Adaptogens are a class of supplements that many people still don’t know about. Even if they have heard of them, they don’t know if there is any actual benefit to the ingredients. So, I decided to lay out the top 13 Adaptogens that can be useful for your fitness and general lifestyle goals.
Most of these products are all natural, coming from various herbs and plants that have been used in other countries from hundreds of years. Science has been catching up and completing research on these products, proving some exciting benefits for many of them. Adaptogens can be very cheap and more effective than a lot of the typical Sports Nutrition supplements.
Why Supplement With Them
An Adaptogen can be anything that can help the body deal with stress and fatigue. With hardcore training, fatigue and stress become a very real factor in your life. An obviously correlation has been made between Adaptogens and performance enhancement. Studies have shown great results in those that are physically active, which is what we really care about.
One of the top ways that Adaptogens can combat stress and fatigue is lowering Cortisol levels in the body. Cortisol is the catabolic stress hormone released when your body is going through something traumatic. While natural rising and falling of Cortisol is normal and useful for a healthy individual, chronically raises levels can be detrimental to your performance and physique! Getting enough sleep, eating right, and recovering the best you can are the best ways to get Cortisol under control. On top of that, Adaptogens can give an extra boost!
We also want to avoid mental fatigue and perceived levels of exertion. Certain Adaptogens have been shown to help with that too! Again, supplements aren’t going to make as much of a difference as lifestyle changes. However, they can definitely help!
The Top 13 Adaptogens For OPPT Trainees
I’ve researched all of the generally accepted Adaptogens and come down to 13 that I find can have benefits for specific individuals. This doesn’t mean you have to take them all. Instead, you can go through the list and see the proposed benefits and make the final decision yourself.
13. Muira Puama
Yes, we are starting from the bottom of the list. I don’t want you to read the top 5 and skip the rest, as all of them are useful!
Muira Puama doesn’t have a lot of scientific evidence to support it, yet. However, it has been shown to be a quality cognitive enhancer. This will improve your brain function. We know everything is Mind Over Matter, right? Also, it has been shown to be a prominent libido enhancer. Those are the two most useful benefits found with Muira as of now. If these don’t sound right for you, we can move onto the next on the list.
Try This: 4-6g on unconcentrated extract. If you take a concentrated extract, you’ll need to adjust the dosage. Most products will tell you the directions for use, unless you are buying bulk powder. Even those might give you an idea of how to use it.
Tinospora Cordifolia, commonly known as Guduchi, is an immune booster. It also may contribute to less simple carbohydrates absorbed in your body, which can be beneficial for diabetes, and general blood sugar control. However, I think there are better options for Glucose Disposal Agents. This Adaptogen isn’t one I haven’t recommended to anybody, except those with allergies. If you have allergies, Guduchi is something to try and see if it helps your situation.
Try This: 300mg of the extract, 3 times a day. Make sure to take with meals to enhance absorbtion.
11. Polygala Tenuifolia
This one can be useful for lowering Cortisol. I do feel that there are better options for that, however. The unique benefit of Polygala is the increase in spatial awareness after ingestion. This shows an improvement in cognition. Resistance training also can increase spatial awareness so combining the two can be a win-win. Be aware of your surroundings and focus on the task at hand!
Try This: The studied human dose is an ethanol extract of 300mg per day.
10. Morus Alba
The White Mulberry tree has been used for long time in Chinese medicine. This is another Adaptogen that can lower the amount of absorbed simple carbohydrates, supporting blood sugar levels. It also improves cognition on levels comparable to Piracetam, one of the most popular Nootropics to date.
Try This: Go for a concentrated extract, as the required dosage for the blood sugar benefits is pretty high. A 10:1 extract would be around 900-1800mg per day.
Cordyceps is a type of mushroom, which is different from your typical Adaptogen. It also provides benefits that other Adaptogens do not! It can improve your lactate threshold, which is very beneficial to push your endurance training further. Cordyceps is very popular among runners for that specific reason. It should also help muscular endurance as well. The secondary benefit is an improved time to fatigue, which allows you to push further. This could solely be a result of the lactate threshold improvement.
Try This: Try a dosage around 1-3g. The optimal dosage has not been found yet, so experimenting within this range is recommened.
Another mushroom to add to the list! It is a potent antioxidant, which is useful since we pound our bodies with more oxidative stress from intense training. It also lowers levels of fatigue overall. To round it out, it is also an anti-inflammatory. Summing up the benefits, it can be a useful tool in optimal recovery after training.
Try This: 5g daily of a 10:1 extract, which is the typical extract.
7. Trichopus Zeylanicus
This is commonly known as Kerala Ginseng. This Adaptogen seems very promising, even though research is currently limited. Through the current research, it has shown anti-fatigue effects. It also has shown to be a possible performance enhancer, which most Adaptogens fail to provide. On top of all that, it is known to be an aphrodisiac as well.
There aren’t any human studies for the performance enhancement quite yet. However, a study compared the performance enhancement benefits of Trichopus and Ashwagandha, in which Trichopus outperformed the ladder. You’ll find out soon that Ashwagandha is one of the top Adaptogens to use, with plenty of human research behind it.
Try This: Between 2700mg and 4500mg are the estimated beneficial doses on a sliding scale of body weight. The more you weigh, the higher in the range you use.
This is one Adaptogen that shows a few unique benefits that can contribute to your performance and physique goals. It is known to increase nitric oxide levels, which can help performance and the pump! It also shows anti-stress benefits and lowers Cortisol in studies. This is one Adaptogen that is commonly found in many Bodybuilding supplements.
Try This: 1-3g of the dried fruit powder.
5. Holy Basil
Holy Basil has quite a few benefits and a few drawbacks as well. First, it is known to lower anxiety. It has also been shown to lower blood glucose levels. It also has a good amount of antioxidant properties. It is a great source of natural Ursolic Acid, which is a prominent performance enhancer and has shown to increase strength in studies. However, Ursolic Acid happens to have a temporary anti-fertility effect in men. If you are trying to make a baby, don’t use Holy Basil. Ironically, it’s also known for libido boosting. It’s also touting for testosterone boosting properties, but the evidence for that is not definite.
Try This: Between 1-3.5g a day, although the optimal dosage has yet to be found.
4. Panax Ginseng
The top 4 on this list have a lot more research behind them, and a lot more benefits to brag about. Unfortunately, Panax Ginseng has been proven ineffective for performance enhancing benefits. However, it has shown some great results for general Adaptogen properties. It improve cognition, reduces fatigue, improves blood flow, potentially decreases lactate production, and improves sleep quality. All of these can contribute to better results indirectly. General improvement in mood and and immune support have also been found.
Try This: 400mg per day.
3. Siberian Ginseng
Siberian Ginseng happens to outperform Panax Ginseng in my opinion. This is mostly due to the performance enhancements that Panax just hasn’t been able to produce. Siberian Ginseng has been found to improve anaerobic running capacity (a fancy way of saying improved sprinting). It can also increase fat oxidation during exercise, which contributes to a physique improvement. Users also have more fatigue resistance when supplementing with it. Users have an increased oxygen uptake while supplementing, which can improve intra-workout recovery. You have to get the oxygen into the muscles and lungs to effective recover between sets of weight training and conditioning intervals. An increased VO2 max has also been found.
Lets make it simple, this is the best Adaptogen for performance enhancement alone.
Try This: Try between 2-4g to find the right dose to get the benefits!
Slightly outdone by Ashwagandha, Rhodiola is a great Adaptogen to supplement with! It decreases levels of fatigue, lowers lactate production, lessens muscle damage from training, and lowers the rate of perceived exertion. All of these can help you push further in the gym. It also shows traditional Adaptogenic benefits, like improved cognition and improved subjective well being.
Try This: Try 500mg daily. You may need a little less, or more. It’s important to try out different dosages around 500mg to find what’s optimal for you. This is similar to many of the Adaptogens.
Surprise! Well, I already talked about it a few times, so I’m sure you knew that it would be #1 on the list. Ashwagandha is the complete Adaptogen in my mind. It has benefits that can be found with all of the others on this list, all in one product!
It has been shown to lower Cortisol and lower levels of fatigue and stress, similar to almost all of the others. It has been shown to increase power output, VO2 max, and anaerobic running capacity, similar to a few select Adaptogens on the list. It has been shown to lower blood sugar, with even less on the list having this benefit. It is also the most potent one for testosterone boosting. Again, we know that testosterone boosts from naturally products isn’t much. However, if you have lower than average test levels, Ashwagandha can definitely help.
If there was only one product I’d recommend you try out, I’d obviously recommend Ashwagandha. It is very versatile and can provide many benefits that others can give you on this list.
Try This: 6g of Ashwagandha root is recommended. However, there are high quality extracts available to lower the dosage, like KSM-66.
Now It’s Your Turn!
I’m not saying to go out and try all of these. However, try one or two and, if you like how you respond, you can go through others on the list. Long term consumption of these products without cycling off isn’t well studied, so you can switch these in and out of your stable as needed.
Some of these may stack well, however, there isn’t many studies available on that either. If there are complimentary benefits listed in my top 13, you can try them out. A lot of people combine the popular Adaptogens, such as: Ashwagandha, Rhodiola, and Siberian Ginseng. While no evidence exists to show increased benefits from stacking, you can try it out if you are curious.
If you do, or have already before, let me know how it went with a comment below. Even if you only have experience with one from the list, let me know how you responded with a comment!
Don’t forget to share this list with your friends too. Adaptogens can be a great addition to any healthy lifestyle, not just OPPT trainees!