Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your health.
Numerous studies have shown that engaging in regular exercise can improve your mental health, boost energy levels, sharpen your memory, promote clear thinking, enhance your sleep, reduce dementia, boost your immune system, and even reduce substance cravings.
When we exercise, it stimulates the growth of new brain cells, boosts neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine), reduces inflammation, and releases endorphins.
Herbs for energy and recovery
Whether you’re a novice or an athlete, everybody needs energy to get off the couch and get active. While there are many energy drinks and supplements currently on the market, some of these products come with extra sugar and other additives that do more harm than good.
Below are some all-natural herbs that have been used for centuries to increase energy levels and reduce fatigue. Many of these herbs can be used before and after workouts for both energy and recovery.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is an ancient Ayurvedic herb, belonging to a class of medicinal herbs known as adaptogens.
Ashwagandha translates to “smell of the horse” in Sanskrit, which may be applied to its unique smell and its ability to increase strength. Ashwagandha has been used for more than 3,000 years to improve stamina, reduce stress, and increase concentration.
What are the benefits of ashwagandha?
Research has shown that ashwagandha can improve sleep and lower stress. Many of ashwagandha’s health benefits are attributed to its high levels of withanolides, hormone precursors that can convert into human physiological hormones to help bring balance to the body.
In an overview of ashwagandha in the African Journal of Traditional. Complementary and Alternative Medicines, the authors write, “It improves the function of the reproductive system promoting a healthy sexual and reproductive balance. Being a powerful adaptogen, it enhances the body’s resilience to stress.”
“Ashwagandha improves the body’s defense against disease by improving the cell-mediated immunity. It also possesses potent antioxidant properties that help protect against cellular damage caused by free radicals.”
Endurance study on elite Indian cyclists
In a study of elite Indian cyclists, researchers wanted to know what effects ashwagandha would have on the athletes’ cardiorespiratory endurance.
A total of 40 pro cyclists were chosen randomly and equally divided into experimental and placebo groups. The experimental group consumed 500 mg capsules of ashwagandha twice daily for 8 weeks. The placebo group received starch capsules.
After 8 weeks, the athletes were given a treadmill test. The results show that the ashwagandha group showed significant improvement in all measures of cardiorespiratory endurance, while the placebo group showed no change.
Swimming endurance study on rats
In another study, researchers observed how ashwagandha affected stamina among swimming rats.
They write, “Ashwagandha was shown to increase swimming performance in rats as judged by [an] increase in swimming time during [the] physical endurance test.”
“Ashwagandha treated animals showed a significant increase in the duration of swimming time as compared to control. The control group of mice swam for a mean time of 385 minutes, whereas the drug-treated animals continued to swim for a mean duration of 740 minutes. Thus, the swimming time was approximately doubled after Withania somnifera (WS) treatment.”
What is yerba maté?
If you’re looking for a boost of energy and some help with weight loss, yerba mate might be a great pre-workout go-to.
Yerba maté, Ilex paraguariensis, was consumed by the Guarani indigenous people long before the Spaniards conquered South America. The Guarani name for yerba mate is ka’a which means “a plant” or “herb.”
It’s now enjoyed by more than a million people around the world.
Weight loss benefits of yerba mate
Research suggests that yerba mate may help with weight loss by reducing appetite and boosting metabolism. The tea also appears to reduce the total number of fat cells as well as the amount of fat they can hold.
One study found that drinking yerba mate in combination with exercise improved participants’ fatty acid oxidation (the metabolic pathway in which fats are metabolized to release energy), fullness, and mood state compared with exercise alone.
In a 12-week study, researchers observed the effectiveness and safety of yerba mate supplementation in Korean participants with obesity.
According to the study results, participants who consumed 3 grams of yerba mate powder each day lost an average of 1.5 pounds and lowered their waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) by 2%. In contrast, subjects who received a placebo gained an average of 6.2 lbs and increased their waist-to-hip ratio by 1% during the same time period.
In conclusion, the research article states “Yerba Mate supplementation decreased body fat mass, percent body fat and WHR. Yerba Mate was a potent anti-obesity reagent that did not produce significant adverse effects. These results suggested that Yerba Mate supplementation may be effective for treating obese individuals.”
Rhodiola (Rhodiola Rosea L) is a highly-valued medicinal plant that grows in the arctic and mountainous regions throughout Asia, Europe and North America. The herb and its extract are commonly taken as a supplement.
For centuries, rhodiola has been used as an adaptogen for reducing stress and improving physical and mental performance. Rhodiola was also used to help treat headaches, hernias, “hysteria,” discharges and high-altitude sickness.
It also helps the body restore from physical exertion.
In athletes, rhodiola has been shown to enhance the body’s natural resistance to fatigue and depression. Even Russian astronauts have used rhodiola to prevent fatigue and enhance performance.
Research has shown that when people with fatigue consume a single dose of rhodiola extract, it improves their mental performance and attention. Rhodiola has also been shown to prevent emotional, physical and mental exhaustion in people with fatigue syndrome.
Recent studies have found that rhodiola extracts have the following properties:
- DNA repairing
- anti-cancer properties.
Holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum), or Tulsi, is an ancient herb commonly used in Ayurveda, a natural medicine system with historical roots in India.
In Ayurveda, holy basil is commonly referred to as an “Elixir of Life” due to its healing powers. The herb is an important adaptogen that has long been recognized to treat many different common health conditions.
Like ashwagandha, holy basil is a powerful adaptogen that can help reduce fatigue and increase endurance.