Foskolin is possibly one of the most exciting supplements that has been found in recent times. Extracted from the herb fosrkholii, forskolin may offer benefits such as accelerated fat loss, reduced weight gain, increased muscle gain, and improved health. In this article the effect of forskolin on muscle gain, fat loss, and testosterone levels in men will be discussed with reference to the latest scientific research.
Many studies have examined the efficacy of forskolin in allowing muscle growth, mostly at the molecular level. Forskolin activates a receptor family named the ‘beta adrenergic receptor’’ which in turn activates, through a cascade of signals, an enzyme called Akt. Akt is a big regulator of muscular hypertrophy as it turns on the muscle protein synthesis machinery ‘mTOR’ (Berdeaux and Stewart, 2012).
Secondly, forskolin activates another protein named cAMP. In muscle cells, this protein inhibits other enzymes which lead to degradation. Thus, forskolin may have muscle preserving properties (Berdeaux and Stewart, 2012).
By the same action on muscle cells, forskolin can induce fat loss in fat cells. When the beta adrenergic receptors in these cells are activated, they stimulate lipolysis.
In one study, forskolin was shown to mitigate weight loss – and this study was designed to make forskolin look bad! Here, the researchers did not control for exercise or for caloric intake amongst the subjects. Furthermore they told the subjects to take forskolin half an hour before a meal, which would render it almost useless as the insulin from the meal would inhibit forskolin. What was positive, however, was that the subjects who used forskolin gained less weight than those who didn’t use forskolin (Henderson et al., 2005).
In a second, better conducted study, forskolin was shown to drastically increase the lean mass and reduce fat mass in overweight or obese men. Over a period of 12 weeks, the men consumed 10% forskolin extract at a dose of 250mg twice per day. Compared to controls, those taking forskolin gained an extra 2kgs of lean mass and lost an extra 4kgs of fat! (Godard et al., 2005) Not a bad result, right?
As for testosterone levels, the study above also showed a significant but varied increase in testosterone levels (Godard et al., 2005). In this study the testosterone levels of those who took forskolin increased by 15% compared to the control group, where the average change was a decrease of 1%.
The reason forskolin has an effect on testosterone is once again due to cAMP. Forskolin increases cAMP, which in turn stimulates secretion of testosterone from the leydig cells in the testes (the leydig cells are what makes testosterone in men).
Timing, recommended dosages, and stacks
Forskolin seems to be a fool proof supplement. There are no noted negative side effects and all of the positive attributes really make it a no brainer to use.
In regards to dosages of forskolin, there is very little evidence to suggest optimal intake. Currently a dose of /kg is advised. As there is no toxic level** stipulated by any research it may be beneficial to even surpass this amount. How much you use really comes down to how much money you can afford to put toward it!
To get optimal results from forskolin you need to correctly time when you consume it. Forskolin increases fat loss and muscle gain by activating the beta and alpha 1 adrenergic receptors. These receptors are inhibited by insulin. Therefore, in order to allow forskolin to work you must use it in times of low insulin i.e. while fasting. I recommend having forskolin while waking before fasted cardio or weights.
The effects of forskolin on fat loss and muscle gain may be further enhanced by stacking with synephrine and yohimbine. Synephrine and yohimbine both have similar effects on the adrenergic receptors thus when combined have a synergistic effect. You do, however, have to watch out for yohimbine as if you have too much then you can potentially bring on anxiety. When combined with forskolin I recommend dosages of 10mg/kg body weight of synephrine and 0.1-0.3mg/kg body weight of yohimbine*** for optimal effects.
As with all supplements, the above may all present a risk if taken. Before use of any of these products you should consult with your doctor.
**toxic level is the level at which the product accumulates and causes damage in your body
***in some countries, yohimbine is a restricted product. I do not recommend its use in these countries.
Berdeaux, R. and Stewart, R. cAMP signaling in skeletal muscle adaptation: hypertrophy, metabolism, and regeneration. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2012 303(1): E1–E17
Henderson, S. et al. Effects of Coleus Forskohlii Supplementation on Body Composition and Hematological Profiles in Mildly Overweight Women. J Int Society of Sports Nutr. 2005, 2(1): 54-62
Godard, M. et al. Body Composition And Hormonal Adaptations Associated With Forskolin Consumption In Overweight And Obese Men. Obes Res. 2005 13(8)1 335-43.
Khanum, A., and Dafau, M. Inhibitory action of forskolin on adenylate cyclase activity and cyclic AMP generation. J Bio Chem. 1986 261(1): 11456-11459.