Did you know that mushrooms might help you perform better in the gym?
Before you go and get a bag of button mushrooms to snack on while you’re on the treadmill, understand that it’s a specific type of mushroom we’re talking about, called cordyceps.
These mushrooms have been used for centuries in certain cultures, and are now gaining strong popularity as a dietary supplement in the Western world.
Read on to learn all you need to know about cordyceps mushrooms, and how they can benefit you in terms of exercise performance.
What are Cordyceps Mushrooms?
Cordyceps is a strain of fungi, traditionally found in East or Southeast Asia. They have an appearance similar to a worm or a caterpillar.
Wild cordyceps mushrooms, called cordyceps sinensis, are most commonly found in China, Tibet and Bhutan. They grow and spread by attaching themselves to a host (usually small insects or the larvae of insects), taking over the host’s body from the inside out - hence their worm-like appearance.
Cordyceps sinensis has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine. These mushrooms, however, are quite rare. Today, it’s another species - cordyceps militaris - which is used in supplements.
This species of cordyceps is engineered, making it possible to produce more of it, in order to be economically viable to use for supplementation. Cordyceps militaris has the same biological characteristics as cordyceps sinensis, and the same potential benefits for health and fitness.
What are the Effects of Cordyceps on Exercise Performance?
Traditional uses for cordyceps include the treatment of fatigue, kidney problems and low sex drive.
However, it’s their potential benefits for exercise that is leading to growing popularity as a supplement today.
A number of studies have been performed on cordyceps militaris and their effect on exercise capacity and performance. One such study focused on the way the body uses oxygen, and how a cordyceps mushroom blend may improve certain markers following high-intensity exercise.
The results of the study found a significant improvement in VO2 max, a measurement that shows how well our body utilizes oxygen and converts this oxygen into energy.
Another study produced similar results in regards to VO2 max.
What Types of Exercise are Best Suited for Cordyceps?
In one of the studies quoted earlier, the effects of cordyceps supplementation was measured after high-intensity workouts. The study found that cordyceps may have positive effects on tolerance and performance within such high-intensity exercises.
This is likely down to the increase in VO2 max, which signals that the body is able to actively use more oxygen in each breath.
The more oxygen we’re able to use - meaning, converted into energy and sent to where the body needs it - the better and longer we’re able to perform athletically, and the easier we can maintain high-intensity performance.
A few exercises that can come under the category of high-intensity exercise, and thus benefited by a higher VO2 max, include:
Heavy Weight Lifting
Heavy, powerful lifts, such as squats, deadlifts and bench press, are about as intense as it gets in exercise.
To complete a heavy lift, you need a huge amount of energy supplied to the muscles. When we run out of energy, that’s when you start struggling to complete reps or sets.
Sprints are one of the most basic and widely utilized high-intensity exercises. Studies show a correlation between VO2 max and sprint training, which leads us to believe that a higher VO2 max will help you put out more energy when sprinting, and maintain this energy for longer.
As the name suggests, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can benefit greatly from cordyceps mushrooms and their effects on energy production.
HIIT can include any number of specific workouts, including kettlebell routines, bodyweight circuits, and sprints, as long as the workout focuses on exercises in short, intense bursts.
Are There Any Side Effects to Cordyceps?
Cordyceps is generally safe to consume, with very few recorded side effects. Some people find it causes minor stomach upset, diarrhea or constipation, and a dry mouth.
If you have an allergy to mushrooms, mould or yeast, you may want to stay away from cordyceps as it will likely cause a reaction.
There aren’t many studies available on the long-term effects of cordyceps, but there’s nothing to suggest any long-term harm by taking it as a supplement.
Are Cordyceps Psychedelic?
The last thing you want when you go to the gym is to start tripping, right? So is it really a good idea to take mushrooms to help your performance?
While the benefits of cordyceps mushrooms are pretty magical in their own right, these aren’t the type of “magic mushrooms” you’re thinking about.
Cordyceps has no psychoactive or psychedelic effect, like psilocybin mushrooms do.
So you don’t need to worry about them altering your mindstate in any way. Cordyceps are completely legal, as well, unlike most psychedelic mushrooms.
How to Take Cordyceps for Exercise Performance
So how do you actually take cordyceps? Are we talking about taking a bag of mushrooms with you to the gym to snack on in between sets?
Thankfully, there are more convenient methods. Traditionally, it’s taken as a tea.
Cordyceps, as well as other medicinal species of mushroom, can be brewed in boiling water to produce a tea infused with all the benefits cordyceps provides.
Cordyceps is also widely available in supplement form these days, which makes it easy to choose the way you want to take it.
You can get it in capsule form, or in something you can mix with water or juice, which is best for athletes, or simply people who are on the go and don’t have time to brew a pot of tea.
Our recovery supplement Naked Recovery comes in a convenient powder to be mixed with your liquid of choice, or added to a shake.
Along with cordyceps, Naked Recovery features tart cherry, lemon balm extract, and 5 other adaptogenic mushrooms, for all you need to reduce soreness post-workout and increase power the next time you hit the gym.
The potential health benefits of cordyceps mushrooms are extremely intriguing for anyone looking to live healthier and perform better.
Cordyceps may help manage blood sugar, treat heart conditions, fight inflammation and provide anti-aging effects. Eastern cultures have been using these tiny mushrooms for centuries to treat everything from fatigue, to kidney and liver disease, to low sex drive.
It’s their benefits for exercise performance and tolerance of high-intensity workouts that is likely to interest most people today. If you’re looking for an extra push during your workout, or help recovering after a brutal session, try a cordyceps supplement like Naked Recovery, and see what mushrooms can do for you.