What Is Milk Thistle Used For In Bodybuilding

What Is Milk Thistle Used For In Bodybuilding?

Milk thistle is a well-known herb that can protect the liver and improve overall health. Milk thistle has recently become a familiar "companion" to the gym and fitness community. This raises the question: "What Is Milk Thistle Used for in Fitness?" Let's explore its benefits through this article.

Before exploring further, please read the disclaimer located at the end of this webpage.

Key Takeaways

  • Milk thistle is not a medication; it can only promote muscle building and strength.
  • You can use milk thistle if you wish to enhance and protect liver health, boost metabolism, and protect and maintain strong muscles.
  • The recommended milk thistle dosage is 240 - 900 mg/day, and choose products with 70-80% silymarin.
  • Milk Thistle can protect the liver against the negative effects of steroids that bodybuilders use to build muscle.

Does Milk Thistle Help Build Muscle?

milk thistle may assist in promoting muscle building and strength

Firstly, you must know that milk thistle is not a muscle-building stimulant. It can only assist in promoting muscle building and strength.

Milk thistle contains Silymarin, an active compound that brings many benefits when using milk thistle. A study focused on evaluating the effects of Silymarin on endurance, muscle recovery, and blood flow in mice after exercise sessions.

The results showed that using Silymarin improved muscle recovery, reduced inflammation, and promoted muscle and blood vessel growth.

This implies that you can enhance your endurance during training without causing any significant changes in weight or food intake [1].

Furthermore, milk thistle also helps build muscle by improving liver function and supporting the body's detoxification process. The liver is an essential organ in metabolism, and the quality of the liver can affect the muscle-building process [2].

What Is Milk Thistle Used For In Bodybuilding?

Regarding fitness, milk thistle is often used as a dietary supplement to support liver and muscle health. Some purposes you may desire when using milk thistle in fitness include:

  • Enhancing and Protecting Liver Health: Burning body fat during exercise, boosting metabolism, supporting weight loss, and helping you to operate more efficiently and effectively for a longer duration.
  • Protecting and Maintaining Strong Muscles: Milk thistle extract can improve liver health and meet the body's antioxidant needs, especially for those engaged in intense training, mountain climbing, or working at high altitudes.

How Does Milk Thistle Benefit For Bodybuilding?

Enhancing Liver Health

Today, many athletes seek to enhance muscle development by abusing anabolic steroids. While this approach yields rapid results, it brings severe physical and psychological consequences for the user.

Physically, bodybuilders who excessively use steroids may experience sexual and reproductive disorders, severe acne, increased blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, and liver damage.

Particularly in women, steroids can cause masculinizing effects such as a deeper voice, increased body and facial hair, and baldness.

Psychologically, anabolic steroid abuse can increase anxiety, cause mood swings, and even lead to depression. Some individuals may develop an addiction, leading to cravings and the need for higher doses, which adversely impacts their health.

As a result, natural therapies are gaining more attention, with milk thistle being one of the preferred choices. Milk thistle supports liver health even during intense training, thanks to its main component, Silymarin [2].

With antioxidant properties, detoxifying effects, inflammation reduction, and support for liver cell regeneration, milk thistle protects the liver from damage, enhances workout performance, and aids in recovery.

The protective and health-boosting properties of milk thistle are well-established, making it a reliable option for those looking to maintain liver health.

Boosting Metabolism

Silymarin in milk thistle increases the fat burning rate during exercise

Silymarin increases the fat burning rate during exercise and protects muscle glycogen [3]. Glycogen, in particular, is a stored energy source for muscles. Silymarin can help protect glycogen from degradation, enabling muscles to function more efficiently and effectively during exercise.

Due to its effective fat-burning properties, it can enhance metabolism, allowing your body to operate more efficiently and productively.

Enhancing Muscle Health

Milk thistle can help increase muscle recovery and hypertrophy, improve endurance, enhance respiratory muscle size and cardiovascular health, boost blood circulation, and reduce tissue inflammation, thereby improving recovery and workout performance.

Athletes often use milk thistle as they deplete essential nutrients during strenuous training, which can lead to weakened liver health. Therefore, milk thistle helps supplement liver cells and promotes liver cleansing to eliminate free radicals and toxins.

Other Benefits

other benefits of milk thistle for bodybuilding

Many opinions also suggest that milk thistle can improve skin health. Milk thistle may have collagenase and elastase inhibiting activities, helping to protect the skin from the harmful effects of UV rays and slowing down the aging process of the skin [4].

Milk thistle has also been shown to help reduce cholesterol. Milk thistle can potentially reduce cholesterol due to its antioxidant properties, liver protection, and LDL cholesterol production reduction [5].

Additionally, milk thistle may effectively support weight loss [6]. Weight loss can be one of the crucial mechanisms in improving liver and insulin resistance conditions. This also demonstrates the potential of Silymarin in treating conditions related to fat accumulation and insulin resistance.

How To Use Milk Thistle For Bodybuilding?

The typical milk thistle dosage ranges from 240 - 900 mg/day [2]. Dosages exceeding 1500 mg/day may cause gastrointestinal effects.

You can use raw milk thistle in the following forms:

  • Roots and stems: Used raw or cooked. The roots are sticky and have a mild aroma.
  • Leaves: Used raw or cooked. Young leaves taste sweet, and leaves with thorns should be cleaned before use. Hot weather can make the leaves bitter.
  • Flowers: Cooked before consumption.
  • Milk thistle leaves and flowers can also be used as salad greens and replace spinach.
  • The milk thistle seeds can be roasted and used as a coffee substitute.
  • Note: Peel the stem bark and soak it to reduce bitterness; it is best used in spring when the plant is still young.

Moreover, for convenience, you can use milk thistle in capsule form. This allows for easy dosage control and convenient use. This can also be considered the most convenient form of milk thistle use. You may choose those with 70% - 80% Silymarin when selecting a product.

Milk Thistle Side Effects Bodybuilders Need To Know

Although milk thistle is generally considered safe when used in appropriate doses, there are some side effects that fitness enthusiasts should be aware of, including:

Digestive Disorders: Some people may experience digestive issues such as nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, sweating, and cramping.

Drug Interactions: Milk thistle may interact with some medications, especially liver medications. Therefore, thoroughly research before using milk thistle and your nutritional regimen.

Those allergic to the Asteraceae family should avoid using Silymarin as it may cause serious allergic reactions.


Milk thistle is a useful herbal remedy for liver health and has significant benefits in the fitness field. By protecting the liver and improving muscle recovery, milk thistle can help fitness enthusiasts optimize their workout performance and maintain overall health. Hopefully, this article has answered your questions.


  • [1] Vargas-Mendoza N, Ángeles-Valencia M, Eduardo Osiris Madrigal-Santillán, et al. Effect of Silymarin Supplementation on Physical Performance, Muscle and Myocardium Histological Changes, Bodyweight, and Food Consumption in Rats Subjected to Regular Exercise Training. International journal of molecular sciences. 2020;21(20):7724-7724. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21207724
  • [2] Ludovico Abenavoli, Capasso R, Milic N, Capasso F. Milk thistle in liver diseases: past, present, future. PTR Phytotherapy research/Phytotherapy research. 2010;24(10):1423-1432. doi:https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.3207
  • [3] Gu M, Zhao P, Huang J, et al. Silymarin Ameliorates Metabolic Dysfunction Associated with Diet-Induced Obesity via Activation of Farnesyl X Receptor. Frontiers in pharmacology. 2016;7. doi:https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2016.00345
  • [4] Jitka Vostálová, Tinková E, Biedermann D, Kosina P, Jitka Ulrichová, Alena Rajnochová Svobodová. Skin Protective Activity of Silymarin and its Flavonolignans. Molecules/Molecules online/Molecules annual. 2019;24(6):1022-1022. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules24061022
  • [5] Senthil Gobalakrishnan, Sylvia Santhakumari Asirvatham, Venkatraman Janarthanam. Effect of Silybin on Lipid Profile in Hypercholesterolaemic Rats. Journal of clinical and diagnostic research. Published online January 1, 2016. doi:https://doi.org/10.7860/jcdr/2016/16393.7566
  • [6] Guo Y, Wang S, Wang Y, Zhu T. Silymarin improved diet-induced liver damage and insulin resistance by decreasing inflammation in mice. Pharmaceutical biology. 2016;54(12):2995-3000. doi:https://doi.org/10.1080/13880209.2016.1199042
Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.


Ralph S. Albert, with over 10 years of expertise in nutrition and research, now heads the Research division at Vinatura Supplements. His dedication and extensive knowledge ensure top-quality articles on nutrition and health, collaborating with a skilled team. He has successfully completed The VINATURA Expertise Research Training Program, underscoring his commitment to Vinatura's mission. Ralph has also published numerous articles and conducted valuable research in the field, making him a trusted resource for individuals on their wellness journey.

About me!


The information provided in this blog post is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

The content of this blog post has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The dietary supplement products mentioned on this website are separate from the content of this blog post and are not directly endorsed or associated with the information presented here. 

Any claims, statements, or opinions expressed in this blog post are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the manufacturers of the dietary supplement products. The products sold on this website are formulated based on scientific research and adhere to FDA guidelines for dietary supplements. However, the content of this blog post is not intended to promote or endorse any specific product. 

It is recommended that individuals consult with a qualified healthcare professional before making any dietary or lifestyle changes, including the use of dietary supplements. The authors, website, and manufacturers of the dietary supplement products do not assume any liability for any potential consequences arising from the use of the information provided in this blog post. 

By accessing and reading this blog post, you acknowledge and agree to the terms of this disclaimer. This disclaimer is subject to change without notice. 

Please refer to the product labels and packaging for specific usage instructions and guidelines for the dietary supplement products sold on this website. Any products sold on this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

For any concerns or questions regarding the dietary supplement products, it is advisable to contact the customer support team, who will be more than happy to assist you.