Medicinal Mushrooms for Improved Athletic Performance

Below is my article on the benefits of the Medicinal Mushrooms.  Please let me know your thoughts on it.  And if you have any questions regarding this topic fire me and email through me Contact Page.



We are all seeking ways to feel better and be healthier, and athletes are often looking for ways to improve performance. There are many types of ergogenic aids readily available to us in today’s marketplace. Caffeine would perhaps be the most commonly used substance, but caffeine, like most stimulants, has an upper limit of how much can be taken before the body experiences deleterious effects.

Performance enhancing substances are not just limited to the stimulant category. I consider anything that will make you a better athlete and/or healthier person to be performance enhancing. A simple example of this would be choosing to eat a diet high in freshly prepared vegetables versus a diet high in processed foods. This approach is going to improve overall health and therefore likely be better for your athletic performance and longevity. Different foods offer us different health benefits and certain types of mushrooms are gaining more ground for their medicinal and potentially performance enhancing properties.

The use of mushrooms for medicinal therapy dates back millennia – in China for example the use of Reishi mushrooms goes back 4000 years (Janardhanan). Climatic conditions govern what types of mushrooms grow naturally in any given region but citations of mushrooms being consumed for their medicinal properties are evident throughout the history of humankind.   In more recent times specific mushrooms have been the center of studies seeking to benefit athletic performance.

Two of the most studied varieties of mushrooms are the genera Cordyceps and Ganoderma. All medicinal mushrooms have a positive effect on the immune system, but each genus also has other unique effects on different systems within our bodies.

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Cordyceps Sinensis

Cordyceps Sinensis

               Cordyceps are known to have many positive effects on our bodies, such as: a strengthening of the cardiovascular system and adrenal glands, enhancing libido and sperm production in men (Miller), and increases ATP production in the body by almost 28% (Miller). Documentation of Olympic level athletes in China supplementing with Cordyceps for increased athletic performance dates back over two decades.

At the 1993 Chinese National Games running world records were set in various track events and the female athletes who set these records had been consuming mushrooms. The Chinese coach, when under speculation for illicit drug use, asserted that the running teams results were due to an “intense, high altitude training and a stress relieving tonic prepared from a caterpillar fungus” (Whitfield). This caterpillar fungus is a type of Cordyceps.

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Red Reishi

Red Reishi

The genus Ganoderma, commonly known as Reishi, is perhaps the most widely recognized mushroom and touts a host of benefits including: stress relief, increased energy, boosting heart function, powerful free radical scavenging capacity, and helps promote quality sleep (Veracity).

Results from a 3-month study done on endurance cyclists who compete in Gran Fondo events found that supplementing with specific mushrooms resulted in significant improvements in markers such as increased testosterone post exercise and increased FRSA – free radical scavenging activity (Rossi). The mushrooms used in this study were Ophiocordyceps sinensis and Ganoderma lucidum, types of Cordyceps and Reishi respectively. Interestingly, research also shows that when different genera of mushrooms are taken in combination there may be a synergistic effect of their medical properties (Stamets 66).

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As a triathlete I compete in a sport that is very aerobic in nature and certainly classified as an endurance event. The physical demands of competing in the professional ranks can often border on being unhealthy, and for this reason I am always seeking ways to keep my immune system strong and minimize cellular damage so that I can perform at the highest level while ensuring I live a long and healthy life.

In today’s fast paced society stress comes at us from many angles (work, exercise, family, environment) and I find that when external stressors are higher than normal I am more susceptible to getting sick. If I am sidelined with an illness there is a negative, snowball effect on my training and racing that comes from missing workouts. So therefore I do everything I can, especially during the fall season, to avoid catching a cold. Consistency is the key to continuing to progress athletically, and one could argue that consistency is paramount in sports that are aerobic based (Friel). So for me adding medicinal mushroom supplements to my arsenal was a natural step due to their immune support, antioxidant capacity and ability to increase physical performance.

Taking supplements to make up for certain vitamins or minerals may not be the best long-term approach and it is important to strive to meet your nutritional needs through consuming high quality, very nutrient dense foods. But oxidative stress and a compromised immune system are (unfortunately) inherent at the level at which I train and race, so when it comes to supplementation I choose my products very carefully. I always look for the most minimally processed options that are closest to their whole food form and feel this is the best long-term approach.

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If you are going to spend your money on a supplement it is important to make sure you are getting the highest quality. In Canada we are lucky to have fairly strict guidelines for the supplements you find on the shelves of health food stores, supermarkets and pharmacies. One thing to look for is an NPN on the packaging. This is a Natural Product Number given to products that Health Canada has found to be safe. Companies have to spend time and money (research, license fees, etc.) to get this certification for each of their products, and the highest quality companies on the market typically have NPNs for all their products.

It is common to find products containing extracts of the mycelium part of the mushroom – this is the portion of the fungus that is found underground and is made up of hyphae. For short term use the mycelium extracts have been found to be very effective but a new form of processing called “micronization” may be revolutionizing the way we can consume mushrooms and how our bodies can process this mysterious and amazing medicinal food. In a nutshell the micronization process breaks down the very strong, and otherwise indigestible, parts of the mushroom such as the chitin. This process allows the entire mushroom to be used and therefore all of it’s active components (including the mycelium, fruit, spores, primordial and extra cellular compounds) become absorbable by the human digestive tract. A great example of how the use of whole foods, instead of extracts, can be more effective for accessing the medicinal properties of a certain compound is found in the story of how Dr. Wahls reversed her own case of multiple sclerosis (Michelle).

As a proud ambassador for, and employee of, the Purica company I feel very strongly they our products are the best on the market.  When mushrooms are use for their medicinal properties it is the active ingredients that one is after, and lab tests consistently show that our products are in the upper echelon of what is available on the market today.

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The research and studies on using medicinal mushrooms for improving athletic performance while at the same time providing long-term health benefits is very promising. Increasing ATP production in the body is beneficial for athletes but it also has the potential to increase energy levels in more sedentary and/or elderly people. The damage done by free radicals in the body is something that everyone should minimize – and perhaps the best way to do this on a daily basis is by eating a healthy, vegetable based diet. But for athletes who are seeking a performance edge then minimizing exercise induced cellular/muscular damage will lead to increased recovery, more consistent training and therefore the potential to perform better during competition.

My personal experience with medicinal mushrooms has been overwhelmingly positive and I often tell people it has been nothing short of life changing. I have benefited from a stronger immune system, quicker recovery from intense training sessions and an increased sense of wellbeing. If you are an athlete or active person seeking a natural way to increase your overall health and performance medicinal mushrooms may be right for you.

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Adam O’Meara is an elite level triathlete who resides in Victoria, BC, Canada with his wife and son. He has a passion for triathlon, endurance sport, nutrition and helping others achieve optimal health. He shares his thoughts and ideas on his website through his blog and podcast.

Here is a pdf version for download and easy printing – Medicinal Mushrooms for Improved Athletic Performance

[av_heading heading=’Works Cited’ tag=’h6′ color=” custom_font=” style=” size=” subheading_active=” subheading_size=’15’ padding=’10’][/av_heading]

Friel, Joe. “Never Miss a Workout.” 25 April 2011. Joe Friel’s Blog. 17 October 2014 <>.

Michelle, Raw. “Physician Dr.Terry Wahls, stricken with multiple sclerosis, shares tips on how changing her diet led to her recovery.” 26 August 2014. Natural New. 17 October 2014 <>.

Rossi, Paola. “Improving Training Condition Assessment in Endurance Cyclists.” 1 April 2014. NCBI. 17 October 2014 <>.

Whitfield, D.C. Steinkraus and J.B. “Chinese Caterpillar Fungus and World Record Runners.” 1 January 1994. Biology At Illinois. 17 October 2014 <>.

Wikipedia. “Lingzhi mushroom.” 8 October 2014. Wikipedia. 17 October 2014 <>.

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