Adaptogens for Athletic Performance


With the plethora of information available today, it is hard to know what types of supplements and ingredients truly benefit one’s health and wellness. With a multitude of different companies and brands preaching different information about the benefits of their food and supplements, it is important to be familiar with all types of ingredients, so one can be confident with what she puts into her body, and how it will affect her mental and physical health. Adaptogens are one such substance to recognize on labels, due to the hugely beneficial effects they have on the body.

What are adaptogens?

Adaptogens are natural substances that help the body adapt to stress and restore the body to its natural environment. Many adaptogens come from naturally occurring mushrooms, roots and plants across the world. Some of the most well- known adaptogens are reishi, ashwagandha and maca. While each comes with its own set of benefits, all help to regulate the body’s response to stress.

What does this have to do with working out?

While working out, the body is constantly exerting high amounts of energy in different ways depending on the type of exercise being conducted. Weightlifting, for example, requires the expenditure of high levels of energy in short intervals; a stressful activity for the body. The adaptogens support this activity by increasing the levels of ATP (energy) and creatine phosphate (power). They also contain high levels of antioxidants that aid in oxygen efficiency, and thus support cardiovascular health throughout the workout.

The effects of adaptogens often seem subtle. This is because they are simply helping the body to perform its usual functions in a more effective manner, by adding ATP (energy) and creatine phosphates (power) for support. Thus, in completing a difficult workout, the effects of adaptogens will be displayed in mental and physical perseverance, stamina and endurance.

Where to begin?

Reishi has a reputation for increasing longevity and immunity. Known as “the mushroom of immortality,” it has been found to combat inflammation and increase oxygenation throughout one’s body. Red reishi, the most potent variety, is most commonly used for its immune-boosting properties, and has been used to treat viral infections, anxiety, high blood pressure, insomnia and asthma.

Ashwagandha is a root that has been shown to reduce stress, enhance memory, increase antioxidant (cancer-fighting) activity and enhance immune function. Additionally, many studies have proven ashwagandha to be an incredible adaptogen for strength and endurance athletes. One double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that 300 milligrams taken twice daily was associated with significant increase in muscle mass, greater strength and lower muscle damage. Additional studies showed faster swimming time in rats, faster treadmill times for a group of Indian cyclists, and enhanced immunological effects after 96 hours of taking the root extract twice daily.

Maca is a root shown to relieve tension and anxiety, boost mood, increase energy and stamina, and enhance libido. Its positive effects on mood can be traced back to the fact it supports endocrine health by aiding in the regulation of hormone production. Its unique blend of nutrients also contribute to regulating the metabolism and increasing energy levels. Finally, it has the added benefit of rejuvenating exhausted adrenal glands, which helps the body in its ability to handle stressful situations. Wonderfully abundant in amino acids, healthy fatty acids, calcium and vitamin C, maca has earned its reputation as a true superfood.

How to Incorporate Adaptogens Into One’s Diet

Adaptogens can be found in powdered, tinctured or encapsulated forms in natural retailers or online. To avoid consuming by themselves, they can easily and deliciously be added to smoothies, oatmeal, teas, soups, acai bowls, baked goods and energy bars.

Adaptogens are one of many beneficial substances one can be certain will aid the body in adaptation, recovery and restoration. They are an incredible dietary addition for athletes, from amateurs to professionals, because of the preventative measures they provide to lower stress levels, boost mood and protect the body from reaching exhaustion.


Chris Feuille is the founder and COO of Ona, a grain-free paleo bar and treat company. For more information, call 970.800.3957, email or visit