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Adapt to adaptogens

Every athlete is looking for all sorts of edible miracles to win over competitors, only legal pieces of course! Oh yes! The ideal ingredients are those that will prolong endurance, boost strength, concentrate the mind, tune the mood and recover quickly from our workouts.

Modern laboratories can do all sorts of things these days, oh yes. But there's also a long list of banned substances for certain sports and especially a bunch of synthetic products with side effects. They may help us get to peak performance, but they certainly may not benefit the health of our bodies. Stimulants are supposed to provide some kind of advantage during training and racing, be it physical or mental, but they often contain substances that are simply harmful. Increased blood pressure, cardiovascular complications, hormonal imbalances, emotional fluctuations, irritability, insomnia, more aggressive behavior, what else?

Caffeine or stimulant herbs, you say. Those are undoubtedly safer and legal. There are hundreds of studies with positive reviews, just as there are hundreds of studies explaining why to watch out for them. These stimulants go directly to the central nervous system and can definitely kick up our energy and “freshness”. However, doses need to be watched, as well as current health and other circumstances. Overuse can really put a strain on the heart or lead to other complications. Directly stimulating the nervous system actually means stress for the body. It builds up temporarily and then there is a slump. Maybe you know what we're talking about. Such energy fluctuations can create a stronger need for stimulation. And there it is, addiction.

Strenght through balance

The catalogue of safe natural ingredients with functional properties is not that extensive, but it does contain adaptogens. Adaptogens work differently. They do not encourage productivity, but regulate the efforts of the nervous and endocrine systems. They do not create a specific response in the body, instead they act on multiple fronts and adapt to the situation at hand. They calm the overactive systems and stimulate the weaker ones so that everything becomes normalised and the body can then deal more efficiently with energy, oxygen use, concentration, strength, endurance and recovery. Without any unwanted side effects.

Ancient herbs and fungi growing in harsh climates transfer their resilience to the individual bodies of their consumers. Not just to athletes. They arm you against physical, mental and biological stressors. You'll cope better with stressful situations because these "smart" plants won't let stressors cross a healthy threshold. Adaptogens maintain a proper balance in the adrenal system, which is responsible for the release of stress hormone. When cortisol, for example, gets into excess, you are at risk of total exhaustion. That's why adaptogens step in and, simply put, prevent negative effects and try to maintain balance. In the immune, hormonal and cardiovascular systems. They are a source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory substances, they improve cardiovascular function and oxygen efficiency, they aid the production of proteins needed for cell and tissue regeneration, they regulate testosterone levels necessary for muscle growth, recovery after exercise and mental determination. That could come in handy, right?

Exercise is actually a form of physical stress. It tires and hurts. Add to that the pressures of our surroundings, everyday worries, careers, relationships and personal issues, it all takes a toll on us. The body spends a lot of time in fight mode, which is definitely not healthy. In short, we need to take care of ourselves. Resilience gained through adaptogens can expand our energy stores and recovery capacity as well as protect us from muscle damage. Performance increases.

What to adapt with?


A root that has been used in traditional medicine for over 2,500 years. The following are a few researches that might be of interest to pro and non-pro athletes. A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition links the use of ashwagandha root extract to increases in muscle mass and strength during resistance training. It increases speed. It improves cardiorespiratory endurance (tested on elite cyclists). It protects health by enhancing antioxidant activity and immune function. It encourages memory and brain health. It helps in recovery. It improves mood. It reduces stress and anxiety, guards cortisol. Incidentally, long term high cortisol levels not only prevent effective muscle building, but also lead to more intense fat storage, higher blood pressure and the onset of diabetes. So you'd better no stress and mental strain.


A fungus growing in the Tibetan and Chinese mountains. Another gem of traditional medicine and a secret weapon of many athletes. Because of energy, endurance, regeneration, health. Cordyceps increases the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) molecules, which are, simply put, the basic units of energy in the body. They supply muscle cells and power us during sprints or other explosive activities, for example. It improves oxygen absorption, aerobic capacity and lung ventilation (tested on healthy, elderly people during exercise). It regulates cortisol (downward) and testosterone (upward) to protect and increase muscle mass. In other words, you get a better quality workout. Cordyceps also helps to break down accumulated lactate and recover faster. It has antioxidant properties, so it inhibits the accumulation of free radicals leading to fatigue and damage to the body. Stop for possible overtraining.


Rhodiola is synonymous with great mental performance. Memory and learning, calm and clear mind, fighter against anxiety and prolonged stress. A weapon against fatigue and hypoxia (lack of oxygen for the body's metabolism). Antioxidant and immunity booster. Supplement for good regeneration. For example, a study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness found that rhodiola was able to reduce lactate levels and skeletal muscle damage after strenuous exercise. It helps produce creatine phosphate and ATP. It reduces cortisol. All good for peak performance.


Known as the plant of five flavours. Sweet, sour, salty, bitter and pungent. In addition to its stimulating unique taste, it is attributed to its effects on heart function and circulation. Its fruits and constituents promote resistance to disease and stress, also targeting physical performance, vitality, a strong immune system and normalization of blood sugar levels. According to some studies, the consumption of schisandra has been shown to elevate endurance and precision of movement, boost work capacity and mental performance in healthy individuals. It has also seen changes in basal levels of nitric oxide and cortisol in the blood and saliva, with subsequent effects on blood cells, blood vessels and the central nervous system.

Sibiřský ženšen

A small woody shrub with more than 2,000 years of experience. Yeah, that would do. Although it should be mentioned that the results of studies on the effect of Siberian ginseng on enhancing athletic performance are mixed. It's a perfect opportunity to check it out for yourself. Some research highlights the potential in the fields of fat metabolism, cardiorespiratory fitness and overall endurance capacity. They also point to its ability to keep the body in harmony as it helps fight various stressors, both physical and biological, in its role as an adaptogen. We can also mention mental alertness, improving sleep quality and delaying fatigue.

A few points in conclusion

Adaptogens can adapt and respond to the specific needs of the body without devastating it in parallel. Unlike stimulants, they do not create a gradual dependence on them. The body does not become immune to their effects and does not require increasingly stronger doses. It is just the opposite. Longevity is their advantage. The longer you use them, the more you can enjoy their stress-reducing properties.

Adaptogens, like other dietary supplements, must not replace conventional meals. They should only be part of a healthy diet rich in carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and other nutrients. Read labels and choose only high-quality organic products (the herb should ideally be the only ingredient) – with minimal chemical residues and higher therapeutic value. People with specific health problems, pregnant women or patients taking certain medications should consult with experts to determine if a particular product is suitable for them.