Remember what your mother told you? "Eat your spinach so you grow up to look like Popeye." Turns out there may have been some truth to what she said.
According to research conducted by Freie Universität Berlin, ecdysterone, a chemical commonly found in spinach, can have a huge effect on performance if taken in large doses.
In their investigation, scientists gave athletes an ecdysterone capsule each day with enough of the spinach extract to fall in the ecdysteroid category.
They also gave a group of athletes a placebo so they could compare the results.
After monitoring how performance was affected by the chemical, researchers found that those taking the ecdysterone supplement developed more muscle mass while also achieving three times the strength gains as the group on the placebo.
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“Even more relevant with respect to sports performance, significantly more pronounced increases in one-repetition bench press performance were observed,” wrote the authors.
“These data underline the effectivity of an ecdysterone supplementation with respect to sports performance.”
However, there is one catch to getting those super-human benefits from spinach: the amount you have to consume. In order to get enough ecdysterone, you need to take in about 4kgs worth, which is probably what Popeye managed to sneak in every day.
And unfortunately for competitive athletes, the substance isn't on the WADA banned list so there's a chance your rival could get their hands on some and get away with it.
“Our hypothesis was that we would see an increase in performance, but we didn't expect it to be that big," study co-author Maria Parr adds.
“We recommended to WADA in our report that the substance be added to the doping list. We think that if it increases performance, then that unfair advantage should be eliminated."
Previously Parr also found that ecdysterone could significantly increase muscle hypertrophy on rats and put it in the same bracket as other anabolic substances such as anadrol, oxandrin, dianabol, and decadurabolin.
Guess your mother was right all along.