Herbs to Optimize Athletic Performance.

Herbs To Optimize Athletic Performance.

It is common knowledge these days that a clean, nutrient-dense diet and adequate amounts of water are key to success when it comes to all forms of athletics.

There are extra steps you can take to optimize your athletic experience, however, and herbal supplements are a big one.

Herbal supplements have been used for centuries for athletic endurance, and strength. For example, the Guarani of South America used guarana (Paullinia cupana) to improve their stamina on long hunting trips in the jungle, and ginseng was used all across Asia for both general health, as well as athletic performance.

In the Tibeten Himalaya mountains, Cordyceps were used to improve the endurance of locals during travel up the rugged and steep mountains they called home. 

One of the most famous is the use of Coca leaves by locals working crops or traveling high in theAndes mountains. This is indeed the source for the illegal drug cocaine. In its natural form however it it not only safe, but highly effective for improving athletic performance and resisting altitude sickness or hypoxic damage. 

Here are a few herbs you can use to supplement, and optimize your athletic performance.


Maca (Lepidium meyenii)

Maca is a root from the high Andean mountains.

In this rough, low oxygenated climate, cultures living here needed to adapt to withstand the extreme conditions present. Maca was a food of choice for these areas and is still highly valued here.

The nutritional content of maca is perfect for providing the body with all of the amino acids needed for hormone production, including testosterone. This hormone plays a major role in both males and females in the bulking and fortification of muscles.

Maca is best taken over long periods of time, as a nutritional supplement at doses over 5g daily. More maca intake, however, is even better, and consistent intake is key to its effectiveness. This can be achieved by adding the powder to shakes, smoothies, or baking into energy bars and eating them nearly every day.

Go here if you want some more detailed information on exactly how Maca affects hormones and athletic performance.

You can purchase maca powder here. 


Suma (Pfaffia paniculata)   

Click the image to see all of TSE's research on Suma

Click the image to see all of TSE's research on Suma

Suma has been successfully used by bodybuilders and athletes for a long time.

Going by the name Brazilian ginseng in some countries, this herb is considered a powerful Adaptogen.

It improves blood production and hormone synthesis. These are both key functions for both life in general, and optimizing athletic performance.

Taking a small dose every day, before and after a workout will do wonders for your muscle gain and endurance.

This dose can be achieved by taking an herbal tincture such as this, or by making a herbal infusion with the dried roots and drinking as a tea.


Guarana (Paullinia cupana)

Guarana is very high in caffeine, as well as other xanthine alkaloids.

This class of chemicals is famous for their stimulating properties.

Guarana has been shown to protect the heart, and improve it's inotropic (ability to contract) force as well.

Guarana is also well known for its ability to burn fat by improving lipid metabolism. This helps to improve your lean muscle development, while giving a steady supply of energy at the same time.

Taking 1-3 Grams (or 2-3 capsules) of this herb about 45-60 min before a workout can improve energy intensity, stamina, fat metabolism, and cardiovascular function with little to no side effects.

You can find Guarana extract here or the powder here. 


Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus)

Another name for this herb that many are more familiar with is Siberian ginseng.

Eleuthero is considered an Adaptogen, which refers to a class of herbs that promote a nonspecific increase in the bodies ability to resist stress.

This one, in particular, improves oxygen uptake, which directly affects muscle growth and stamina. It has slightly stimulating effects, and if taken over time, can drastically improve your endurance, strength, and recovery times.

This one is a must have for athletes.

You can take this supplement in encapsulated form, or tincture form.

I prefer tinctures because they are taken up quicker into the body, and, in my opinion, are much easier to take in sufficient doses, rather than popping capsule after capsule each day trying to hit adequate dosages.

You can find Eleuthero here. 



Cannabis button

Yes, cannabis. But not for the reason you might think.

I don't think I need to mention that smoking of any kind will not improve your athletic performance, however, topical cannabis is an incredible muscle relaxant, and if applied right after an intense workout, or on a muscle injury, it can seriously speed recovery times, and reduce muscle pain.

This muscle relaxant effect can also be obtained by eating or juicing this herb raw, or by taking the activated tincture.

Acquiring raw leaves, topical ointments, and activated tinctures can be tough, however as laws change, access to this useful herb will no doubt improve.

Additionally, Cannabis seeds are a great plant source of protein (roughly 30% of the husked seed content!), and also contains a rich source of fatty acids and fiber to go along with it.

Cannabis is not available yet in Canada.


Cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis)

Cordyceps button

This fungus has the ability of improving our bloods capacity to deliver oxygen to our cells, which in turn improves overall muscle function, and recovery.

Every cell in our body needs oxygen, and during heavy workouts, this means the heart has to beat much faster in order to meet the oxygen demands of the bodies cells.

By improving oxygen delivery, you are able to optimize athletic performance and improve muscle building.

This herb is mainly used in the Tibet region to improve one's ability to endure the low oxygen environment of the high Himalayan mountains. The added oxygen delivery allows their bodies to function and adapt much more easily to the extreme low-oxygen conditions.

This herbal supplement is a must have, especially for anybody training at high altitudes.

Cordyceps can be taken as capsules, tinctures, or powdered and added to smoothies.

It is most effective if taken daily over a long period of time, slowly building up the bloods oxygen capacity. This method is found to be much more effective than a short duration/high dose supplementation.

Cordyceps also have the additional benefit of significantly improving our immune systems through our white blood cells. 

You can find cordyceps extract here. 

As time goes on, more people will realize the benefits that herbal supplements can provide towards athletic performance, and it will become a staple in many peoples workout supplementation routines. 

Justin Cooke @JuzzieCooke

The Sunlight Experiment @TheSunlightExp