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Adaptogens For Athletes – 7 Performance Powering Plants!

Competitive athletes are always looking for an edge.  In the world of sports, the difference between winning and losing can be a couple inches or a few hundredths of a second.  You may have watched an Olympic event where the difference between an athlete receiving a gold medal and one finishing in 4th place, out of the medals and never mentioned and/or celebrated is miniscule.  Almost every serious athlete has experienced the joy of victory and the devastation of defeat and recognizes the slim margin between those two outcomes.  As a result, most competitors continue searching for something, anything, that can add a little extra speed, strength or mental focus to make the difference between winning and whining.

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With all the controversy surrounding performance enhancing drugs, you need to know that there is a natural alternative.  If you are an athlete and you would like to improve your performance through better nutrition, there are a number of adaptogenic herbs that can safely and effectively provide you with that competitive advantage.  Here are seven adaptogens that have been documented to drastically improve athletic performance.

Eleuthero

Eleuthero, also known as Siberian ginseng, is particularly effective for athletes and can boost energy, sharpen mental concentration and help improve strength and stamina.  Studies have shown that when taken consistently, eleuthero will improve one’s ability to manage stress, tolerate heat and endure longer and more intense workouts.  Russian athletes started taking eleuthero in the 1970’s and were able to significantly improve stamina, endurance and mental focus.

Cordyceps & Reishi Mushrooms

New research has determined that two adaptogenic mushrooms Reishi and Cordyceps significantly improve performance and recovery in cyclists.  The double blind study conducted by researchers from Italy’s Pavia University have found these two adaptogens to be powerful performance boosters by increasing the production of testosterone and decreasing the production of cortisol.  The cyclists in the study demonstrated greater stamina and shorter recovery times after taking reishi and cordyceps .

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Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is a classic ayurvedic herb. Ayurveda is one of the oldest forms of medicine, dating back thousands of years, and ayurvedic practitioners have long known about the benefits of ashwagandha.  In a recent study involving elite athletes, ashwagandha was shown to dramatically improve cardiovascular endurance.  In the study, athletes were given 500 mg of ashwagandha twice a day for eight weeks.  The placebo group was given capsules filled with starch.  Here is the conclusion as written by the clinical research team:

“To date, most of the properties of Ashwagandha have been studied, investigated and reported only in sedentary healthy subjects having low fitness levels. Thus, this study was designed to analyze its effectiveness in improving performance in well-trained athletes. Considering the fact that it is difficult to detect minor changes in elite athletes, this study was the first of its kind to document the significant improvements in aerobic performance with regard to cardiorespiratory and cardiovascular endurance of elite athletes”

Rhodiola

The science involving Rhodiola is amazing and it is perhaps the most thoroughly tested of the well-known adaptogens.  Historically it was consumed by the ancient Greeks and Vikings for strength and stamina.  Rhodiola may have its greatest effect on the mental part of athletic performance. In multiple double-blind, placebo controlled studies, Rhodiola Rosea enhanced learning, prevented mental fatigue, reduced errors and improved the quality of work produced. Rhodiola rosea has the most pronounced effect on mental fatigue during stress and strain when compared to other adaptogens.  In other words, rhodiola may provide you with the drive and/or mental toughness to push through a difficult workout helping you to achieve a personal best in speed or strength training.

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Rhaponticum

Scientific studies performed on Rhaponticum (also known as Maral Root) have shown this adaptogen improves overall physical performance, and shortens recovery time after an intense workout.

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In athletes who use Rhaponticum regularly, it demonstrates a marked anabolic effect, and aids the body in the synthesis of protein. It also appears to protect the body from environmental stress. Rhaponticum is prescribed to athletes by Russian sports physicians in order to replenish depleted physical and psychical reserves that become exhausted as a result of hard training. After taking Rhaponticum carthamoides extract, an increase in muscle mass and a decrease in fat tissue has been documented by researchers.

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Schisandra

Schisandra is the berry of a climbing vine native to northeast China and parts of Russia.  According to the results of recent human studies schisandra has demonstrated the ability to increase stamina and endurance in athletes, specifically in distance runners, gymnasts and cross country skiers.  Chinese athletes have been using schisandra to boost performance for more than 2 decades.  Schisandra also has shown the additional benefit of limiting mental fatigue and improving concentration and mental alertness.

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So if you are an athlete and you’re looking for an edge, either mental or physical, adaptogens have you covered.  Adaptogens are safe for daily use and are devoid of side effects, unless you consider “winning” a side effect.  So, let adaptogens start improving your performance.  They can be your secret weapon, your competitive advantage.

Better Immunity With Impunity

Guest Contributor, Betty Wells Runkle, ND, CNHP, CECRP is the owner of The Health Fix Center for Natural and Alternative Health Solutions

The fact of the matter is ..The human body is a MAGNIFICENT, VIRUS FIGHTING, PATHOGENIC BACTERIA ENGULFING MACHINE by Grand Design.  The problems occur when we as the conductors of this body, don’t put the proper fuel into it on a regular basis to keep it functioning full steam ahead.  You know, stuff like processed foods, non-nutritive, junk, and as my teenagers say…eating crap!  We all do it…don’t kid yourself.  However, there is hope in learning new ways to change your lifestyle for the better, by learning to eat healthy and make better choices.

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For now, let’s concentrate on the immune building properties of ADAPTOGENIC herbs.

Let’s start by covering the word adaptogen, as a term used in herbalism to reflect the ability of a plant to work as a biological response modifier. For a plant to be adaptogenic it must meet three criteria, as defined by the Russian doctor I.I. Brekman:

  • It should cause no harm and place no additional stress on the body.
  • It should help the body adapt to many and varied environmental and psychological stresses.
  • It must have a nonspecific action on the body, supporting all the major systems, such as the nervous system, hormonal system, and immune system, as well as regulating functions (such as the blood sugar); if they are too high, an adaptogen will lower it and vice verse.

Let me tell you about some of these ADAPTOGENIC HERBAL ALLIES.  The most commonly researched herbs like astragalus, Ashwaganda, Nettle, and reishi mushrooms are also some of the heaviest hitters in the herbal adoptogenic world.

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You can research til the cows come home all the numerous scientific studies about the pharmacological actions of adaptogens…but I warn you it can get really complex.  In the nutshell, here are a few of the abilities noted in those studies regarding ADAPTOGENIC HERBS. 

  • Increase Endurance
  • Reduce Fatigue
  • Build Resistance to non-specific stresses (chemicals in environment, overwork, poor diet and emotional stressors)
  • Immune Stimulants – boost resistance to pathogenic bacteria and viruses

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Let me tell you a little bit about just one adaptogen, astragalus.  Astragalus is an immune building powerhouse. In fact, U.S. institutions all over have conducted medical studies supporting the increase of white blood cells, strengthening the activity of macrophages and that it actually promotes immunity of the cells.  Here, in Texas where I live, the University of Texas at MD Anderson Hospital and Tumor Institute did a study on T-cell function in cancer patients which were being lowered by the use of chemotherapy and radiation.  When the extracts from astragalus were administered, immune functions improved dramatically.  Even the National Cancer Institute in the U.S. has done their fair share of research concerning Astragalus and the increase total number of white blood cells and strengthening of macrophages.  This activity significantly promotes the healthy immune function on the cellular level. In addition, studies at the University of Texas MD Anderson Hospital and Tumor Institute found that the t cell function in cancer patients was lowered by the use of chemotherapy and radiation, so to combat that effect astragalus extracts were administered.  Researchers found that immune functions improved dramatically. Currently astragalus is also being researched in HIV and aids related syndromes.

The Effects of Adaptogens Can Be “Limitless”

You know the movie “Limitless” starring Bradley Cooper?  The sci-fi thriller released in 2011?  Well, for the cinematically challenged, its a film about a struggling author who is experiencing writers block.  In the movie, the author (Cooper) is given a nootropic or smart drug that allows him to miraculously increase his brain function, allowing him to recall, categorize and utilize information at an incredible rate.  The end result is that his productivity shoots off the charts and he becomes rich, successful and famous.

Now, what if I told you that there was an all natural, plant sourced version of a smart drug and that it had actually been tested in double blind studies and proven to work?  What if you knew that these plants had been consumed for centuries and that there was no risk of side effects? Would you be interested?

Well, according to a 2010 double-blind, placebo controlled study, adaptogenics herbs can dramatically effect cognitive functioning.  (Phytomedicine. 2010 Jun;17(7):494-9. Epub 2010 Apr 5.)

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The study, which used a blend of rhodiola, schisandra and eleuthero, “improved attention and increased speed and accuracy during stressful cognitive tasks, in comparison to placebo.”  In addition, “there was also a tendency…to reduce percentage of errors, which means better accuracy and quality of the work…”  The study also reported, ” no serious side effects…”

 

Kind of mind blowing, right?  (pun intended) That, my friends, is the power of adaptogens and the kind of useful information that we are just beginning to learn.  (Actually, it’s stuff YOU are learning, AdaptGenie has know all about this for hundreds of years and it’s why I created this blog)

Adaptogens Provide Broad Mind/Body Benefits – Dr. Alison Caldwell-Andrews

You may be one of the millions of people who are looking to feel better. Perhaps you want to improve your immune system or simply get over bronchitis. Maybe you are hoping to avoid coming down with a cold this year or possibly you want to take steps now to avoid future health problems. Or, perhaps you wish you had more endurance and stamina. If you’re a runner or a biker or are hoping to schedule your next triathalon, you probably would love to find a way to increase your ability to train and get better results.

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Another category of people who are looking for help are those who would like to be less anxious, more emotionally stable or less depressed. Better quality sleep, lower blood sugar, improved liver functioning….this list of what we wish for can go on and on. The sum-up here is that most people want better health.

We know that you can’t get healthy by taking a pill.  It’s just common sense, isn’t it?  However, there are some plants that are almost as good as free health in a pill: Adaptogens.

adaptogen-pill  Adaptogens are plants that have been shown to have “non-specific” beneficial effects. What this means is that the effects are not limited to one area; multiple areas of the body will benefit from one plant. You can think if this effect somewhat like nutrition: if your cell mitochondria are fed by nutrients, your whole body will benefit. Adaptogenic plants will not only help you feel more energetic, they will usually help lift your mood, boost your immune system and provide a variety of other benefits including (and not limited to) protecting the liver and improving liver functioning, protecting the heart and improving cardiac function, protecting the brain from beta-amyloid plaques that are associated with degenerative brain disorders like Parkinson’s disease, soothing and strengthening gut tissues and functioning, and much more.

Look forward to future posts that will discuss specific adaptogens, current research, and other adaptogen-related health concepts and concerns.

 

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Dr. Alison Caldwell-Andrews is an expert contributor to the AdaptoGenie blog.  Dr. Caldwell-Andrews received her PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University of Kentucky and completed a post-doc in Mind-Body Medicine at the Yale University School of Medicine.  As a faculty member at Yale, she served as Director of Research for the Yale Perioperative Research Group, conducting clinical research and publishing 30 articles in peer-reviewed journals.

Her interest in mind-body healing began in the early 1990’s and she is a Certified Nutritional Herbalist.  She’s an active public speaker, author, conducts workshops, and consults in the areas of creating success behaviors, herbs and the mind-body connection, and science-based holistic treatment for psychiatric disorders.

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