Rhodiola rosea may have several benefits for building muscle, including boosting energy, normalizing hormonal levels, increasing endurance and improving the body's response to stress, according to Life Extension Magazine's article "Rhodiola: Nature's Energy Booster" by Pete Croatto. Keep in mind that rhodiola alone will not build muscle because you must train against resistance and take in the proper nutrition for muscle growth. However, rhodiola can be a useful tool for boosting performance and helping your body cope with the physical stress of training.
Take one 300 to 1800mg serving of whole rhodiola root extract immediately upon waking on an empty stomach. If taking an herbal extract, standardized to a 3 to 1 ratio of rosavins to salirosides, take 100 to 600mg. The stress hormone and muscle-cannibalizing hormone cortisol is at its highest peak when you first awake. Taking rhodiola naturally blunts cortisol levels, protecting your muscle building efforts, according to "Supplements 101" by Jim Stoppani in the January 2010 "Muscle & Fitness: The Ultimate Supplement Handbook."
Take another equal serving of rhodiola 30 to 60 minutes before your workout. Rhodiola has been shown to boost ATP or adenosine triphosphate levels, the energy source in muscle cells, according to Stoppani. It may also boost oxygen levels in your muscles, allowing them to work more efficiently with longer endurance. Besides blunting cortisol, rhodiola also positively affects hormones like testosterone, growth hormone and IGF-1, which are crucial to muscle building.
Take a third and final equal serving of rhodiola immediately after your workout or on an empty stomach later in the afternoon. The stress of resistance training has a potent effect on the central nervous system. Frequent and intense workouts put a drain on recovery ability and may suppress the immune system or zap your energy later in the day. This final serving of rhodiola may help to keep you from getting sick or hitting "the wall" after a long day at work.
Drink a nutritional shake after your workout, including 30 to 50 g of whey protein and 60 to 100 g of high-glycemic carbohydrates like dextrose or fruit juice, says Jeff Anderson in "Optimum Anabolics." Rhodiola's powers only go so far, and getting your post-workout nutrition on track can take your muscle building efforts to new levels.
Cycle rhodiola in and out of your supplement regimen. For example, you might follow a 4 to 6 weeks on, 1 to 2 weeks off supplementation schedule. "3-D Muscle Building" authors Jonathan Lawson and Steve Holman recommend taking a full week off of training intensely by avoiding muscular failure or the point in a set when you can no longer perform another controlled repetition. The reason for this break is to allow your central nervous system to recover from the effects of intense training. Since rhodiola helps to do this, it would make a natural companion supplement for a short period of decreased training intensity.