Fenugreek, the athlete’s secret ally
Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) is an aromatic annual plant that can grow up to 60 cm and looks similar to alfalfa. Native to the wastelands of the Mediterranean basin, northeast Africa and western Asia, fenugreek has been grown since ancient times and is now widely grown in India, France and Turkey (1).
Fenugreek seeds are its most valuable part. The raw seeds are golden in colour and taste like maple, with more bitter flavour due to their volatile oils and alkaloids. However, this bitterness can be reduced by toasting. The seeds are fibrous, sticky and rubbery.
Biologically active compounds
Fenugreek contains quite a high quantity of flavonoids, alkaloids, saponins and other antioxidants. Fenugreek seed extract contains a class of phenolic acids that includes gallic acid (1.7 mg), protocatechuic acid (4.0 mg), catechin (0.4 mg), gentisic acid (35.8 mg), chlorogenic acid (0.7 mg), vanillic acid (58.5 mg) and syringic acid (0.3 mg) per 100 g (2).
Fenugreek albumen contains 35% alkaloids, mainly trigonelline, while flavonoids make up over 100 mg/g.
All these compounds are classified as biologically active, because they have pharmacological effects on the human body when ingested.
How can these compounds benefit us?
It has been proven that diosgenin (saponin) and trigonelline (alkaloid) inhibit in vitro glucose uptake. Similarly, our group has also demonstrated that Trigonella seed extract modulates the expression of glucose transporter type 4 (glut-4) in skeletal muscle. In addition, in an amino acid extracted and purified from Trigonella seed, 4-hydroxyisoleucine exhibited hypoglycemic and insulinotropic properties, both in vitro and in vivo (3). Fenugreek could therefore offer potential to help optimise the mobilisation and metabolism of the body’s energy reserves.
It is also believed that saponins (and diosgenin in particular) could inhibit two main enzymes involved in testosterone metabolism, such as the 5α-reductase that converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone and aromatase (CYP19A1), which transforms it into estradiol and produces an increase in serum free testosterone as its metabolism decreases. This means certain anabolic steroid properties could be attributed to fenugreek (4).
Fenugreek is a physical and mental tonic (5)
These biological properties of fenugreek, particularly its saponins, are closely related to physical strength and resistance. It also helps to support and balance the metabolism of fats (6).
For this reason, it has been increasingly used as a sports supplement in recent years. Several studies have also been carried out to evaluate these potential beneficial properties.
One study (7) demonstrated that after supplementation with fractionated glycoside from fenugreek seeds, there was a significant improvement in anabolic (serum creatinine and BUN) and androgenic (free testosterone) activity when compared with a placebo. Significant improvements were also observed in body fat, and in several evaluated aspects of muscle strength and resistance. The 60 study participants simultaneously completed a 4-day per week supervised resistance training programme over 8 weeks. In addition, supplementation with fenugreek was safe and well tolerated.
In 2011, improvements in strength and body composition of a treatment consisting of fenugreek+creatine supplementation were also contrasted with creatine+carbohydrates (dextrose) supplementation and a placebo, combined with an 8-week programme of resistance training. It was observed that supplementation with fenugreek plus creatine can be a new way of increasing creatine absorption, and which appears to be as effective as conventional intake of creatine plus carbohydrates in terms of training adaptations (8).
Another study conducted with 49 men randomly assigned an intake of capsules containing 500 mg of Fenugreek or a placebo, combined with a supervised resistance training programme, observed the following:
Changes in body composition:
Greater lean mass increase in the fenugreek group.
Greater decrease in % of body fat in the fenugreek group.
Greater adaptations in various strength and resistance training tests in the fenugreek group (9).
The effectiveness of fenugreek in improving various aspects of male sexual health has also been evaluated. A study was conducted with volunteers who took an extract enriched with 20% protodioscin from fenugreek seeds and found that free testosterone levels improved by up to 46% in 90% of the study population. 85.4% of the study population showed improvements in sperm counts. Sperm morphology improved in 14.6% of the volunteers. Cardiovascular health and libido also improved significantly (10).
Fenugreek helps to control cholesterol (11)
Fenugreek: a great ally for combating cholesterol, and the perfect partner to healthy habits that will help you lower cholesterol (12). The saponins present in fenugreek seed extract prevent the absorption of cholesterol and triglycerides.
Anastore’s fenugreek seed extract, standardised to contain 50% saponins.
Anastore has developed a 100% natural product free from pollutants (aflatoxins, pesticides, heavy metals and polycyclical aromatic hydrocarbons). It is packaged in plant-based capsules, offering a genuinely healthy product.
This is a highly concentrated dry extract of fenugreek seed (Trigonella foenum-graecum), with a saponin content of 50% that will provide us with the right dose of saponins to take advantage of all the benefits offered by this age-old plant. The product is also BPA-free; it has been manufactured with complete safety in mind.
Van Wijk BE, Wink M. 2005. Medicinal Plants of the World. 1st edition. Pretoria: Briza.
Awais Ahmad, Salem S. Alghamdi, Kaiser Mahmood and Muhammad Afzala. Fenugreek a multipurpose crop: Potentialities and improvements. Saudi J Biol Sci. 2016 Mar; 23(2): 300–310. doi: 10.1016/j.sjbs.2015.09.015
Umesh C. S. Yadav & Najma Z. Baquer (2014) Pharmacological effects of Trigonellafoenum-graecum L. in health and disease, Pharmaceutical Biology, 52:2, 243-254, DOI: 10.3109/13880209.2013.826247
Wilborn, C., Taylor, L., Poole, C., Foster, C., Willoughby, D., & Kreider, R. (2010a). Effects of a purported aromatase and 5 α-reductase inhibitoron hormone profiles in college-age men. International Journal of SportNutrition and Exercise Metabolism,20(6), 457–465
Extracted from the EFSA health claims application list, under evaluation (ID4186)
Sachin Wankhede, Vishwaraman Mohan, Prasad Thakurdesai. Beneficial Effects of Fenugreek Glycoside Supplementation in Male Subjects During Resistance Training: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Study. J Sport Health Sci, 5 (2), 176-182 Jun 2016
Lem Taylor, Chris Poole, Earnest Pena, Morgan Lewing, Richard Kreider, Cliffa Foster and Colin Wilborn. Effects of Combined Creatine Plus Fenugreek Extract vs. Creatine Plus Carbohydrate Supplementation on Resistance Training Adaptations. J Sports Sci Med. 2011 Jun; 10(2): 254–260. PMCID: PMC3761853
Chris Poole, Brandon Bushey, Cliffa Foster, Bill Campbell, Darryn Willoughby, Richard Kreider, Lem Taylor and Colin Wilborn. The effects of a commercially available botanical supplement on strength, body composition, power output, and hormonal profiles in resistance-trained males. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2010; 7: 34. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-7-34. PMCID: PMC2978122
Anuj Maheshwari, Narsingh Verma, Anand Swaroop, Manashi Bagchi, Harry G. Preuss, Kiran Tiwari and Debasis Bagchi. Efficacy of FurosapTM, a novel Trigonella foenum-graecum seed extract, in Enhancing Testosterone Level and Improving Sperm Profile in Male Volunteers. Int J Med Sci. 2017; 14(1): 58–66.
Extracted from the EFSA health claims application list, under evaluation (ID2841)
Megh Shyam Sharma, Prema Ram Choudhary. Hypolipidemic Effect of Fenugreek Seeds and Its Comparison With Atorvastatin on Experimentally Induced Hyperlipidemia. J Coll Physicians Surg Pak, 24 (8), 539-42 Aug 2014