Can Cordyceps Improve Your Exercise Performance?

By Silvana Jakupovic — BSc and 4th Year Student of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM-Boucher)

What is Cordyceps Used For?

As the end of the year quickly approaches, the New Year is almost in sight. You may have already started preparing your resolutions; a list of things you’d like to change in your life, goals you’d like to meet, or maybe it’s just finding peace and happiness with your current situation. Whatever the goal may be, fitness and health-focused resolutions are bound to find their way on most of our to-do lists.

Why is it that each year this same resolution ends up as priority? Why has it been so difficult to maintain this specific lifestyle change? Well, we’re only human. And being human, we easily become run down and start feeling as though we aren’t performing as optimally as we could or should be. Instead of feeling trapped by these limitations, we can outsource a way to help us beat these exercise blues. Just remember though, regardless of any advice or support you may read about online, the most important thing is to find something you LOVE, but also something that MOVES you. Movement is medicine, after all.  

Mushroom supplements have been making a rise over the last decade for improving athletic performance. When used safely and effectively, they can enhance our body’s natural ability to perform and help us reach goals that may not have been possible without them. Cordyceps militaris, or just Cordyceps, is a mushroom that is increasingly gaining popularity as a performance enhancer, but also as an adjunct to the treatment of chronic or acute respiratory conditions.  But, does Cordyceps really work?

Cordyceps for Athletic Performance

As a natural exercise mimetic, the active compounds in Cordyceps dietary supplements have been shown to improve aerobic exercise performance by increasing blood flow, improving our body’s oxygen utilization, and acting as an antioxidant [1]. One study found that the use of Cordyceps as part of a pre-workout blend showed significant improvements in the oxygen consumption, time-to-exhaustion, energy levels, and ventilatory threshold of subjects performing high-intensity exercises [1]. Treated individuals had higher oxygen levels available to them during exercise and their ventilatory threshold (this is the point in exercise where lactate begins to accumulate in the blood) was increased, meaning more oxygen was able to enter the body [1].

With enhanced oxygen utilization and blood flow, lactate is cleared more efficiently, and this delays muscle fatigue and soreness [1]. The treatment group was compared to a control taking a simple blend of maltodextrin, a fast-digesting carbohydrate often used in sports drinks and snacks to enhance performance through a readily available energy source. The science behind these results is that Cordyceps seems to be able to upregulate energy producing pathways in the body and increase intracellular ATP, which is an energy-carrying molecule found in our cells [1]. Another study illustrated that the benefits of improved oxygen uptake, ventilation function, and resistance to fatigue was seen in elderly people during exercise as well! [2] 

Cordyceps for Athletic Performance

Benefits of Taking Cordyceps for Asthma

Along with enhancing exercise performance, Cordyceps has also been studied to play a role in overall health of our respiratory systems. A study completed on a group of individuals suffering from moderate-to-severe asthma compared the use of Cordyceps capsules, for 3 months, to a placebo and found some remarkable outcomes [3]. The participants were still allowed to use their inhalers and medications as needed, but the addition of Cordyceps mushroom extracts to their treatment plans increased their overall quality of life as evaluated by the Asthma Quality of Life Questionnaire (AQLQ). After 3 months, there was a significant improvement in their AQLQ scores, asthma symptoms, as well as their overall lung function [3]. Even more remarkable is that expression levels of several inflammatory markers in the serum were significantly decreased, while IgG (an antibody protecting against bacterial and viral infections) was increased compared to the control group [3].  

Cordyceps for COPD

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine another potential benefit of Cordyceps supplements is in their treatment of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). A meta-analysis and study showed of the effectiveness of Cordyceps on stabilized COPD patients found that it may be a promising treatment, or adjunct to treatment, in those with COPD and with no serious adverse effects [4]. The 15 studies on 1,238 patients illustrated that Cordyceps has potential benefits in improving lung function, exercise endurance, quality of life, and improvement of various symptoms in those with stable COPD [4].

These benefits are likely attributable to Cordyceps’ ability to prevent airway wall thickening and remodeling, as well as in reducing accumulation and production of inflammatory cells [5]. In this study, Cordyceps even illustrated rebalancing of the disturbed intracellular feedback mechanisms that occur in COPD involving SMADs (important transcription factors in COPD) [5,6]. 

Cordyceps Mushroom

That was an overwhelming wealth of information about Cordyceps extract benefits, yet we barely scratched the surface of this powerful mushroom’s healing abilities! The bottom line is that if you are looking to enhance your exercise performance levels or support your respiratory health, why not give this funny-looking fungi a try.  Eversio Wellness offers the best mushroom supplements available today.

[1] Hirsch KR, Smith-Ryan AE, Roelofs EJ, Trexler ET, Mock MG. Cordyceps militaris Improves Tolerance to High-Intensity Exercise After Acute and Chronic Supplementation. J Diet Suppl. 2017 Jan 2;14(1):42-53. doi: 10.1080/19390211.2016.1203386. Epub 2016 Jul 13. PMID: 27408987; PMCID: PMC5236007. 

[2] Yi, X., Xi-zhen, H. & Jia-shi, Z. Randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial and assessment of fermentation product of Cordyceps sinensis (Cs-4) in enhancing aerobic capacity and respiratory function of the healthy elderly volunteers. Chin. J. Integr. Med.10, 187–192 (2004).

[3] Wang N, Li J, Huang X, Chen W, Chen Y. Herbal Medicine Cordyceps sinensis Improves Health-Related Quality of Life in Moderate-to-Severe Asthma. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2016;2016:6134593. doi: 10.1155/2016/6134593. Epub 2016 Dec 5. PMID: 28050193; PMCID: PMC5165155. 

[4] Yu X, Mao Y, Shergis JL, Coyle ME, Wu L, Chen Y, Zhang AL, Lin L, Xue CC, Xu Y. Effectiveness and Safety of Oral Cordyceps sinensis on Stable COPD of GOLD Stages 2-3: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2019 Apr 3;2019:4903671. doi: 10.1155/2019/4903671. PMID: 31073318; PMCID: PMC6470429.  

[5] Yang L, Jiao X, Wu J, Zhao J, Liu T, Xu J, Ma X, Cao L, Liu L, Liu Y, Chi J, Zou M, Li S, Xu J, Dong L. Cordyceps sinensis inhibits airway remodeling in rats with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Exp Ther Med. 2018 Mar;15(3):2731-2738. doi: 10.3892/etm.2018.5777. Epub 2018 Jan 19. PMID: 29456676; PMCID: PMC5795554. 

[6] Springer J, Scholz FR, Peiser C, Groneberg DA, Fischer A. SMAD-signaling in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: transcriptional down-regulation of inhibitory SMAD 6 and 7 by cigarette smoke. Biol Chem. 2004 Jul;385(7):649-53. doi: 10.1515/BC.2004.080. PMID: 15318814. 

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