Not all mushrooms were created equal, and Cordyceps is a great example. It’s not a mushroom you’d buy at a farmer’s market to make a sauce, it’s more of a supplement that might help you get more out of your body. Let’s look at what we know about this special kind of mushroom and if it’s worth trying.

Cordyceps are very unusual organisms; they’re basically parasitic fungi growing on the larvae of insects. In traditional Chinese medicine, they are collected, dried and used to treat fatigue, sickness, kidney disease, and low sex drive. Nowadays, two species, Cordyceps sinensis and Cordyceps militaris, have caught the attention of supplement manufacturers because of their purported health benefits. A lot of the research on Cordyceps is still limited to animal studies, but the results are promising, and early lab trials with humans are definitely worth looking into.

How does Cordyceps affect your body?

It is hypothesised that Cordyceps increases the body’s production of ATP, a molecule that the body uses to deliver energy to the muscles. More energy for muscles, of course, has big implications on exercise performance, and that’s why researchers set up experiments to see if any changes occur.

Does it improve performance?

A study tested the effects of Cordyceps on exercise capacity in older adults using a stationary bike. Over a period of 6 weeks, participants got 3 g of the mushroom per day or a placebo. The VO2 max of the Cordyceps group increased by 7%, the placebo group showed no change.

Another study looked at the effects of a mushroom blend containing Cordyceps on exercise performance in younger adults. After 3 weeks, those who received the blend showed an 11% increase in VO2 max compared to the placebo group.

Other research that tested effects of Cordyceps on exercise performance in well-trained athletes showed no notable improvements. To sum up, this mushroom seems to help you improve performance faster, but only if you’re not already performing at a very high level.

Is it worth to supplement with it?

Of course we need more research before we can be really sure about the effects on performance. But considering what we know so far plus the fact that Cordyceps is showing promising results in research into anti-aging, heart health, diabetes, and anti-tumour effects, it’s definitely something worth considering. If you can afford it and are willing to give it a shot, know that the dosage commonly used in human research is 1-3 g per day. This range is not associated with side effects.

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