What is Berberine?
Berberine is a compound that is commonly found in plants based in Asia and have long been used as a all purpose remedy in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic Medicine. A rising interest in the role of Berberine for diabetes and control of blood sugar have recently put this ingredient on the map.
Where Does Berberine Come From?
Berberine can be extracted from a variety of plant species, many of whom grow in parts of Asia such as China and India. While isolated berberine is helpful, it might be useful for supplements to contain a crude extraction as other compounds in the plants might work well together with berberine.
Berberine has had a variety of studies performed on it and have a variety of benefits. Its biggest potential is its ability to help control blood glucose and assist with diabetes. There is strong evidence to suggest that the use of Berberine is almost as highly effective as some of the common anti-diabetic drugs. Similarly, it has been able to reduce levels of HbA1c, a measure of blood glucose over time. There has also been evidence to suggest improvements in cholesterol with the use of berberine.
Berberine’s ability to cross the blood brain barrier suggests it might be helpful in helping with neurological conditions including depression, Alzheimer’s and feelings of pain. It may also offer benefits to the immune system, cardiovascular system and cancer.
Berberine Benefits for Bodybuilding
Berberine is thought to exert most of its action via its ability to affect a molecule in our body known as AMPK or adenosine mono-phosphate kinase. This molecule is useful in increasing uptake of glucose into muscles for endurance performance and there is potential for it to assist with weight loss and appetite suppression. Berberine also has benefits for improving immunity, which is useful for bodybuilders and trainers who participate in intense training sessions.
Berberine Negatives & Side Effects
Interestingly, while Berberine increases the activity of AMPK which is the main reason for many of Berberine’s positive effects, increased AMPK activity over time may also inhibit muscle protein synthesis and therefore muscle hypertrophy. In layman terms, it might affect how much muscle you build, even though it can improve your endurance and the availability of glucose to your muscles. However, you can try to combat this negative effect through intense exercise and resistance exercise.
Berberine Recommended Doses & Ingredient Timing
Berberine is best taken at doses between 900mg to 2200mg per day taken in 3-4 divided doses. High single doses of Berberine can cause some intestinal update, which is why the dose is split.
Berberine is a relatively new ingredient which can be found as a stand alone supplement but could also have benefits in pre-workouts and post-workout supplements due to its ability to increase glucose uptake in muscles.
Berberine would be best paired with protein to help stimulate muscle protein synthesis. It can also be paired with products containing milk thistle, coconut oil and schizandra chinensis to help improve absorption.
1. Dong H, Wang N, Zhao L, Lu F. ‘Berberine in the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus: a systemic review and meta-analysis.’ Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:591654. doi: 10.1155/2012/591654. Epub 2012 Oct 15.
2. Dong H, Zhao Y, Zhao L, Lu F. ‘The effects of berberine on blood lipids: a systemic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.’ Planta Med. 2013 Apr;79(6):437-46. doi: 10.1055/s-0032-1328321. Epub 2013 Mar 19.
3. Mounier R, Lantier L, Leclerc J, Sotiropoulos A, Foretz M, Viollet B. ‘Antagonistic control of muscle cell size by AMPK and mTORC1.’ Cell Cycle. 2011 Aug 15;10(16):2640-6. Epub 2011 Aug 15.