Curcumin: The Secret’s Out!

October 11, 2013 — Leave a comment
Curcumin, in recent scientific studies, has been shown to have muscle building properties.

Curcumin, in recent scientific studies, has been shown to have muscle building properties.

What is Curcumin? It is the principal compound found in the spice, turmeric. Simple. Good. But what does a spice have to do with anything? Glad you asked!

From this article found on, the author, Brad Dieter, discusses that Curcumin is more than just the thing it was originally panned out to be, which is an anti-inflammatory agent, as well as a pain reliever. Luckily, recently there have been more and more studies conducted on Curcumin, and we are sure glad that they were! Lots of different positive benefits have been discovered about this potent little “spice,” or whatever you wanna call it. Looks like there’s more to Curcumin than meets the eye. Curious…

Curcumin is widely known as an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever, but new scientific evidence shows that it may also be anti-catabolic, insulin sensitizing, and even androgenic.

Studies have shown that curcumin supplementation inhibits protein degradation after injury and in cases of cachexia (general wasting usually associated with chronic illnesses), suggesting that curcumin does indeed display anti-catabolic effects.

These few sentences above make us really happy, particularly the bit about insulin sensitizing properties, considering we just released a pretty good Insulin Manifesto Series regarding insulin sensitivity, which you can find here. But let’s carry on with the topic at hand…

What other things does Curcumin do that you may or may not have been aware of? Well, based on numerous and new studies, Curcumin does in fact possess some anti-catabolic properties. Studies have not quite proven that Curcumin adds to muscular hypertrophy, but the anti-catabolic effects are indeed there. Might as well just showcase the awesomeness of Curcumin while we are on the subject…

Anti-Catabolic Potential

As the main component we touched on above, this should be the biggest one, considering how cheap and effective this little supplement is. You got some info above, but what else is there?

Additionally, curcumin supplementation following eccentric exercise led to reduced post-exercise inflammation and markers of muscle damage while also improving exercise recovery. It’s even been shown to reduce muscle atrophy in the presence of deloading.

Pretty sweet, right?! Sure is! So, Curcumin not only reduces muscle inflammation, but also aids in recovery and lessens the damage that muscles exhibit during exercise. Awwwwesome!!

Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Again, we mentioned Curcumin is mainly known for having properties of anti-inflammation of muscles. That’s what its known for, cause that’s what it does, so it should be mentioned. Duh.

While some inflammation is necessary to heal, too much is bad news and can put you out of the training game for days, weeks, or even months. The literature is quite clear that curcumin has anti-inflammatory properties by inhibiting the major inflammatory pathway (Tnf-α and nF-kB). While the majority of the research is based upon medical applications, the research still applies to resistance training.

So then, the normal inflammation you get when working out is essential for parts of recovery, but too much inflammation can sideline you for a minute! Enter Curcumin, and we is saved!

Curcumin is interesting in that it appears it can prevent the onset of inflammation and reduce current inflammation due to curcumin’s ability to mimic aspirin as a COX2 inhibitor. Perhaps the biggest benefit of curcumin’s anti-inflammatory properties lies in its ability to reduce joint inflammation and arthritis. Research has shown that supplements containing curcumin reduce the severity of joint pain in individuals with osteoarthritis and even in those with rheumatoid arthritis.

Too good to be true… but it IS true!

Anti-Oxidant Properties

For real?! For real! Curcumin also possesses high antioxidant properties, which as we all know, are essential for optimal health, as well as proper body composition.

Perhaps the original use for curcumin was as a potent anti-oxidant. Of course, supplementing with anti-oxidants is a tricky business as there’s still some debate as to whether supplemental anti-oxidants may actually reduce the training effect. While oxidation of muscle tissue can play a large part in muscle catabolism, exercise induced oxidation may serve as a hermetic stressor that signals muscle growth.

Hmmm, so I guess anti-inflammation wasn’t the only original use for Curcumin. No big deal – this works too. So, I guess the fact that Curcumin can help muscles to keep from deteriorating has been there all along, more or less…

Still, preventing excess oxidation can help aid recovery and muscle growth, and there’s ample evidence in both humans and animals that curcumin is an effective anti-oxidant that may help prevent an excessively oxidative environment.

Yep, just as suspected. Curcumin does what it’s supposed to do in terms of being an antioxidant.

Insulin-Sensitizing Properties

Again, Gone Liftin’ has an Insulin Manifesto Series: Spike and Sensitivity – so the insulin sensitizing effects of Curcumin are quite interesting to us, indeed!

Insulin signaling in the muscle cells results in muscle protein synthesis. Anecdotally and scientifically, optimizing insulin signaling post-workout with proper carbohydrate and protein ingestion results in greater muscle growth.

Yes, yes… insulin manipulation has long been overlooked and considered a secret to true muscular potential, but no longer. Yay!

It’s believed that curcumin prevents the negative feedback mechanism that reduces insulin signaling, suggesting that curcumin may be beneficial in increasing the anabolic signaling effects of insulin by increasing insulin sensitization.

Good shit – REALLY good shit!!! Supplementing with Curcumin can increase your insulin sensitivity, and create a high anabolic environment for your body, causing efficient spurts in muscular hypertrophy.

Testosterone Raising Properties? Maybe…

No need to explain what Testosterone is – we all know. It is the king of hormones, and Testosterone is responsible for your muscle growth and your manliness (sorry ladies, we got you beat here). Testosterone drive protein synthesis, increases lean muscle mass, promotes overall health, blah blah blah. You know what it does. But how is it that something like Curcumin can have Testosterone raising properties? Well, it’s not necessarily that Curcumin increases your Test levels directly, but…

Currently, we do know that curcumin has a protective effect on testicular function, especially in the case of excess alcohol consumption. Also, high intakes of curcumin have been reported to inhibit the conversion of Testosterone to the more active androgen, DHT, but the likelihood of this being true in humans is low given that the research involved extremely high doses. There is some plausible evidence, though, that low doses of curcumin may reduce estrogen levels, which would have the effect of raising Testosterone levels.

There are preliminary studies and what some may call hearsay about this topic, but the evidence is getting stronger and stronger to spark a pretty interesting debate.


How much do we take? Ah, of course! Curcumin has a wide dosage range – generally anywhere from 80-750mg is considered a safe dose. No need to really worry about OD, since the Lethal Dose for Curcumin is somewhere in the vicinity of 160,000mg, according to some studies done on mice.

A recent meta-analysis of six human trials found curcumin to be completely safe and even supraphysiological doses of curcumin showed no toxicity. The LD50 (lethal dose) has been found to be >2000mg/kg in mice, which if accurate and extrapolated to humans puts the LD50 for a 175-pound male at around 160,000 mg. Given that the standard dose for curcumin is between 80-750mg, it’s safe to say that curcumin supplementation is safe in prescribed doses.

Well, if you haven’t gathered that Curcumin is fuckin’ awesome, we don’t know how else to help you, cause it IS!! Hope you enjoyed the read, and if you wanna check out the T-Nation article on the topic, feel free to do so.

Lush Sleutsky

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Trying to provide the most current, accurate information. No tricks - no smoke & mirrors. We all want to learn more and more and keep progressing! There is no need for tricks or sales tactics. We want to gather, learn, share, and debate any and all fitness related info for the betterment of our minds and our bodies...

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