The prevalence of doping in elite sports is relevant for all those involved in sports. It is illegal, immoral and completely unnecessary given there are effective, legal natural performance enhancers, also known as ergogenic aids, that will give you a mental and physical edge while exercising and competing without causing you harm or threatening yours and your sports reputations. Performance-enhancing substances are substances that are used to help improve exercise performance capacity or enhance physical strength.
Herbs as an Ergogenic aid
Traditionally Ginseng, caffeine, ma huang/ Chinese ephedra, ephedrine are the most popular ergogenic aids herbs used in exercise and sports. Caffeine can have dangerous side effects and ephedra is illegal so finding natural, legal, effective herbal ergogenic aids are of paramount importance.
From a herbal medicine perspective the actions of ergogenic herbal aids are
2. Testostermomimetic anabolic
3. Caffeine rich
1. Adaptogen Herbs
An adaptogen produces an increase in power of resistance against stress whether it is physical, chemical, biological or emotional in origin.
2. Testoteromimetic herbs
Testosteromimetic herbs increase testosterone hence are anabolic and can improve recovery time from resistance exercise and enhance strength.
3. Caffeine rich herbs
Caffeine supplementation improves performance at varying intensities and modalities of exercise.
1. Adaptogen Herbs
An adaptogen produces an increase in power of resistance against stress whether it is physical, chemical, biological or emotional in origin. Adaptogens restore and normalise physiological functions in the event of stress. Adaptogens specifically help our bodies adapt to changes in our circadian rhythm caused by extreme training for example. When a stressful situation occurs, consuming adaptogens generates a degree of generalised adaptation that allows our physiology to handle the stressful situation in a more resourceful manner.Adaptogenic herbs improve mental performance and enhance body stability against physical loads without increasing oxygen consumption.
Ginseng Asian ginseng Chinese,/Korean ginseng Panax ginseng
Panax ginseng, also known as Chinese or Korean ginseng, is the one which is most widely used ergogenic aids. Ginseng is said to be a tonic that improves vitality, health and longevity. Ginseng is an adaptogen and enhance endurance and strength. Ginseng root increases muscular strength and aerobic work capacity. It has been reported that the use of ginseng does not lead to any positive test results for banned substances after urine testing of elite athletes, although ginsenosides and their metabolites are detectable in the sera and urine of athletes following the ingestion of ginseng.
Ginseng roots contains steroidal saponins (ginsenosides) the active agents that ;
- Stimulate the central nervous system
- Increased production of corticotropin and cortisol and anabolic actions.
- Has potent adaptogenic activity that is mediated by regulation of pituitary adrenocorticotropic hormone secretion to combat stress
- Possess antioxidant properties and inhibits lipid peroxidation.
- Has stimulant effect and thus improves alertness and decreases fatigue and stress
- Increases exercise time to exhaustion
Siberian ginseng Eletherococcus senticosus
Studied extensively by Russian researchers, Siberian ginseng is distantly related to the Panax species. Siberian ginseng contains unique steroidal saponins termed eleutherosides that appear to be structurally similar to, but are distinct from, Panax ginsenosides. Siberian ginseng improves muscular strength, resistance to fatigue and recovery from exercise.
Withania Ashwagandha/ Indian Ginseng Withania somnifera
Withania is an adaptogen and enhances endurance and strength. A study aimed to determine the effect of Ashwagandha on the cardiorespiratory endurance capacity, that is, aerobic capacity in elite Indian cyclists found there was significant improvement in the experimental group in all parameters in terms of maximal aerobic capacity (VO2 max), metabolic equivalent, respiratory exchange ratio (RER), and total time for the athlete to reach his exhaustion stage.
Shweta Shenoy et al., Effects of eight-week supplementation of Ashwagandha on cardiorespiratory endurance in elite Indian cyclists., J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2012 Oct-Dec; 3(4): 209–214.
Rhodiola Rhodiola rosea
Rhodiola is an adaptogen, enhances endurance and strength. A study to determine the effects o Rhodiola rosea on endurance exercise performance, perceived exertion, mood, and cognitive function found acute Rhodiola rosea ingestion decreases heart rate response to submaximal exercise and appears to improve endurance exercise performance by decreasing the perception of effort.
Noreen EE, et al. The effects of an acute dose of Rhodiola rosea on endurance exercise performance. J Strength Cond Res. 2013.
2. Testoteromimetic herbs
Testosteromimetic herbs increase testosterone hence are anabolic and can improve recovery time from resistance exercise and enhance strength. The following herbs increase testosterone levels. Women also make and utilise testosterone so these herbs are safe for use my women as an ergogenic aid during training and performance.
Sarsaparilla Smilax ornata
Sarsaparilla has testostermomimetic effects thereby increases testosterone so is anabolic. The Chinese refer to this herb as khao yen’ and believe strongly in its abilities to act as an aphrodisiac and a sexual stimulant.
Luke R Bucci., Selected herbals and human exercise performance., The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 72, Issue 2, 1 August 2000.
Tribulus Tribulus terrestra
Tribulus terrestris is an herbal nutritional supplement that is promoted to produce large gains in strength and lean muscle mass in 5-28 days .This study found T. terrestris did not alter the urinary T/E ratio and would not place an athlete at risk of testing positive based on the World Anti-Doping Agency's urinary T/E ratio limit of 4:1.
Rogerson S et al., The effect of five weeks of Tribulus terrestris supplementation on muscle strength and body composition during preseason training in elite rugby league players. J Strength Cond Res. 2007 May;21(2):348-53.
3. Caffeine rich herbs
Caffeine supplementation improves performance at varying intensities and modalities of exercise. Caffeine is a well-documented stimulant of the central nervous system as well as the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Caffeine ingestion increases blood catecholamine concentration. Caffeine's ergogenic effect on sports performance is also attributed to its effect on substrate availability, namely, free fatty acids. Increases in free fatty acid concentration in turn lead to a glycogen-sparing effect because the body's energy system will start using free fatty acid as a primary source of fuel. A significant increase (44%) in endurance running performance is achieved after athletes ingested 9 mg/kg body mass of caffeine 1 hour prior to exercise.
Chee Keong Chen et al., Herbs in exercise and sports., J Physiol Anthropol. 2012; 31(1): 4.
Kola nut Cola nitida
Kola nut is a naturally rich source of caffeine. But unlike caffeine, kola nut is rich in vitamins and minerals so has a lot of health benefits. Cola nut is high in antioxidant polyphenols , it is anti-bacterial, rich in theobromine content, which is a vasodilator hence a circulatory stimulant.
Carahealth Ergogenic Aid
Chinese ginseng Panax ginseng, Siberian ginseng Eletherococcus senticosus, Indian Ginseng Withania somnifera, Rhodiola Rhodiola rosea, Sarsaparilla Smilax ornata, Tribulus Tribulus terrestra, Cola nut Cola nitida
This tincture is formulated to help improve exercise performance capacity or enhance physical strength. The tincture contains a blend of adaptogenic herbs and herbs that increase testosterone hence is anabolic. The tincture also contains a caffeine rich herb.
- Lowers cortisol levels during times of stress
- Boosts immunity
- Increases energy levels
- Improves resistance to stress
- Improves concentration
- Enhances recovery from resistance exercise
- Enhances strength
- Increase muscle mass
- Stimulates the central nervous system
- Stimulates the cardiovascular and respiratory systems
Carahealth Practitioner Strength Organic Herbal Tinctures
Not all herbal tinctures are equal. Our Practitioner Strength Organic Herbal Tinctures are 1:1 where possible or 1:2 strength only where 1:1 strength is unavailable, This means they are 1 part herb in 1 part liquid or 2 parts liquid respectively, as opposed to other herbs on the Irish and UK market which are either 1:3 or 1:5 which is 1 part herb to 3 parts liquid or 5 parts liquid respectively. This means Carahealth tinctures at least 3-5 times greater in strength therefore effectiveness.
Ketosis Diet as an Ergogenic aid
A long-term ketoisis , high fat, low carbohydrate diet may be favorable for aerobic endurance athletes, during the preparatory season, when a high volume and low to moderate intensity of training loads predominate in the training process. Fat loading slows down the rate of carbohydrate utilization and enhance endurance performance in long distance events lasting from 2 to 5 h. This is especially true during long-term ketogenic diets, where the body adapts to increased fat oxidation through enzymatic and endocrine changes
A ketogenic diet has been used by professional cyclists. A ketogenic diet is a diet high in lipids and low in carbohydrates for ~4 days to induce nutritional ketosis. However a ketogenic diet may impair exercise performance via reducing the capacity to utilise carbohydrate, which forms a key fuel source for skeletal muscle during intense endurance-type exercise so is only recommender during training periods only.
Adam Zajac et al., The Effects of a Ketogenic Diet on Exercise Metabolism and Physical Performance in Off-Road Cyclists., Nutrients. 2014 Jul; 6(7): 2493–2508.
The importance is precipitating quality low Glycaemic Index foods and good fats then assisting the athlete to transition to a normal high quality carbohydrate (ie high in soluble fibre which slows glucose release to sustain energy) diet before vents.
Please consult a naturopath or your doctor before taking natural remedies if you are on medication or if symptoms persist.
Carina Harkin BHSc.Nat.BHSc.Hom.BHSc.Acu.
Cert IV TAE. ARCHTI mem.