Athletes are always on the lookout for the training and dietary inputs which might help improve their performance and give them the competitive edge. This has been the hallmark of sports since time immemorial. While most athletes are quick to grab a protein shake, they often overlook the power of herbs. When used intelligently they might provide an athlete with the edge that is so crucial- helping their bodies work synergistically, maximising their power and endurance, improving recovery and immunity.
One of the most popular drinks of today’s fitness conscious generation, Green tea is a beverage which is brewed from the leaves of “Camellia Sinensis”. In the traditional method of tea preparation, the tea leaves are fermented to give its final form; in green tea the leaves are unfermented and hence the liquor is green in colour. Most of the benefits of green tea come from its catechins or water soluble polyphenols. Green tea is touted as a fat burner and a number of companies market green tea on the basis of this claim. Though there is some research supporting this claim a lot depends on the individuals dietary habit in general and more specifically on his/her caffeine sensitivity. Individuals who generally do not consume caffeine are most likely to benefit from the lipid oxidations and fat burning properties of green tea. The correct dosage will also play an important role along with the quality of product used. Nonetheless green tea has been in use for thousands of years in Asia, is a powerful anti-oxidant and provides general health benefits including improved immunity.
Ashwagandha is one of the most popular Ayurvedic medicines and fairly well researched at that. Withania Somnifera or Ashwagandha is used primarily for its anxiolytic properties. Also known as Indian Ginseng, Ashwagandha has a number of uses including neuro-protection, improving cognition and memory, anti-cancer properties, enhancing virility. Of special interest to athletes would be its ability to improve power output, improved anaerobic exercise capacity, decreased fatigue, and improved recovery. It has also shown to reduce the LDL (low Density lipo proteins) or the bad cholesterol, increase hemoglobin count and improve subjective well being. Some research and evidence has also been found with increase of testosterone after Ashwagandha supplementation.
Panax Ginseng or Korean Ginseng or Asian Ginseng is another widely used herbs for sports. It is the most researched form of Ginseng, a Chinese traditional medicine. Ginseng has been touted as a potent general health supplement and its anecdotal benefits range from improving libido to strength. A lot of research has been conducted on the potential benefits and whether the claims match the actual research. It seems to work well for improving immunity, cognition and also mood. Though research on benefits of testosterone and exercise capacity seems mostly inconclusive. It remains however a popular supplement among fitness enthusiasts and may give an edge to athletes in recovery.
Coleus Forskohlii is a tropical plant and used extensively in Ayurvedic medicine for treating inflammation. Forskolin, the extract from this plant is widely used by athletes as a fat burner. Some studies have shown decrease in fat mass; what is interesting is that the fat loss effects are seen to be more pronounced in men than in women. Another area of interest for athletes would be the increase of bone mineral mass and lean mass after supplementing with Forskolin.
Herbs have been used since thousands of years in Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese medicine. The western world has only recently woken up to the potential benefits of them; so research on most of them is relatively new. It will take time to fully explore and understand the exact mechanisms of how these various herbs work on the human body. Another important aspect of herbs and herbal extracts are that a lot of potency and effectiveness of the same depends on the quality of the plant used-the soil conditions, the weather conditions during growing season and most importantly the time when the herbs were extracted (mature, immature). So, all supplemental forms of these herbs may not work equally. The better companies use standardised extracts and tinctures in the manufacture of capsules, powders and tonics, which ensures efficacy. So choosing a trusted brand might be the prudent choice in order to obtain the maximum benefits of these natures’ powerhouses. People with pre-existing medical conditions and on regular medication should always consult with their doctors prior to taking any supplements, herbs or otherwise.
The Writer Angshuman Dutta is the Founder/CEO of Transformers Fitness Academy. You can follow him on Instagram at http://www.instagram.com/angshuman.fitness and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/angshuman.fitness
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