By Clarissa Berry
As we learn more about the importance of diet and the power of natural supplements to enhance our wellness, it’s only logical to start looking to nature to improve our workout. One natural supplement that is gaining popularity as a powerful workout aid is cordyceps, a medicinal mushroom that has been long revered in traditional Chinese medicine for its ability to boost energy and vitality.
Now that science is catching up with tradition, we’re beginning to see research that corroborates what they have known in China for centuries. Cordyceps has some truly amazing effects on our biology that directly impact our energy levels, endurance, recovery and more.
Not only are its effects safe and non-addictive, cordyceps offers further benefits to your health including immune support, antioxidants, healing nutrients and anti-aging properties. DIRTEA’s Cordyceps Mushroom Extract Powder is particularly potent and tastes delicious – mild, savory and slightly malty. Add one teaspoon (2g) to a cup of hot water or blend it into your smoothie as part of your morning routine or pre-workout.
6 ways that cordyceps can improve your workout
Cordyceps can provide a natural energy boost, without the jitters or crash that comes with stimulants such as caffeine. It’s thought that it does this by increasing the production of ATP, a molecule that is used as energy currency throughout the body. With more ATP available, you naturally have more energy to complete your daily tasks or hit the gym.
2- Exercise performance
Increased ATP production allows the body to use oxygen more efficiently, which can improve exercise performance. VO2 max is the maximum rate that the body can use oxygen during exercise, and is a measurement of a person’s aerobic fitness level. Studies with cordyceps have shown a significant increase in VO2 max and in exercise performance, especially in less highly trained athletes. One study also indicates the potential for cordyceps and other adaptogens (herbs which promote balance and stress resilience) to improve the clearance of lactic acid from the muscles, allowing for enhanced anaerobic performance.
As well as improving athletic performance, cordyceps may also increase resilience to fatigue. One study in elite athletes showed that cordyceps supplementation increased endurance by promoting the burning of fat as fuel, which is important during extended exercise in order to preserve muscle energy stores. Similarly, animal studies indicate significantly improved exercise endurance with cordyceps supplementation.
Another common use of cordyceps is to boost libido and sexual vitality. Studies in animals suggest that one of the ways cordyceps does this is by increasing testosterone production in males. Aside from sexual function, another role of testosterone is to increase lean muscle mass. While studies haven’t shown this direct link yet, it’s reasonable to propose that increased testosterone as a result of cordyceps supplementation has the potential to improve body composition, particularly when combined with strength training.
Cordyceps has powerful anti-inflammatory effects. Although inflammation is important and has beneficial effects in the body, too much inflammation is linked to a wide range of serious diseases. Similarly in fitness, a little inflammation is important to stimulate muscle repair and adaptations, however too much is what causes DOMS or muscle soreness after exercise. Taking cordyceps can help reduce this to decrease recovery time and muscle soreness after your workout.
As we know, sleep is a major factor in our overall health and wellness. Cordyceps taken in the morning helps to regulate cortisol levels, which increases resilience to stress, positively impacting sleep quality. Cordyceps supplementation has been shown in studies to improve sleep quality and promote healthy sleep patterns. Sleep is also a vital component in both exercise performance and recovery, so optimizing your sleep could be the missing link in your workout routine. Avoid taking it in the evening though (unless you want an energizing aphrodisiac!) — it’s not a sleep aid but it will improve sleep quality over time.
This incredible mushroom has myriad properties that not only benefit your overall wellness but can also enhance your workout. Look out for more research on this topic in the coming years, which should reveal more about how this fantastic fungus can improve health and performance.
Clarissa Berry is a nutritionist for DIRTEA, a unique range of powders and super lends which harness the healing powers of mushrooms, adaptogens, and ayurvedic herbs to naturally enhance your wellbeing