The Benefits of Lion’s Mane Mushroom for Performance Athletes

What is lion’s mane mushroom?

Have you ever heard of magical mushrooms? Edible fungi that can be used for medicinal purposes may seem like something out of a Sci-Fi movie. However Hericium erinaceus, also known as lion’s mane mushroom, hou tou gu or yamabushitake is in fact one of those magical mushrooms [1]. Lion’s mane mushroom is large and has a shaggy appearance with white cascading spines that resemble a lion’s mane, hence the name. While very interesting to look at, the taste of the mushroom is even more surprising. Often desired by chefs, this specialty mushroom has a comparable taste to lobster and seafood [1].

Traditionally used in Eastern countries such as China, Japan, Korea, and India for both its culinary and medicinal purposes, this mushroom is gaining more consumer interest for its many health benefits particularly in athletic performance.

What makes lion’s mane mushroom so special?

This mushroom contains high amounts of a compound called β-glucan polysaccharides, which is a type of naturally occurring glucose polymer found in cell walls of certain fungi and bacteria [2]. This mushroom is also rich in, lectins, proteins, lipids, hericenone, erinacine and terpenoids, which is basically everything an athlete needs for top performance. Along with β-glucan, these compounds are responsible for many of the health benefits associated with lion’s mane such as, fatigue reduction, increased cognitive function, inflammation reduction, improved gut health, and immune health [3].

Benefits of lion’s mane mushroom for athletes:

  • Contains anti-fatigue properties and increases energy.
  • Improves concentration, focus, and overall cognitive function.
  • Reduces inflammation and recovery time.
  • Accelerates fat metabolism.
  • Improves gut health.
  • Boosts the immune system

Benefits of lion’s mane mushroom: reduces fatigue and increases energy for muscles

Physical fatigue for athletes is a constant battle. A quick recovery from a workout or any type of athletic performance is crucial for the athlete. Research has shown the benefits of lion’s mane mushroom for decreasing physical fatigue [4].

In a study performed on mice, physical fatigue indicators including blood lactic acid, serum urea nitrogen, and malondialdehyde were significantly lower in mice that consumed lion’s mane mushroom compared to those that did not. This study has shown that lion’s mane may promote anti-fatigue activity and improve athletic performance. The same study also showed that lion’s mane increased tissue glycogen, the muscles energy storage, as well as antioxidant activity [4].

So what does this all mean? Well, not only does lion’s mane contain anti-fatigue components, but it also has the potential to increase energy for your muscles.

Benefits of lion’s mane mushroom: improves focus and concentration

Mental acuity is just as important as physical acuity for athletes. Increasing focus, and concentration can improve an athlete’s performance tremendously. Lion’s mane has shown to improve cognitive function, specifically focus, concentration, and memory [5]. Some say that lion’s mane is nature’s most powerful brain food because it stimulates natural growth factor (NGF) production. NGF is a protein that is vital for the development, function, and survival of neurons in the brain [5].

Other neurological benefits correlated with the components in lion’s mane mushroom include decreased irritability, neuron growth, regeneration of damaged nerves, and overall improvement in cognitive function [6] [7].

Benefits of lion’s mane mushroom: reduces inflammation and recovery time

Physical fatigue can cause muscle inflammation, and increase oxidative stress, which leads to tissue damage and impaired muscle contractility. Studies have shown that dietary antioxidant manipulation can enhance exercise recovery by reducing muscle fatigue as well as reactive oxygen species (ROS), which are harmful to the body [8]. Lion’s mane mushrooms are rich in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds thus decreasing ROS, and the amount of time it takes for muscles to recover.

Studies have also shown that lion’s mane mushrooms contain natural ACE inhibitors, which relaxes blood vessels, increases blood flow and decreases the amount of work on your heart [9].

Benefits of lion’s mane mushroom: improves fat metabolism

The metabolism’s two main energy sources are carbohydrates and fat. Though there is a limited amount of carbohydrate storage in the body that is not the case with fat. For athletes, the ability to metabolize fats as an energy source is ideal for prolonged exercise in order to improve endurance. Research has shown that lion’s mane mushroom extract improves fat metabolism, which can be helpful for endurance athletes [10].

Another study concluded that despite a high fat diet, mice given lion’s mane mushroom extract resulted in an increase in lipid metabolism, as well as reduced weight gain [11]. These results suggest that lion’s mane could potentially improve fat metabolism for endurance athletes.

Benefits of lion’s mane mushroom: improves gut health

Lion’s mane mushroom contains natural antibacterial properties, which have shown to protect the gut against harmful bacteria such as H. pylori, the leading cause of gastric ulcers. The natural agents in lion’s mane may also protect the stomach lining from other harmful substances [12].

While research is still ongoing, there are promising studies correlating lion’s mane with reduction of symptoms for those suffering with ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and a leaky gut.

Benefits of lion’s mane mushroom: boosts immune system

There is no doubt that a strong immune system aids in overall body recovery. For athletes who are constantly pushing their bodies to the limit, a healthy immune system is vital for protecting the body against viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens. Though research is still developing, there are several studies that support the immune boosting abilities of lion’s mane mushroom.

Several studies suggest that lion’s mane increases the activity of the intestinal immune system, thereby protecting against pathogens that enter the gut from the mouth or nose [13]. Additionally, another study showed that the fungal proteins contained in lion’s mane, improves the immune system and can be used as a functional food for immunotherapy [14].

The bottom line

It is well known that proper training, nutrition, and supplements are integral pieces in an athlete’s progress. Lion’s mane mushroom continues to gain popularity due to its various health benefits, however the potential benefits for athletes makes it a unique food for sports nutrition. Studies continue to show the positive physical and mental outcomes from utilizing lion’s mane. There are several ways to incorporate lion’s mane mushroom into your diet, this includes eating them whole or taking lion’s mane extract as a nutritional supplement. Athletes looking to further advance their performance should consider our newest lion mane’s supplement to add to their daily routine for optimal results.


  1. Mudge, K. (2017, April 09). Lion's Mane: A new candidate for profitable forest mushroom cultivation. Retrieved October 28, 2018, from
  2. Akramienė, D., Kondrotas, A., Didžiapetrienė, J., & Kėvelaitis, E. (2007). Effects of ß-glucans on the immune system. Medicina, 43(8), 597. doi:10.3390/medicina43080076
  3. Khan, M. A., Tania, M., Liu, R., & Rahman, M. M. (2013). Hericium erinaceus: An edible mushroom with medicinal values. Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine, 10(1). doi:10.1515/jcim-2013-0001
  4. Liu, J., Du, C., Wang, Y., & Yu, Z. (2014). Anti-fatigue activities of polysaccharides extracted from Hericium erinaceus. Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine, 9(2), 483-487. doi:10.3892/etm.2014.2139
  5. Brandalise, F., Cesaroni, V., Gregori, A., Repetti, M., Romano, C., Orrù, G., . . . Rossi, P. (2017). Dietary Supplementation ofHericium erinaceusIncreases Mossy Fiber-CA3 Hippocampal Neurotransmission and Recognition Memory in Wild-Type Mice. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2017, 1-13. doi:10.1155/2017/3864340
  6. Mori, K., Inatomi, S., Ouchi, K., Azumi, Y., & Tuchida, T. (2009). Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Phytotherapy Research, 23(3), 367-372. doi:10.1002/ptr.2634
  7. Nagano, M., Shimizu, K., Kondo, R., Hayashi, C., Sato, D., Kitagawa, K., & Ohnuki, K. (2010). Reduction of depression and anxiety by 4 weeks Hericium erinaceus intake. Biomedical Research,31(4), 231-237. doi:10.2220/biomedres.31.231
  8. He, F., Li, J., Liu, Z., Chuang, C., Yang, W., & Zuo, L. (2016). Redox Mechanism of Reactive Oxygen Species in Exercise. Frontiers in Physiology, 7. doi:10.3389/fphys.2016.00486
  9. Abdullah, N., Ismail, S. M., Aminudin, N., Shuib, A. S., & Lau, B. F. (2012). Evaluation of Selected Culinary-Medicinal Mushrooms for Antioxidant and ACE Inhibitory Activities. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012, 1-12. doi:10.1155/2012/464238
  10. Choi, W., Kim, Y., Park, B., Kim, J., & Lee, S. (2013). Hypolipidaemic Effect of Hericium erinaceum Grown in Artemisia capillaris on Obese Rats. Mycobiology, 41(2), 94-99. doi:10.5941/myco.2013.41.2.94
  11. Hiwatashi, K., Kosaka, Y., Suzuki, N., Hata, K., Mukaiyama, T., Sakamoto, K., . . . Komai, M. (2010). Yamabushitake Mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) Improved Lipid Metabolism in Mice Fed a High-Fat Diet. Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, 74(7), 1447-1451. doi:10.1271/bbb.100130
  12. Wang, M., Konishi, T., Gao, Y., Xu, D., & Gao, Q. (2015). Anti-Gastric Ulcer Activity of Polysaccharide Fraction Isolated from Mycelium Culture of Lions Mane Medicinal Mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Higher Basidiomycetes). International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms,17(11), 1055-1060. doi:10.1615/intjmedmushrooms.v17.i11.50
  13. Sheng, X., Yan, J., Meng, Y., Kang, Y., Han, Z., Tai, G., . . . Cheng, H. (2017). Immunomodulatory effects of Hericium erinaceus derived polysaccharides are mediated by intestinal immunology. Food & Function, 8(3), 1020-1027. doi:10.1039/c7fo00071e
  14. Diling, C., Chaoqun, Z., Jian, Y., Jian, L., Jiyan, S., Yizhen, X., & Guoxiao, L. (2017). Immunomodulatory Activities of a Fungal Protein Extracted from Hericium erinaceus through Regulating the Gut Microbiota. Frontiers in Immunology,8. doi:10.3389/fimmu.2017.00666

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