Improve endurance - sporty fit
December 19, 2022
Dr. Dorothee Bös et al.
Not without reason are vital mushrooms a hot superfood in the sports and fitness scene. Because they contain many vital substances that athletes need particularly urgently. Unlike many other sports supplements, medicinal mushrooms are entirely of natural origin. With their wide range of healthy ingredients, they help to improve endurance, support regeneration and generally increase physical fitness.
Read in the first half of this article why vital mushrooms are predestined for use in sports and health. Then, in the second half of the article, we will introduce you to some types of mushrooms that have already proven themselves many times in the fitness world.
How does sport influence health?
Exercise is good for all of us. Among other things, it improves blood circulation to the organs, has a positive effect on the cardiovascular system, reduces the risk of cancer and lifts the mood. In principle, therefore, sport has a positive influence on health. However, we must distinguish between moderate recreational sports and competitive sports. It makes a big difference to our bodies whether we just want to improve our endurance a little or compete in the next Olympics.
Our food contains less and less vitamins, minerals and trace elements. Therefore, many people need dietary supplements, especially if they are exposed to stresses in everyday life or do not have an optimal diet. Top athletes also need to put a special focus on nutrition and micronutrients. Nevertheless, even in the field of amateur sports, it does not hurt to eat consciously and to pay attention to a sufficient supply of certain micronutrients.
People who exercise a lot and sweat lose minerals and trace elements. Increased energy metabolism due to sports or stress also requires an increased intake of certain micronutrients. That’s why dietary supplements can make perfect sense when doing sports. However, the emphasis is clearly on “supplements”-Supplements rich in micronutrients can never replace a balanced diet. They only supplement them specifically with some substances that the body needs more of.
What aspects are important for sustainable training?
If you want to improve your physical fitness, you have to pay attention to several aspects. It is widely known that the organism needs a lot of energy during a training session. Our small power plants in the cells, the mitochondria, work at full speed during sport with the help of B vitamins to provide sufficient energy.
However, the post-workout phase is equally important. If you want to build muscle and improve your endurance, you need to plan sufficient recovery periods. The body must adapt to the load, build up appropriate muscles and also heal minor injuries. Many sports put a lot of stress on the joints, including ligaments and tendons. They need to be nurtured and supported in order to be able to combine sport and health in the long term. A healthy sleep is also part of a sustainable regeneration phase. Because while we sleep, important repair processes take place in our body.
After all, high-performance sports in particular mean stress for our organism to a certain extent. Our immune system in particular suffers under heavy physical strain. Susceptibility to infections increases. In order to be able to combine sport and health at this point, it is important to support the immune system. In addition to sufficient rest periods as well as a wholesome, plant-based diet, nutritional supplements also perform well in sports. Powder of whole vital mushrooms, for example, contains a variety of health-promoting substances that support the immune system in its work.
Sport and nutrition: essential micronutrients
Here we have for you a small list, which includes the most important micronutrients related to fitness training. Some of them are particularly important for efficient training. For others, the need is higher mainly because they are flushed out during exercise.
- Vitamin B1: energy metabolism, nervous system and heart function
- Vitamin B6: energy level, immune system and amino acid metabolism; reduces fatigue
- Vitamin B12: blood formation, mitochondria, energy
- Vitamin C: important antioxidant; significant for iron metabolism, the immune system and connective tissue.
- Folic acid: blood formation, melatonin and neurotransmitters as well as amino acid metabolism
- Vitamin E: has a strong antioxidant effect
- Vitamin D: essential for bone health and the immune system
- Iron: increased loss possible due to sweating and microbleeding; important for blood formation and performance
- Zinc: loss through sweating; muscle building, regeneration, healing of injuries, immune system, fatty acid metabolism and maintenance of testosterone levels; cofactor of 300 enzymes.
- Magnesium: increased requirement in athletes; important for musculature, mitochondrial metabolism, relaxation, sleep and regeneration as well as vasodilatation
- Iodine: increased requirement in athletes; essential for protein biosynthesis, metabolism, oxygen utilization, and ability to concentrate
- Omega 3 fatty acids, EPA, DHA: muscle building, immune system, hormones, joint health
So, if you want to increase your physical fitness and improve your endurance, you should pay attention to an adequate intake of the mentioned micronutrients. In addition, the supply of sufficient protein or amino acids is also a crucial success factor. In all these areas, edible mushrooms are waiting with a high quality of nutrients. Which they contain exactly and which medicinal mushrooms are particularly suitable for athletes, you will now learn.
Mushrooms as vital mushrooms and as food
It is not for nothing that many sports professionals now swear by mushrooms as food and in the form of medicinal mushrooms as dietary supplements. With mushrooms, we have a true power food at our disposal, which is very easy to take and dose in the form of powder from the whole mushroom. Among other things, they contain the following vitamins:
- B group
- Vitamin E
- Ergosterol (precursor of vitamin D)
In addition, mushrooms such as Pleurotus and Shiitake are rich in various minerals, trace elements and enzymes that have a positive effect on health and performance. As already mentioned, protein also plays an essential role in connection with sports and nutrition. Here, mushrooms represent an exceedingly high-quality source of non-animal protein. It accounts for a total of between 20 and 30% of the dry weight. Very interesting for athletes is also that vital mushrooms have all eight essential amino acids. These are amino acids that the body cannot produce itself.
Ingredients of vital mushrooms
Beyond the widely known macro- and micronutrients, medicinal mushrooms are rich in special substances that promote physical fitness as well as general health in the long term. For example, they have a positive influence on the immune system, metabolism, joints and muscles, respiratory tract, cardiovascular system and also hormonal balance. These special substances include special carbohydrates (polysaccharides) such as mannans, alpha- and beta-glucans. Also important are the polyphenols, enzymes, terpenoids and also the chitin. The latter supports the organism in providing sufficient glucosamine for the joints.
While chitin is found in all vital mushrooms, other important substances for sport and health are found only in selected mushrooms. We now present the five most important ones for both recreational and competitive athletes.
Cordyceps sinensis and militaris
Cordyceps is a very special vital mushroom from the high altitudes of the Himalayas. Due to its preferred substrate, it is also called “caterpillar fungus” in German. “Sinensis” and “militaris” are two different species of Cordyceps in this regard, both of which have great importance as dietary supplements in sports. Next to cordyceps, reishi is the most important medicinal mushroom when it comes to endurance enhancement and muscle training. Both mushrooms are so-called “adaptogens”. This means that they can help the body achieve more balance even under heavy load. They promote a natural balance, which is essential for good health. At the same time they strengthen the whole organism, increase the energy level and resistance to stress.
According to the teachings of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Cordyceps is so valuable because it supports the kidneys. In fact, TCM assumes that the kidneys are the seat of our vital energy. The stronger their energy is, the more vital we are. Because of its strengthening properties on the kidneys, the vital mushroom Cordyceps is also called the “root of life”. In fact, cordyceps proves its vitalizing effect in practice again and again. Taking it can improve endurance and increase overall performance. This is due, among other things, to the fact that certain ingredients from the vital mushroom improve the work of the mitochondria (increased ATP formation). Besides, it takes a favorable influence on the body fat mass.
Improvement of the oxygen supply
The intake of oxygen is a key issue, especially in elite sports. Only when sufficient oxygen is available in the body can all processes run optimally and lactate formation and exhaustion be delayed. Thanks to its lung-strengthening effect, cordyceps is a great help here. It improves the absorption of oxygen even under stress, which significantly reduces the risk of shortness of breath during exercise. In addition, this vital mushroom can improve the fluidity of the blood and thus the important microcirculation. In addition, it is considered, along with Reishi, the most important vital mushroom for oxygen and energy balance.
Hormones control very central functions in our body. For example, testosterone is involved in building muscles, among other things. That is why it is a great help for fitness training that cordyceps has a balancing effect on the level of sex hormones. In addition, it influences the stress experience. As mentioned earlier, heavy exercise can cause massive stress on the body. In addition, competitive athletes face competitive situations in which they are under great pressure. This is where cordyceps can provide relief. Overall, it promotes stress resilience as well as mental strength. In addition to the stress hormone cortisol, it also influences neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepinephrine. The consequence is a higher stability of the psyche, which is inextricably linked to well-being in sports and health.
Detoxification and acid-base balance
One task in which cordyceps strengthens the kidney quite significantly is detoxification work. The kidney is our central organ for the elimination of water-soluble toxins. For athletes, too high lactate values in the anaerobic phase are often a problem. These occur during extreme stress in training and competition due to a lack of oxygen. A deficit of vitamin B1 can also increase lactate formation. By improving acid excretion, the vital mushroom counteracts the problem of increased lactate levels.
Reduction of oxidative stress
The heavy load during training can quickly lead to increased oxidative stress overall. However, this is also where cordyceps as a dietary supplement can come in. In fact, it contains and promotes enzymes that have an antioxidant effect. Thus, the medicinal mushroom reduces symptoms of oxidative stress such as inflammation, pain in the muscle and tendon area, muscle soreness, joint stiffness, susceptibility to infections and fatigue or exhaustion. So, thanks to its antioxidant effect, cordyceps protects muscles and joints, but at the same time the immune system. Conversely, it facilitates the regeneration of the organism between sports units and promotes muscle building.
The perfect complement to cordyceps is reishi. As the “mushroom of eternal life”, it has several properties that will help you improve your stamina and become fitter overall. Numerous ingredients contribute to this, as they are contained in the powder from the whole mushroom.
An essential factor in terms of sport and health is the strengthening influence of Reishi on bronchial tubes and heart. It supports the circulatory system and, similar to cordyceps, improves blood flow properties. Through a combination of the two vital mushrooms, the individual effect can be strengthened here once again. As a result, the oxygen supply of the entire organism improves significantly.
Triterpenes are among the key health-promoting substances from Reishi. Compared to other vital mushrooms, Reishi is particularly rich in these substances, which are even able to relieve pain. Triterpenes act in a similar way to cortisone and can thus naturally relieve inflammation. As athletes repeatedly suffer from inflamed ligaments, tendons or even joint caps, the Reishi means great relief here. Particularly noteworthy in this context is that the medicinal mushroom can both alleviate acute symptoms and prevent chronicity.
While cordyceps supports the kidney, reishi promotes metabolism in the liver. Here it has a blood purifying effect. It supports the elimination of fat-soluble pollutants, which are excreted from the liver through the intestines.
Finally, the immunomodulatory properties of reishi should be noted. Since competitive athletes are prone to frequent infections, a support of the immune defense, as provided by this vital mushroom, is worth its weight in gold. It specifically supports the body’s self-healing powers, which favorably influences the recovery phase after an illness.
The medicinal mushroom Auricularia also has a positive effect on blood circulation. It does this by helping to regulate vascular width. Scientists assume that the polysaccharides from Auricularia stimulate the formation of nitric oxide (NO) in certain cells of the vascular walls. NO in turn has a vasodilatory effect and thus stimulates blood flow. As a result, athletes can train noticeably longer in the aerobic zone. The training capacity improves. Besides, NO also has anti-inflammatory and anti-arteriosclerotic effects.
The polysaccharides from the vital mushroom also have antioxidant properties. This is also noticeable in the area of the vessels. Here, the polysaccharides help against the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. Oxidized LDL is so dangerous because it promotes the alteration of certain vascular cells, which can lead to vasoconstriction. This is contrary to the undisturbed blood circulation that athletes absolutely need. So the polysaccharides from Auricularia alone have a variety of beneficial effects on physical fitness.
In addition, the medicinal mushroom still contains ingredients that support, for example, the regeneration, especially after injuries. In practice, wound-healing effects as well as faster healing of hematomas (“bruises”) have been shown. The immune system benefits equally from Auricularia and becomes more resilient with its support.
Pleurotus is a vital mushroom that has a particularly positive effect on ligaments and tendons. It promotes health in the context of high-stress sports by giving more stability to the joints. At the same time, it is able to relax the muscles, which is a very pleasant and also physiologically important aspect, especially during breaks in training.
In practice, especially the combination of Pleurotus and green-lipped mussel has proven itself, which we will talk about briefly in a moment.
This vital mushroom plays a somewhat unusual role in connection with sports and nutrition. Many health-conscious athletes take it regularly anyway. Agaricus bisporus is the common mushroom. Nevertheless, it also has some ingredients that support our health during physical stress.
Probably most significant is its influence in oxygen deficiency and blood lactate levels. If this is too high as a result of large loads, this can result in muscle complaints. It is different if you take lactic acid/lactate and prebiotic mushrooms. For example, if you take Agaricus bisporus as a powder from the whole mushroom together with the lactic acid L+ Lactate, you can improve lactate excretion via the lower pH of the intestinal flora and a resulting liver relief.
Other natural remedies for athletes
In addition to vital mushrooms, nature has many other wonderful remedies up its sleeve to help us improve our endurance, build muscle and generally increase our physical fitness. At this point, we would like to briefly introduce four of them to you:
1. Natural astaxanthin: This is a red pigment/carotenoid found in some algae. It is able to alleviate oxidative stress, improve capillary blood flow and increase ATP formation and fat burning.
2. ashwagandha (sleeping berry): This is a medicinal plant from Indian Ayurveda. It strengthens and activates, but also relaxes and relieves stress. In addition, ashwagandha promotes healthy sleep, which is so important for regeneration.
3. lactoferrin: this is an iron-binding molecule that can be supplied to the body from outside. It promotes a good oxygen supply and incidentally strengthens the immune defense.
4. green-lipped mussel: it contains a lot of glucosamine, which is beneficial for joint health. In addition, it has special omega-3 fatty acids, which are hardly found in any other dietary supplement for sports.
Small overview of natural remedies for athletes
Now that you have learned about some vital mushrooms and other natural remedies, we would like to give you a rough guide for their use.
For the promotion of physical performance and mental power is generally recommended to take:
- Cordyceps + Reishi + Ashwagandha
- supplemented with natural astaxanthin and lactoferrin.
To promote joint health and regeneration, the following mixture is suitable:
- Auricularia + Reishi + Shiitake
- plus Pleurotus + Green Lipped Mussel
- Agaricus bisporus and L(+) lactate.
It should be emphasized, however, that every person and thus every athlete is unique. If you want to find out the ideal combination of vital substances for you and your performance, please ask our experts for a free consultation!
What do I have to consider when buying (vital) mushrooms?
As with all foods, the origin of edible mushrooms is an important quality criterion. As fungi have the ability to purify their environment, they easily absorb pollutants and toxins. Therefore, when buying edible and medicinal mushrooms, you should make sure that they are organically grown. The German organic guidelines are among the strictest in this respect. If a mushroom cultivation meets their criteria, you can be sure to buy a product free of harmful substances. Otherwise, you may be ingesting pesticides and pollutants from the substrate along with the mushrooms, which may end up harming your health more than the mushrooms benefit it.
In the case of medicinal mushrooms, taking the whole mushroom in powder form has also proven to be effective. To make powder from the mushrooms, they must be gently dried after harvesting. A temperature of 40° Celsius should not be exceeded. Otherwise, valuable ingredients in the mushrooms will be destroyed. Sufficient cooling must also be provided during subsequent grinding. Otherwise, excessive temperatures can arise due to friction alone.
Finally, capsules have proven themselves many times over as a dosage form. This is because the mushroom powder itself tends to mold when it comes into contact with moisture. In the capsules, the powder is well protected and remains durable for a long time. In addition, taking capsules is very simple. Together with a large glass of water, they are easy to swallow. Depending on the recommended dose, they take a certain number of corresponding capsules of vital mushroom powder several times a day.