacturing Processes, or ConsumerLab)
At Tiger Fitness, you'll find best-selling supplements containing the powerful health benefits of fenugreek or fenugreek extract. Examples include Enhanced Lab's Black Ox, Universal Nutrition's Animal Pump, and MTS Nutrition's Barracuda Natural Test & Libido Enhancer. Browse these products and more at TigerFitness.com today!