With winter in full swing and the holidays just around the corner, it's easy to fall victim to lethargy and lack of motivation. Any support you can get to battle the onset of the winter blahs is worth a try, which is why we turned to Dr. Shawn Talbott, lifestyle expert and doctor of Nutritional Biochemistry, to learn more about using the supplement tongkat ali to increase strength and boost your workout through the winter freeze. 

Muscle & Fitness: What is tongkat ali?
Dr. Shawn Talbott: Tongkat ali is the common name for Eurycoma longifolia, a Malaysian traditional "tonic" that is often used to restore strength, energy, mood, and libido. Because of it's energetic benefits, it is often called "Malaysian ginseng."

How can it help people looking to gain muscle mass?
One of the ways that tongkat ali works is by restoring free testosterone levels (from "low" back "up" to normal), so anyone who is under stress—an athlete who is training hard or someone who may have stress-induced suppression of testosterone levels—can benefit from tongkat ali helping them come back up to normal levels.

What are the potential side effects?
The only real "side effect' we tend to see is that people are surprised when their sex drive goes up. They might try tongkat ali for its testosterone-restoring benefits (muscle mass, fat loss, mood enhancement, energy boost), and then start feeling friskier than they have in awhile. This is normal because they are being restored back to their normal level of sex drive—a level that has become reduced by stress-induced testosterone suppression.

What's the best way to choose the right tongkat ali supplement?
There is a lot of "garbage" tongkat ali on the market. The root and the proper extraction are very expensive (to get an effective level of bioactives in the finished extract), so lots of supplements are diluted so much as to be useless. The clearest way to ensure that consumers are getting a "true and effective" tongkat ali is to buy the one that has been used in all the positive research—called "Physta" from Biotropics. It's certified tongkat ali processed under the patented process from the Malaysian government and MIT).

We've seen some information about mercury content in some supplements. How do you avoid this?
Heavy metals can be a problem in a lot of herbal products, but only if they are not properly grown/harvested/extracted, which is another reason (in addition to efficacy) to choose a reliable brand for efficacy and purity.

Dr. Shawn Talbott is one of America’s leading lifestyle experts, helping people to feel, look and perform at their peak potential. Dr. Talbott holds a Master's degree (M.S.) in Exercise Science from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and a Ph.D. in Nutritional Biochemistry from Rutgers University, and is the author of over 200 articles and 10 books on nutrition, fitness and wellness. Learn more about Dr. Talbott at shawntalbott.com.