Sports & Endurance

Increase of the physical load capacity through medicinal mushrooms

Competitive athletes have to meet immense physical demands. Not a moderate increase in performance, but excessive physical exertion and continuous peak performance are expected of these athletes.

However, reaching for superlatives involves risks and requires different support than training for recreational use. Competitive athletes are particularly susceptible to infections due to the constant achievement of top performances. The immune system has to be strengthened in this group and the fast regeneration of the body system is in the foreground. The maintenance of performance is obligatory, the body the capital.

Administration of food supplements to increase physical performance

People have always thought about how to optimize nutrition and use dietary supplements efficiently for prevention, in case of illness, to improve performance and general well-being. In China, it has been a tradition for around 1,500 years to use medicinal mushrooms, among other things, to combat exhaustion and increase stamina.

Taking mushrooms is good for health – they are low in calories, rich in proteins, chitin, iron, secondary substances, vitamins and amino acids. The effectiveness of medicinal mushrooms has already been proven in several recent scientific studies and it seems that the western world is also beginning to become more enthusiastic about this ancient knowledge.

Ingredients of medicinal mushrooms

Many medicinal mushrooms are so-called “nutraceuticals” – an artificial word from the English words nutrient = food and pharmaceutical = remedy. They can be used in the kitchen as edible mushrooms for culinary delights as well as for the treatment of diseases. They contain ingredients that we can use specifically for our health.

Among other things, they contain polysaccharides, triterpenes, nucleosides, adenosine derivatives, hemicellulose (AHCC) and other metabolites. These compounds have a particular effect on the immune system, metabolism, respiratory tract, cardiovascular and endocrine systems. They also activate the immune response and regulate excessive reactions.

Maintenance of a healthy body

It is important for every athlete to maintain their well-being and a state of inner balance. Every illness leaves behind a weak point, which is reinforced by an inadequate or insufficiently functioning immune system.

If pathological processes are repeated more often, the readiness for a chronic illness in the corresponding area increases. Therefore, it is particularly important for top athletes to minimize the frequency and severity of diseases and to maintain an optimal health status.

Increase of physical performance through the administration of medicinal mushrooms

The targeted use of medicinal mushrooms at sporting events has been known since the 1993 World Championships in Athletics in Stuttgart. Chinese female runners won six medals there and then set new world records at their national championships. Their coach justified the successes with iron discipline and altitude training. But above all with the regular intake of Cordyceps (Chinese caterpillar fungus).

For centuries the medicinal mushroom Cordyceps has been used in Asia as a tonic to increase strength and vitality, for a long life, to fight depression and to increase sexual desire. The Cordyceps has a strong connection to the kidneys, which are seen in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as a functional organ that represents life energy.

Frequent side effects such as lack of willpower, motivation, fear, anxiety and a feeling of emptiness result from kidney weakness. If the energy of this functional system is increased, for example by the administration of medicinal mushrooms, endurance is increased. This legendary effect of bringing about vitality and increased adaptability of the body to stressful situations is now also being used by the western sports world.

How does the Cordyceps work?

It is not yet clear which components of this medicinal mushroom help to increase endurance and energy. In any case, the cordyceps contains bioactive molecules, especially polysaccharides and cordycepin, which form the basis for the body to use its energy more efficiently. It is believed to support fat and beta oxidation, thereby delaying glycogen consumption during physical exertion.

It also increases the blood supply to the liver and other organs and optimizes oxygen consumption. Studies have shown that cordyceps has a stimulating effect on the release of hormones from the adrenal cortex, thus counteracting stress symptoms. This has a positive effect on top athletes, who are often under immense psychological pressure.

There are already several scientific studies on the performance-enhancing effect of cordyceps. For example, a double-blind study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition tested energy and endurance in 110 healthy adults with a sedentary lifestyle. After twelve weeks, the group that took the cordyceps was able to ride a bicycle 2.8 percent longer than before.

In contrast, the results of the control group deteriorated by 5.6 percent during this period. Another study also showed that stamina improved and the recovery phase was shortened. The study examined fatigue and stress symptoms in swimming experiments with mice and demonstrated that the endurance capacity was significantly increased after supplementation with medicinal mushrooms, especially cordyceps and maitake (Grifola frondosa).

When the test animals were exposed to stress for 48 hours, the administration of medicinal mushrooms suppressed the increase in total cholesterol and led to a reduction in alkaline phosphatase. These biochemical parameters show a strongly reduced stress potential. In traditional Asian medicine, cordyceps has been used since ancient times to increase performance and better utilization of oxygen.

Cordyceps could also be considered an anti-aging remedy, as studies have shown that it has antioxidant effects and achieves the elimination of free radicals. At the same time, it reduces lipid peroxidation and also naturally inhibits the activities of monoaminooxidase. This has the pleasant side effect that depressive moods can be counteracted by the reduced breakdown of catecholamines.

In addition to the improved activities of the antioxidative enzymes, improved sexual functions were also found in the experiments. Cordyceps has a stimulating effect on the reproductive organs and the production of sex hormones and thus has a sexually stimulating effect. Thus, new empirical studies prove why it was already considered an aphrodisiac in ancient China.

Interesting for athletes is certainly also the positive effect of cordyceps on the respiratory organs, the heart and general endurance – all important factors for the promotion of athletic performance.

Reishi as a supplement

The reishi, also called “Ganoderma lucidum”, is one of the most important medicinal mushrooms in the pharmacy of Traditional Chinese Medicine. According to the Stanford professor and doctor Georges M. Halpern, this medicinal mushroom is a tonic that brings energy and increases stamina.

Especially top athletes experience increased adrenaline secretion. As a result, the basal metabolic rate is increased; oxygen is consumed more often. The Reishi can counteract this, because it is also said to improve the oxygen uptake into the blood. One study reports of 900 soldiers in Tibet at an altitude of 4,700 meters that despite this oxygen-deficient environment, they were almost completely free of side effects such as vomiting or headaches after the administration of Reishi.

A control group showed considerably more of these symptoms of altitude sickness. The regular intake of Reishi leads to a high availability of acetyl-CoA, which activates the citric acid cycle. The oxidation of the acetyl-CoA in the citrate cycle supplies energy-rich electrons for the production of ATP, thus serves for energy production and is also an intermediate product of the lipid metabolism.

Coriolus to improve the immune defence

Most studies on the benefits of medicinal mushrooms refer to their immune-strengthening properties. In fact, the polysaccharides and their derivatives contained in them are able to stimulate the production of messenger substances in the organism that are important for the immune system. In Japan, for example, Coriolus is used because of its ingredients PSK and PSP (two polysaccharides) to stimulate the activities of the immune defence.

Athletes who often suffer from their rigorous training also take advantage of this. On the one hand, to prevent disease, but especially to combat the symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome. Dr. Jean Monro, Breakspear Hospital, UK, demonstrated on a group of 36 patients with CFS that the Coriolus can indeed initiate immune-stabilizing processes.

The number of NK cells was increased by 35 percent over a period of two months. However, an important point is also the immunomodulation, so that the immune system is in balance and rashes are compensated both downward and upward. Medicinal mushrooms always act adaptogenically, i.e. regulating, so that no one-sided activities are stimulated.

Hericium for the nervous system

The psychological pressure under which professional sportsmen and women are under is immense. Stress symptoms such as anxiety, memory gaps, restlessness and insomnia occur. In this case, taking Hericium is recommended because of its many effects on the nervous system.

An in vitro study conducted in Kiev on brain cells with Hericium has shown a great effect on the process of myelin formation. In addition, the bioactive molecule dilinoleoyl phosphatideletanolamine (DLPE) contained in Hericium showed protective properties against stress-induced cell death by the reticuloendethelial system.


Medicinal mushrooms help to minimize symptoms of fatigue, achieve faster regeneration, improve the immune system and activate the cells. All in all, they cause a higher energy level with increased performance.


  • Georges M. Halpern, MD,PhD: „Healing Mushrooms“; Squareone Publishers; 2007
  • Dr. med Ivo Bianchi: „Moderne Mykotherapie“; Hinckel Druck, 2008
  • Stamets, P.: „MycoMedicinals: An Informational Treatise on Mushrooms“, Myco Media, 2002
  • Christopher Hobbs, L.Ac..: „Medicinal Mushrooms“, Botanica Press, 1995
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