Tribulus terrestris

Tribulus Terrestris is considered a medicinal herb that has been used in many countries as a treatment for impotence and sterility. It's a plant that has been popularized over the years as a possible ergogenic for athletes.

Supplement companies have claimed it raises testosterone by raising lutienizing hormone (LH). The problem is that we have basically no modern research to go on with healthy athletes. Companies that sell Tribulus often have "in house" research that shows Tribulus raises testosterone but none of this research ever seems to see the light of day in Western peer reviewed medical journals.

There is in vitro (test tube) research that suggests tribulus may improve the motility, function and total sperm count of animals. And there is some old Bulgarian research with athletes that supposedly showed improvements in strength and performance, but no modern published data showing either increases in testosterone or improvements in performance in athletes. In high enough amounts, some studies have found tribulus to be toxic to animals, but of course many things are toxic at high enough doses that normally present no dangers at lower doses.

At this point, companies marketing tribulus would be better off funding a real study to validate this product as it relates to athletes and testosterone levels, rather than spending the money on advertising.

There was one recent study however that found some interesting, albeit conflicting, effects with tribulus. Fifteen subjects were randomly assigned to a placebo or tribulus (3.21 mg per kg body weight daily) group.

Body weight, body composition, maximal strength, dietary intake and mood states were determined before and after an 8-week exercise of periodized weight training and supplementation. The study found there were no changes in body weight, percentage of bodyfat, total body water, dietary intake or mood states in either group.

Muscle endurance increased for the bench and leg press exercises in the placebo group (p <.05; bench press +/-28.4%, leg press +/-28.6%), while the tribulus group experienced an increase in leg press strength only (bench press +/-3.1%, not significant; leg press +/-28.6%, p <.05).

According to this recent study, "supplementation with tribulus does not enhance body composition or exercise performance in resistance-trained males." Why the tribulus group got stronger in the leg press over the placebo group, considering the fact that it had no effects on LBM, fat mass, etc., remains unclear.

Does this mean tribulus is worthless to athletes? Perhaps not. It does mean that we don't have the kind of evidence we should have before making a recommendation on this supplement.

Word on the street from users is mixed and this could be due to the quality of the herb, the quantity used, the physical state of the user or the possibility that it just does not work.

The answer is unknown at this time. There is no doubt that as there are many herbs and compounds found within herbs that will turn out to be useful to athletes looking to improve strength, endurance and recuperation from tough workouts. And tribulus may turn out to be one of the herbs, but I would not hold my breath on that one.

So, where does this leave us? Personally, I would be cautious before parting with my money for the stuff. So far, the hype over tribulus far exceeds its worth to athletes. For increasing muscle mass or testosterone levels, tribulus gets a thumb's down at this time.

Antontrgmattio, J. and J. Uelmen, et al. "The effects of tribulus terrestris on body composition and exercise performance in resistance-trained males," Int. Jour. Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 10/2 (2000), p. 208-15.

Miles, C. O. and A. L. Wilkins A. L., et al. "Photosensitivity in South Africa. VIII. Ovine metabolism of Tribulus terrestris saponins during experimentally induced geeldikkop," Onderstepoort Jour. Vet. Res. 61/4 (1994), p. 351-9.

Bourke, C. A. and G. R. Stevens, et al. "Locomotor effects in sheep of alkaloids identified in Australian Tribulus terrestris," Aust. Vet. Journal 69/7 (1992), p. 1635.

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Gaining Weight 101

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