If you’ve stayed up-to-date in the world of adaptogens and superfoods, mushrooms have no doubt crossed your path. There are some types of mushrooms that offer you plenty of health and wellness benefits.
One of these amazing fungi is the cordyceps mushroom. A popular mushroom for multiple foods and a potent adaptogen, cordyceps are both healthy and tasty. In this article, we’ll go over the benefits of consuming cordyceps mushrooms regularly and what it can do for you in terms of athletic performance.
Let’s talk about some ‘shrooms!
Unsurprisingly, an ingredient that has long been known to have adaptogenic qualities has a slew of advantages. Adaptogens are “non-toxic plants that are marked as helping the body resist stressors of all kinds, whether physical, chemical or biological” . That means cordyceps mushrooms can offer a ton of benefits to our bodies in multiple ways.
Here are just a handful of incredible effects these mushrooms can offer you:
- Anti-Aging Properties/Longevity: Reduced fatigue, additional strength, and extra libido. Sound pretty epic? Well, cordyceps mushrooms give you the nutritional epitome of the Fountain of Youth. This is because cordyceps are full of antioxidants, which neutralize free radicals (which are key contributors to aging and degenerative disease). [2,3]
- Anti-Tumor Properties: Research has shown that cordyceps actually slows down the growth of tumors.  This has been found in both mice studies and human test tube studies. It could also reverse the adverse effects from various kinds of cancer therapy.
- Could Help Manage Type 2 Diabetes: Type 2 diabetes occurs when you spike your blood sugar too often, resulting in insulin resistance. By consuming cordyceps, you can ensure your body responds to your natural insulin; cordyceps actually mimics insulin and keeps blood sugar levels in a healthy range, especially decreasing it from high levels. [5,6]
- Improved Heart Health: If you have an unhealthy heart, cordyceps mushrooms might be your saving grace. Have arrhythmia? China has been using cordyceps to cure that for years.  Bad cholesterol? This fungus has the power to lower your LDL.  Higher risk for heart disease? Cordyceps decreases triglyceride levels, which is a type of fat in your blood.  Essentially, cordyceps can keep your heart strong for a long time.
- Enhanced Immune System: Apparently, cordyceps can optimize the number of killer blood cells in your body (a type of white blood cell). These bad boys protect your whole body from being attacked by bacteria or viruses. Polysaccharides in the mushroom are also known to aid in immune system defenses.
- Improved Respiratory System: First recognized by Yak herders in Tibet, cordyceps can help your cells use oxygen. This lets your lungs breathe easier. In fact, your entire respiratory system is better off when you ingest cordyceps. Multiple studies have shown its powerful effect on certain human afflictions, such as asthma, bronchitis, coughs, and emphysema.
- Better Sexual Health: Fun fact - cordyceps is also known as “Himalayan Viagra.”  Turns out, this mushroom prompts testosterone to be released. This has many benefits, of course, especially in the gym (we’ll get to that). However, it also helps in the bedroom. It increases blood circulation, which effectively enhanced erectile function, virility, and stamina. As for the ladies, cordyceps allows for a better biosynthesis of cortisol, estrogen, and testosterone.
- Reduced Inflammation: Inflammation is how your body fights off disease and outside threats. Despite this, too much inflammation - which is quite common today - is really bad for you. With this mushroom, you can decrease your body’s inflammation. They do this by suppressing proteins in the body that heighten inflammation. [11,12] In fact, it could actually be used as an anti-inflammatory supplement. 
DO THEY BOOST ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE?
The biggest boost cordyceps gives our body is an increase in molecular ATP, the energy transport vehicles for our muscles. In a nutshell, cordyceps mushrooms improve our ability to provide energy to our muscles while working out.
Not only that but earlier we mentioned that they also enhance our ability to use oxygen, relieving the lungs and pushing more oxygen through the bloodstream. Plus, VO2 max - a measurement of overall fitness - has been researched with the aid of cordyceps. A study found that VO2 max increased by 7% after the research period for those who took cordyceps versus the participants that received a placebo.  While that study was for older people, it turns out similar results occurred for younger people as well. 
Hopefully, now you know why yak herders in Tibet held cordyceps in such high regard. They are a potent form of fungi that could boost your athletic performance. Get some cordyceps into your nutrition protocol as quickly as possible!SOURCES
- Ducharme, Jamie. “What Are Adaptogens? Healing Herbs for Stress and Fatigue.” Time, Time, 28 Feb. 2018, www.time.com/5025278/adaptogens-herbs-stress-anxiety/.
- Ji, D B, et al. “Antiaging Effect of Cordyceps Sinensis Extract.” Phytotherapy Research: PTR., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Jan. 2009, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18803231.
- Lobo, V., et al. “Free Radicals, Antioxidants and Functional Foods: Impact on Human Health.” Pharmacognosy Reviews, Medknow Publications & Media Pvt Ltd, Dec. 2010, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3249911/.
- Bizarro, A, et al. “Cordyceps Militaris (L.) Link Fruiting Body Reduces the Growth of a Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Cell Line by Increasing Cellular Levels of p53 and p21.” Molecules (Basel, Switzerland)., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 31 July 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26263965.
- Lo, H C, et al. “The Anti-Hyperglycemic Activity of the Fruiting Body of Cordyceps in Diabetic Rats Induced by Nicotinamide and Streptozotocin.” Life Sciences., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 23 Apr. 2004, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15050427.
- Liu, C, et al. “Antidiabetic and Antinephritic Activities of Aqueous Extract of Cordyceps Militaris Fruit Body in Diet-Streptozotocin-Induced Diabetic Sprague Dawley Rats.” Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2016, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27274781.
- Lin, Bao-qin. “Cordyceps as an Herbal Drug.” Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd Edition., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Jan. 1970, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92758/.
- Guo, P, et al. “Cordycepin Prevents Hyperlipidemia in Hamsters Fed a High-Fat Diet via Activation of AMP-Activated Protein Kinase.” Journal of Pharmacological Sciences., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2010, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20724804.
- Gao, J, et al. “Lipid-Lowering Effect of Cordycepin (3'-Deoxyadenosine) from Cordyceps Militaris on Hyperlipidemic Hamsters and Rats.” Yao Xue Xue Bao = Acta Pharmaceutica Sinica., U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 2011, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21882527.
- “Cordyceps Benefits & Information.” Indigo Herbs, www.indigo-herbs.co.uk/natural-health-guide/benefits/cordyceps.
- Kuo, Y C, et al. “Cordyceps Sinensis as an Immunomodulatory Agent.” The American Journal of Chinese Medicine., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1996, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8874668.
- Kim, KM, et al. “Methanol Extract of Cordyceps Pruinosa Inhibits in Vitro and in Vivo Inflammatory Mediators by Suppressing NF-KappaB Activation.” Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 July 2003, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12831777.
- Park, Seong-Yeol, et al. “Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Cordyceps Mycelium (Paecilomyces Hepiali, CBG-CS-2) in Raw264.7 Murine Macrophages.” Oriental Pharmacy and Experimental Medicine, Springer Netherlands, 5 Dec. 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4371127/.
- “Cordyceps: Side Effects, Dosages, Treatment, Interactions, Warnings.” RxList, www.rxlist.com/consumer_cordyceps/drugs-condition.htm.
- Yi, Xiao, et al. “Randomized Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial and Assessment of Fermentation Product of Cordyceps Sinensis (Cs-4) in Enhancing Aerobic Capacity and Respiratory Function of the Healthy Elderly Volunteers.” SpringerLink, Chinese Association of Traditional and Western Medicine, China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, Sept. 2004, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF02836405.