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October 18, 2023 1 Comment
If you are into Traditional Chinese Medicine, mushroom-based supplements, or natural sports performance enhancements, you’ve probably heard of Cordyceps. Cordyceps is a special supplement that is revered for its potential anti-aging and pro-vitality benefits.
Many athletes and fitness enthusiasts have turned to this unique half plant, half animal supplement to improve performance in their respective sport. Likewise, fitness enthusiasts are also touting cordyceps to be a useful supplement for getting the most out of their workouts as well as overall health and well-being.
Since you are reading this, you are probably considering if cordyceps is right for your fitness journey. Before you start consuming a supplement, it is always best to learn as much as you can about it. After all, it is something you are putting into your body!
With that, we are here to tell you everything you need to know about Cordyceps and Cordyceps supplements. You can consider this ‘The Beginner's Guide to Cordyceps Supplements’.
We will be covering the following information:
Cordyceps Sinensis is a wild, rare and unique plant. It is a fusion of caterpillar and fungus. This means it is actually half plant, half animal. It is a true wonder of nature, often referred to as an exotic medicinal mushroom.
Cordyceps has been used in traditional Chinese and Tibetan medicine for a very long time to help improve sex drive and physical strength & fatigue, as well as cure kidney disease and other illnesses.
In recent years, in the western world, studies are showing cordyceps has great potential for fitness performance as well. Not to mention, it has immune, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, anti-metastatic, antimicrobial, hypolipidemic, hypoglycemic, anti-aging, neuroprotective, and renoprotective effects.
There are over 400 species of Cordyceps. The most famous and beneficial being cordyceps sinensis and cordyceps militaris. Cordycpes sinensis is found protruding from the corpse of dead caterpillars (ghost moths) in Nepal, Tibet, and Bhutan at altitudes above 4,500 meters in the Himalayan mountains. It is very scarce in the wild and it is very difficult to cultivate in a laboratory. Cordyceps militaris is a commercially cultivated species of cordyceps that is grown in artificial environments. It is said to have even higher concentrations of medical compounds than its wild counterparts.
Due to the rarity of Cordyceps Sinesis, the vast majority of the supplements on the market are “synthetic” versions, such as cordyceps militaris and another strain called CS-4. Some claim that these supplements are not as effective as the original, wild Chinese stain. However, research shows that they are just as beneficial.
This is a simple supply and demand answer. The demand for cordyceps sinensis is continually increasing and with the “mushroom” being so rare, the price keeps rising. Right now, cordyceps sinensis is about $9,000 per pound! This makes it one of the most expensive plants in the world. Lucky for white truffle, cordyceps is actually a hybrid plant-animal so its not taxonomically a mushroom, or else it would take the the number one spot for fungus/mushroom.
Luckily, we have the lab-grown options that are far more affordable.
Needless to say, if cordyceps wasn’t popular, cordyceps sinensis wouldn’t be worth $9,000 per pound. All over the world, people pay big bucks to get their hands on this mysterious plant.
For further proof of its popularity across the globe, here is some information on what the cordyceps market is valued at. In 2019, cordyceps sinensis and cordyceps supplements together had a market value of more than $470 million1. Data suggests that with its compound annual growth rate of 10%, by 2026, market value will be over $1 billion.
COVID-19 has only increased the demand.
Why is there such a big increase? Well, let’s look at the benefits of cordyceps for sports and fitness. Then we will discuss the overall health benefits.
But first, we need to understand the active compounds in cordyceps as they will be referred to when discussing the benefits to follow.
Cordyceps sinensis, militaria and CS-4 have the following valuable chemical compounds - cordycepin, Adenosine, and Beta-glucans. They also have over a dozen other very beneficial chemicals.
Note: Chinese studies confirmed cordyceps militaris has 29.4 and 7.7 times the amount of cordycepin and adenosine, respectively, than cordyceps sinensis.
Cordyceps also contains the essential 18 amino acids, such as Vitamins E, B1, B2, B12, K, macro-and microelements/minerals (K, Zn, Pi, Na, Ga, Ca, Ni, Sr, Ti, Mg, Fe, Cu, Mn, Se, Al, Si, Cr, V, and Zr), proteins, nucleosides (adenosine, uracil, and adenine), sterols (source of Vitamin D), polysaccharides, SOD (superoxide dismutase)2.
Let’s start by discuss the benefits of cordyceps for healthy people looking to improve physical performance and their overall well-being.
Cordyceps supplementation may improve tolerance to high intensity exercise, with greater benefits when consistently supplementing it.
This is because cordyceps increases the body’s production of adenosine triphosphate (AT), which is vital for transferring energy to muscles. With that, your body improves the way it uses oxygen during exercise, i.e. VO2 Max.
VO2 max refers to the maximum amount of oxygen your muscles can utilize during exercise. It is a major determinant of someone’s fitness level.
Besides boosting your energy capacity and reducing fatigue during workouts or sports, increasing VO2 max will lead to stronger bones and a healthier brain (and thus a reduced risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer disease).
A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial tested the effects of exercise capacity in 30 healthy adults using stationary bikes3. Those in the study took either 3 grams of CS-4 per day or a placebo pill over a 6-week period. At the end fo the study, V02 max increased by 7% in the participants who took CS-4, while no change occurred in those who received the placebo pills.
Another trial from 2017 showed a mushroom blend supplement that contained cordyceps militaris helped to boost cyclists time to exhaustion by 28 seconds, with a VO2 max increase of 11%4.
However, a study by JACM did not show that cordyceps increases VO2 max, BUT participants who took the cordyceps supplements did gain 10.% in their metabolic threshold after 12 weeks. Metabolic threshold represents maximal intensity at which steady state exercise can be maintained.
Overall, there are more studies out there that demonstrate cordyceps ability to increase physical performance. So, it is safe to say chronic supplementation of cordyceps will have a positive effect on your energy, cardiovascular system and overall fitness capacity.
Related: Examples of High Intensity Exercises
The compound cordycepin found in cordyceps is said to increase non-rapid eye movement via adenosine receptors.
Non-REM sleep is also known as deep sleep, and this is the essential phase for muscle recovery and body restoration. It typically accounts for 40% of total sleep time.
A study on rats showed that cordycepin reduced sleep-wake cycles, increased NREM sleep and decreased REM sleep5. It also increased the rats total sleep time. This is obviously ideal for the recovery side of fitness.
Some people say cordyceps is also effective for treating insomnia (although not the best option out there).
It should be noted, with importance, that cordyceps is not a supplement to take before bed. In fact, it can have the opposite effect that you want if you take it before bed as it has more of an energizing effect, which is why people often add it to their pre-workout regimen. Cordyceps is best to taken in the morning, and in turn, you will reap the rewards of sleep at night…or so scientists believe.
Oxidation is a normal and essential process that occurs in your body. However, oxidative stress is an imbalance between free radical and antioxidant activity. As we get older, it’s important to reduce oxidative stress, as it can help fight off pathogens, and thus, diseases. Moreover, it will help slow down aging, which has a number of benefits such as improving sexual performance, memory, brain function, and strength.
Studies on mice have found that cordyceps increase antioxidants6. Antioxidants normalize free radicals, which leads to a decrease in oxidative stress. As such, cordyceps can slow down aging.
Another study found that cordyceps helped mice live several months longer than other mice that received a placebo7.
The benefits of slowing down aging are plentiful. As we mentioned, it can improve memory, sex drive, and strength. It can also reduce fatigue, wrinkles and the graying of hair, among other benefits.
It should be noted that these studies were conducted on mice so they are not proven for humans. However, this is one of the main traditional uses of cordyceps. So, most believe this to be true. The Chinese have been using cordyceps for their anti-aging effects for centuries. They also believe cordcyeps is a powerful aphrodisiac for both men and women. It is said to boost testosterone levels in men and reproductive capabilities in both men and women. Studies on rats and boars show the results are very promising.
Beyond performance and anti-aging benefits, cordyceps offer a number of health benefits, such as (the links in the below bullet points will take you to studies):
As long as you don’t have any specific allergies to things like molds or yeast, then you will have no side effects from taking cordyceps. Cordyceps is universally considered to be very healthy and safe.
If you are pregnant or breast feeding, it is recommenced that you speak with a doctor or other health care professionals before taking cordyceps.
If you have any concern about taking cordyceps supplements, please speak with your trusted physician.
Cordyceps extract comes in capsule or powder form. For capsules, you can simply take them with water. As for powdered extract, you can dissolve it into liquid and drink it.
Below are some FAQs relating to taking cordyceps for fitness benefits:
There isn’t a known toxic level for taking cordyceps. It is very safe supplement. You can take either form of cordyceps, everyday, keeping your dosage to 1,000-3,000mg. This range is associated with providing the aforementioned health benefits while causing no side effects (i.e. stomach discomfort or digestion issues).
Cordyceps Supplements have clear dosage levels so you will know exactly how much you are taking.
We recommend dosing in the morning. You can also take it before working out as a performance enhancer if you workout in the morning or afternoon. It is not recommended to take before bed.
Many people prefer to take cordyceps on an empty stomach. It shouldn't cause any issue at all. However, if you’d like, you can take it after a meal as well.
Cordyceps is a great supplement for healthy individuals who are looking to improve their athletic performance and overall well being. It said to be especially good for gym-goers and older people.
Wild Cordyceps Sinensis is very expensive, costing around $9,000 per pound. However, lab grown cordyceps which is what the vast majority of cordyceps are is relatively inexpensive. General prices for cordyceps powders and extracts range from $10-$30. Check out our post that covers the Best Cordyceps Supplements on the market or try our favorite below!
Although the use of cordyceps is still somewhat speculative for athletic and fitness performance, it is widely considered to be beneficial for overall health and well-being. People have been using cordyceps for a very long time and the reports are successful. Many studies prove widespread anecdotes to be accurate.
If you want to give cordyceps a try, go for it! It can’t hurt to try. You may find it to be beneficial for you, and if not, you can simply stop taking it. There’s really nothing to lose.
Again, consult your doctor if you have any concern about taking cordyceps.
Let us know what you think about cordyceps in the comments below.
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