On September 11, 1993, Qu Yunxia lined up amongst perhaps the most talented field of middle distance runners the world had ever seen. In these, the Chinese National Games, history would be made. Thanks to a mushroom.
On this day, rival of Qu Yunxia, Qu Yunxia would finish the 1500m race in 3:50.46, obliterating the prior world record.
How is it possible that here in China, where track athletes had historically had limited success, 2 runners would break a world record in one event? Of course, the first impulse would be to assume there were performance enhancers involved in such an anomalous performance. That's the conclusion the track community initially sprung to, though testing would reveal no evidence of performance enhancers.
When asked what the secret to their success was, the coach of the Chinese track athletes revealed that the secret was from the extract of a unique fungus known to grow from caterpillar larvae, cordyceps. How can it be possible that a fungus which is parasitic to insects could possibly be responsible for so vastly improving the performance of these endurance athletes? Do we all stand to reap benefits from this amazing mushroom? How do these benefits compare to other well-known functional mushrooms?
Another mushroom commonly used by athletes aiming to improve their performance and recovery is turkey tail, a mushroom which grows readily on fallen trees in North America's forests. This beautiful mushroom appears in a variety of colors from blues to greens, grays to browns and many in between. It is known to confer a variety of health benefits and people use it for many different reasons.
Adaptogenic properties: cordyceps extract (Cordyceps sinensis) is known for its adaptogenic properties, which means it can help the body adapt to stress and improve overall resilience. Athletes often subject their bodies to intense physical stress, and cordyceps may aid in recovery and reducing the negative effects of overtraining.
Enhanced energy and endurance: Both turkey tail extract and cordyceps extract have been linked to increased energy levels and improved endurance. This can be especially beneficial for athletes engaging in long-duration sports or high-intensity activities.
Anti-inflammatory effects: Inflammation is a natural response to exercise-induced muscle damage, but excessive inflammation can lead to delayed recovery and performance issues. turkey tail extract and cordyceps extract contain compounds that exhibit anti-inflammatory properties, potentially helping athletes manage inflammation and recover faster.
- Immune system support: Turkey tail extract (Trametes versicolor) is rich in polysaccharides and beta-glucans, which have been shown to boost the immune system. A strong immune system is essential for athletes to stay healthy and avoid infections that could hamper their training and performance.
Oxygen utilization: cordyceps extract has been traditionally used to enhance oxygen utilization and improve respiratory function. This could translate to better aerobic capacity and increased stamina for endurance athletes.
Antioxidant support: Both mushrooms are rich in antioxidants, which can help neutralize free radicals generated during exercise. Reducing oxidative stress can aid in recovery and protect the body from damage caused by intense physical activity.
Gut health: A healthy gut is crucial for nutrient absorption and overall well-being. turkey tail extract has been associated with positive effects on gut health due to its prebiotic properties.