Do Cordyceps sustain energy and stamina? Do they encourage healthy lung capacity and resistance to fatigue? Learn more about how this bioactive supershroom can support peak physical performance by improving energy, metabolism, cardiovascular function, endurance, resistance to fatigue, and recovery.
How does Cordyceps help improve athletic and exercise performance?
Cordyceps is studied to boost energy production, improve energy balance, boost metabolism, promote oxygen uptake, improve resistance to fatigue, and increase nitric oxide levels.
Are there clinical studies to support Cordyceps' exercise benefits?
Chen et al. reported that Cordyceps supplementation significantly reduced lactate accumulation and increased ventilatory threshold, demonstrating better aerobic performance and greater exercise intensity without fatigue. Hirsch et al. reported that acute Cordyceps supplementation improves endurance and tolerance during high intensity exercise, and that greater benefits may be elicited with consistent chronic supplementation. Choi et al. reported that Cordyceps may improve exercise performance by increasing ATP production, rather than by decreasing muscle fatigue during exercise. Wang et al. demonstrated that Cordyceps improved lactate energy metabolism, enhancing lactate clearance and allowing athletes greater anaerobic physical performance.
When should I take Cordyceps?
On non-workout days, we recommend dosing in the morning. On workout days, we'd recommend Cordyceps as a pre-workout, but only if you workout in the morning or afternoon. That's because it can increase energy levels by improving ATP production; enhance resistance to fatigue by preventing lactic acidosis and combating exercise-induced oxidative stress; and enhances cardiovascular function by improving nitric oxide levels and increasing oxygen uptake. However, it can also be used as a post-workout supplement. That's because it can enhance recovery by reducing exercise-induced oxidative stress, is dripping in essential nutrients, and is rich in immunomodulating compounds that balance your immune system's body's inflammatory response to physical stress. We do not recommend taking Cordyceps before bed.
Can Cordyceps build muscle?
Another common use of Cordyceps is to boost libido and sexual vitality in both men and women, which we wrote a helpful article on. Studies suggest that one of the ways Cordyceps does this in men is by increasing their testosterone production. Aside from sexual function, one of testosterone's roles is to increase lean muscle mass.
During the 1993 Olympics, the female Chinese Olympic running team shattered records to the extent that they were accused of steroid use. Today, we know this was the result of intense training combined with an ingredient that was, until then, relatively unheard of — Cordyceps.
Mushrooms have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for centuries to treat various conditions like lung diseases, respiratory illness, and fatigue. But it wasn't until the 1993 Olympics that they truly began to reach the mainstream.
The Chinese female running team broke the 1,500, 3,000, and 10,000 meters records, which aroused officials' and other contestants' suspicions. The Chinese Olympians were suspected of using performance-enhancing steroids, but rumors were quickly shot down by their coach when they tested negatively for controlled or banned substances.
The coach revealed to the reporters that his team had been taking doses of Cordyceps at his request after each training session. This thrust Cordyceps into the mainstream, arousing global interest in Cordyceps' performance-enhancing capabilities and fueling new studies and research.
Today, Cordyceps finds itself coveted for not only its ability to restore energy and metabolism after periods of stress and disease, but also by active individuals and athletes looking to elevate their performance and cardiovascular function.
The rise in interest has also been fueled by studies demonstrating its ability to protect mitochondrial function, improve energy balance, metabolism, resistance to fatigue, and enhance oxygen consumption, all of which can support and elevate cardiovascular function and athletic performance.
Now, lets' get into the 5 ways that Cordyceps are clinically studied to support athletic performance, endurance, and cardiovascular function.
Cordyceps' athletic performance benefits.
Cordyceps has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries for vitality and relief from fatigue. When it first gained wider recognition in 1993, it was suggested that the antioxidant effects of the fungus improved the athletes’ exercise capacity.
As a nutritious, functional food, Cordyceps contains:
- Essential amino acids (building blocks of protein)
- Vitamins B1, B2, B12, and K
- Carbohydrates such as monosaccharides, oligosaccharides
Its many bioactive compounds have been the subject of scientific research in vitro (cells in culture medium), in animals, and in vivo (in human subjects).
The results of these studies suggest Cordyceps supports the following:
Cordyceps Boosts Energy Production and Improves Energy Balance
Athletes may benefit from using Cordyceps as they have been proven to boost energy levels. A recent clinical study found that participants using Cordyceps had a higher adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to inorganic phosphate ratio.
Another 2020 study concluded that Cordyceps may improve exercise performance due to its ability to increase in ATP production.
ATP is a compound that helps cells function and creates energy. This benefit is particularly important for athletes who want a long-lasting form of energy because it provides a dependable supply of power that won't result in a "crash" like a sugar high.
Cordyceps may help to replenish energy at the cellular level. In animal research with mice, researchers found that a cordyceps extract enhanced exercise performance by upregulating the ATP regeneration pathway. ATP is the primary energy-carrying molecule in our cells.
Cordyceps Improves Metabolism
Cordyceps can also directly support your body’s metabolism, supporting your fitness goals if you're cutting or focused on burning fat.
A 2014 study demonstrated that specific bioactive compounds found in Cordyceps can improve baseline metabolism, reducing weight gain, decreasing the amount of abdominal fat, and dramatically reducing liver weight and fat deposits.
A 2021 systematic review in Frontiers in Pharmacology concluded that Cordyceps accelerates glucose metabolism by increasing insulin sensitivity and improving oral glucose tolerance. This also benefits those with diabetes.
Another study showed that Cordyceps' metabolism benefits also play a part in its ability to improve athletic performance.
The study also concluded that Cordyceps supplementation — with or without exercise — may improve exercise endurance capacity by activating the skeletal muscle metabolic regulators and a coordinated antioxidant response.
Cordyceps Increases VO₂ Max and Oxygen Uptake
VO₂ max measures how much oxygen your body has available during intense exercise. A controlled study on exercise performance in healthy elderly participants found that Cordyceps increased their oxygen uptake.
Increasing oxygen uptake also improves your ventilatory threshold.
Your ventilatory threshold refers to your capacity for exercise intensity, where your breathing starts to increase to the point where lactate accumulates in your blood. The ventilatory threshold is important because it allows more oxygen to enter your body. Research shows that Cordyceps can increase the amount of oxygen in the body, which reduces the feeling of fatigue.
A 2018 clinical study concluded that supplementing Cordyceps for at least three weeks improves maximum oxygen uptake and ventilatory threshold during intense exercise. In addition, it was demonstrated to increase the time to exhaustion, allowing athletes to train longer and harder before reaching fatigue.
Research with older adults supplementing with Cordyceps for 12 weeks revealed significant improvement in ventilatory and metabolic thresholds. This suggests that Cordyceps may support exercise performance and contribute to overall health and wellness as we age, as well.
There is one caveat:
Some research indicates that the increase in oxygen uptake may be more beneficial for those who are not as highly trained as professional athletes. Professional athletes may need a higher dosage of Cordyceps to achieve the same benefits.
Not all studies agree on Cordyceps' ability to increase VO₂ max. In a 2010 study, 20 healthy older adults received either 1 gram of Cs-4®️ or a placebo pill for 12 weeks.
While researchers found no change in VO₂ max in either group, participants given Cs-4®️ improved other measures of exercise performance.
Yet another study tested the effects of a Cordyceps-containing mushroom blend on exercise performance in younger adults.
After three weeks, participants’ VO₂ max had increased by 11%, compared to a placebo.
Cordyceps Improves Resistance to Fatigue
Cordyceps reduces fatigue and improves resistance to fatigue in a few ways.
Bioactive compounds in Cordyceps have been shown to act as potent antioxidants, which reduce exercise-induced oxidative stress and improve the body's ability to withstand high-intensity exercise. This may allow athletes to maintain a higher intensity of exercise, while the reduction of oxidative stress from high-intensity exercise may delay fatigue.
Cordyceps' ability to reduce muscle fatigue and support anaerobic performance has also been demonstrated in a 1998 double-blind study. Carried out at the Beijing Medical University Sports Research Institute, researchers found that the group given the most Cordyceps experienced improved lactate clearance. During intense physical activity, our bodies produce lactase, a form of lactic acid. When we're working out, lactase buildup can lead to fatigue by causing muscle weakness and cramping.
However, despite popular belief, it isn't the lactic acid that's causing muscle soreness and fatigue. It's inorganic phosphate and hydrogen ions. These accumulate during high-intensity exercise, impairing your muscle's ability to contract. This is what leads to feelings of fatigue.
Your body actually needs lactic acid as fuel when it exhausts its other fuel reserves. Lactic acid is broken down into lactate, which your body clears by metabolizing it for energy. However, when lactate production exceeds your body's ability to use it, it accumulates in your muscles and bloodstream.
So, while rising levels of lactate are associated with tired muscles, lactate does not actually cause fatigue. Rather, it is the increased acidity in your tissues, due to the buildup of hydrogen ions, that contributes to the sensation of fatigue.
Researchers concluded that Cordyceps improved lactate clearance by promoting lactate energy metabolism within the cell. Hence, the authors concluded that using Cordyceps would enhance lactate clearance and allow athletes greater anaerobic physical performance.
Cordyceps Increases Nitric Oxide Levels
Nitric oxide is involved in many cell processes, including the widening of the blood vessels, or vasodilation. Wider blood vessels help increase the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to working muscles during exercise, thus enhancing exercise performance.
This has made nitric oxide supplements popular among athletes and recreational gym-goers.
One of Cordyceps' well-studied effects is its ability to increase Nitric Oxide (NO) levels.
For example, Cordyceps supplementation has been shown to regulate blood pressure by stimulating vessel dilation via nitric oxide release. This increases tissue oxygen exchange, improves your lipid profile, and enhances endurance performance.
Cordyceps Supports Post-Workout Recovery
After energy is expended during exercise, it is necessary for your body to recover.
When you exercise, your immune system's inflammatory response is activated in response to the stress of physical exertion.
Its anti-inflammatory properties may help to promote healing, especially with regular use.
Cordyceps' polysaccharide content makes it a nutritional powerhouse that supports healthy immune function. By supporting gut health, modulating the immune system, and balancing its pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory response, Cordyceps helps the body to react appropriately when challenged by infection or inflammation.
In animal studies with mice, Cordyceps supplementation had a greater impact than cereal alone on exercise endurance and accelerated recovery from fatigue.
Cordyceps as a pre-workout supplement.
We reach to Energy Stack to support our daily workouts at My Supply Co. For some of us, that's cardio and weight-based training, and for others, it's yoga and calisthenics.
The best time to enjoy Cordyceps to help support athletic performance is pre-working out. It's easy to add ¼ to ½ a teaspoon to a pre-workout shake, an energising tonic, for inspiration check our Cordyceps and Turmeric Elixir recipe, or simply eat it from the spoon – there’s no shame here!
With its energy-promoting and fatigue boosting potential Cordyceps could be the tool to consider to give your workouts a lift. It's important to note that the majority of studies related to Cordyceps and energy support document its use over an extended period, rather than just on occasion, to achieve the accumulative benefit from its use.
Our patented and bioactive Cordyceps extract.
We source the type of Cordyceps used in most clinical studies, Cs-4®️.
Our mushrooms are tested for beta-glucans and Cordycepin. As a result, we can guarantee that our Cordyceps extract contains greater than 25% beta-glucans 1,3 and 1,6.
My Supply Co. Cordyceps are:
- Highly potent, bioactive, and bioavailable, standardized to greater than 25% beta-glucans and 1% Cordycepin.
- Certified USDA Organic.
- Fruiting body only – 100% real mushrooms with no added fillers or mycelium.
- Lab-tested for purity.
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