Most people know that fruit, nuts, and seeds are good for them -- but I doubt too many people have an understanding as to why.
Which, in essence, comes down to the nutrients they contain.
Foods that most of you consider “healthy” are full to the brim with vitamins, minerals, and numerous other compounds that improve how you function on a daily basis. Interestingly, a number of these compounds have made a mark in the supplement industry by providing additional benefits when you take them in higher doses.
One of which is Inositol.
What is Inositol?
Inositol (referred to as Vitamin B8 in some circles) is a potent compound found naturally occurring in a variety of foods, including fruits, beans, nuts, seeds, and grains. If you are completely starved of Inositol, your body can also synthesise it from dietary carbohydrates -- albeit it only makes very small amounts.
I should note that even though Inositol is sometimes referred to as Vitamin B8, it is actually not a vitamin. Nope, it is a unique type of sugar that has some rather important roles in the human body.
Firstly, Inositol is an integral component of your cell membranes (AKA the walls of your cells). If you did not have Inositol, your cells would not be able to efficiently let compounds in and out of them.
Secondly, it has also been shown to impact the action of the hormone “insulin”. This hormone is essential for blood sugar control, and also affects the secretion of dopamine and serotonin -- two very important brain chemicals that control your mood.
Interestingly, the average western diet has been estimated to contain around 1 gram of inositol per day. While this amount is enough to function, research has consistently shown that supplementing with higher doses can have some HUGE benefits.
The Health Boosting Powers of Inositol
Because inositol plays a number of important roles in your body, there is quite a bit of evidence demonstrating that its supplementation can have some potent benefits to your health and function.
1. Mood Enhancer
Remember above when I mentioned that Inositol helps with the production and secretion of Dopamine and Serotonin?
Good, because this is important.
Both of these chemicals (or, more scientifically, “neurotransmitters”) help regulate mood and emotional control. Moreover, research has shown that individuals who suffer from depression and anxiety tend to have naturally lower levels of both of them.
With this in mind, supplementing with Inositol has been shown to boost mood, improve emotional well being, and even aid in the treatment of chronic depression and anxiety .
If you suffer from either of these mental health disorders, then this is obviously going to be beneficial. But more than that, by simply improving mood and motivation, Inositol could also improve workout quality and the results of your training.
Lift happy, get jacked -- simple.
2. Increases Immunity
In addition to its unique impact on mood and mental wellbeing, Inositol has also been shown to have a positive impact on your immune system -- and it does this by enhancing the action of “Natural Killer Cells”.
While these cells may sound like something out of a science fiction movie, I can assure you that they are very real and very useful. These specific immune cells play the important role of destroying any unwanted pathogens that enter your body .
As a result, they may have the ability to stave off disease, illness, and infection, all while potentially helping you recover faster -- all of which means your long term progress in the gym is enhanced.
3. Improves Insulin Sensitivity
So, onto insulin.
Insulin is a specific hormone that is super important when it comes to controlling blood sugar levels. In healthy individuals, insulin is secreted after eating food -- where it then helps shuttle protein and carbohydrates into your cells.
This is why people often suggest taking a carbohydrate and protein supplement after training -- it increases insulin secretion, promoting the uptake of nutrients into your muscles, thus facilitating recovery.
However, a lot of people in modern day have become “insulin resistant”, which means that their body does not really respond to insulin all that effectively. This can lead to chronic elevations in blood sugar, which can even result in the development of diabetes.
Fortunately, Inositol has been shown to improve your cells ability to react to insulin, causing a lasting improvement in insulin sensitivity . From a pure health perspective, this can lead to reductions in blood sugar, improvements in blood cholesterol, and a reduced risk of both metabolic and cardiovascular disease.
And from a not so health perspective?
Well, increasing your cells sensitivity to insulin may lead to improved nutrient uptake after training. This, in turn, could aid recovery and promote further muscle growth.
4. Helps Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
While this will not apply to all of you, many would argue that this is where inositol exhibits its most potent health benefits.
PCOS is a relatively common condition that causes serious hormone imbalances in women. These imbalances can lead to an irregular menstrual cycle, abnormal blood sugar levels, weight gain, and even infertility,
Interestingly, the supplementation of Inositol has been shown to improve the hormone profile of women with PCOS, while also increasing health and fertility .
With this in mind, if you are a female who has PCOS and has been struggling to see changes in your body despite training hard and eating well, Inositol could be a viable option.
5. Boosts Fat Loss
Finally, because Inositol can improve hormone profiles, it has also been shown to have a positive effect on weight management.
Or more specifically, fat loss.
In a recent weight loss study, women with PCOS were put in one of two groups -- a group that went on a diet, or a group that went on the same diet, but with the addition of an Inositol supplement .
After 6 months both groups saw a significant reduction in fat mass, however the group supplementing with Inositol lost way more weight than the diet only group.
While this research was conducted in women with PCOS, it is likely that they will transfer in some capacity to most populations -- which means that if you are in a cutting phase, you may want to add inositol to your supplement stack.
Now, this is where things get a little interesting. Because Inositol is a carbohydrate, there does not really appear to be an upper limit with regards to its supplementation dose -- and as a result, the dosages used in research settings are quite varied.
With that being said, there is some clear evidence to suggest that different dosages are required for different adaptations.
For example, to improve mood and boost emotional wellbeing, dosing between 1-2 grams per day should be sufficient. However, if you are looking to help any diagnosed mental health conditions, research would suggest that 12-18 grams per day is optimal.
Now, you will be happy to note that when it comes to the other stuff mentioned above, the dosage is not as varied. In fact, it appears that 1-2 grams per day is sufficient to improve fertility in people with PCOS, enhance insulin sensitivity, and facilitate fat loss.
As such, I would suggest starting with 1 grams per day for the first few weeks, with the intent to slowly move up to 2 grams per day over a month or two. This should cover most of your bases quite comfortably.
And if you do suffer from depression or anxiety, you should seek advice from a medical professional before supplementing with the higher dosages discussed above.
Take Home Message
Inositol is an extremely safe supplement that has been shown to boost mood, improve insulin sensitivity, increase immunity, and promote weight loss -- making it a super useful supplement for any training phase.
Moreover, when we consider its ability to improve upon PCOS, it might be one of the most powerful natural supplements on the market.
- Mukai, Tomohiko, et al. "A meta?analysis of inositol for depression and anxiety disorders." Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental 29.1 (2014): 55-63.
- Gumbleton, Matthew, and William Garrow Kerr. "Role of inositol phospholipid signaling in natural killer cell biology." Frontiers in immunology 4 (2013): 47.
- Giordano, Domenico, et al. "Effects of myo-inositol supplementation in postmenopausal women with metabolic syndrome: a perspective, randomized, placebo-controlled study." Menopause 18.1 (2011): 102-104.
- Laganà, Antonio Simone, et al. "Inositol in polycystic ovary syndrome: restoring fertility through a pathophysiology-based approach." Trends in endocrinology & metabolism 29.11 (2018): 768-780.
- Le Donne, M., et al. "Effects of three treatment modalities (diet, myoinositol or myoinositol associated with D-chiro-inositol) on clinical and body composition outcomes in women with polycystic ovary syndrome." Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci 23.5 (2019): 2293-2301.