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Angshuman Dutta

Fitness Educator, Coach, Author and Consultant. Founder of Transformers Fitness Academy

Adaptogens and sports performance

The relation between Adaptogens & Sports Perfomance is a topic gaining popularity among sports scientists and coaches across the globe. Adaptogens is a term coined by Soviet Doctor and Scientist Nikolai V Lazarev. The term adaptogens broadly refer to a group of herbs and botanicals that can have positive effects on the body’s physiological systems including improvements in immunity, strength, cognition and protection against various external pathogens. Some adaptogens have been used for thousands of years in Ancient Indian Ayurveda and Chinese traditional medicine; some are relatively recent dating back a few centuries. While India and China seem to have been using the most of adaptogens from ancient times, other countries and communities too identified and used numerous such adaptogens to prevent, cure or simply improve their health and vitality.

The Russian sports scientists in the mid-20th century were tasked with developing super athletes- athletes who could dominate the world sports scene. A substantial numberof modern sports techniques, including dietary interventions can be attributed to these Russian scientists. A few of them started their research on how these ancient herbs and botanicals could impact sports performance. Most of them found the study rewarding and they established a positive corelation between intake of these adaptogens and performance. Russians were the first to use adaptogens in the Olympics in 1972 Munich Olympics; and once those floodgates opened other nations soon joined the bandwagon using adaptogens to improve athletic performance. One of the key benefits of adaptogens are that they do not fall in the prohibited list; which means they can be used without the fear of being caught in a doping test.

While adaptogens have a wide range of applications not limited to sports, a few of them does show considerable positive impact on athletic performance. A few notable ones amongst them happen to be Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera), Rhodolia (Rhodolia Rosa), Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus).

Ashwagandha (Coming from the Sanskrit word- Ashva-Horse, Gandha-Smell) is fairly well known among the fitness circuit as a potent tonic. It has shown to increase anaerobic exercise capacity or strength-based training and power. It has other potential benefits including anxiolytic, improvement of mood and cognition and also testosterone. Ashwagandha has been used in ancient Ayurveda and today it is a staple in most athlete’s diet regimen.

Rhodolia Rosea isan herb native to Canada, Siberia and Scandinavia; today it is grown in many other parts of the world. It has been used extensively by native Americans and was of great interest to Chinese emperors who spent small fortunes in procuring it. Among athletes Rhodolia seems to have multiple benefits including reduction of muscle induced fatigue, enhanced recovery from intensive training, improvement in power and aerobic capacity.

Ginseng is term often used to describe plants belonging to the genus Panax. While most of the types of ginsengs have been and continues to be used as a general health tonic with numerous potential benefits, the Siberian Ginseng is one of great interest to athletes. It has shown to increase mitochondrial density, thereby, improving aerobic capacity, reducing recovery times, decrease cortisol production and also improving immunity. It may potentially improve Vo2 Max, fat oxidation and anaerobic work capacity. Vo2 Max basically means the capacity of your body to use the available oxygen. The more oxygen your body is able to use, the more work it can do; which is athletic terms means higher endurance and cardiovascular capacity- an asset for any athlete.

The beauty about these adaptogens are that they exhibit multiple benefits; they have been used for thousands of years as medicine, anxiolytics, immune boosters and health tonics. They rarely exhibit any side effects and adverse reactions are rare unless you are allergic to that particular herb. Adaptogens should ideally be used regularly for a period of time, to get the benefits. Since the Munich Olympics, many teams including the US and Chinese athletes have been using various mixtures of these botanicals to enhance performance and improve recovery rates.  At a time when athletes are constantly looking for means to improve their performance, and often fall prey to illegal drugs and substances, adaptogens may be a safer alternative. The best part is that these adaptogens can be used by regular fitness enthusiasts too, as they have potential to offer multiple benefits and improve overall quality of life and sense of wellbeing.

The writer Angshuman Dutta is the founder of Transformers Fitness Academy. You can follow him at

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1 thought on “Adaptogens

  1. Srijan chetry

    It was really a helpful topic for advanced athletes or regular gym goers . really appreciatable Angshuman sir keep writing more on such topics.


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