There are a number of herbs that may help with exercise even though their effectiveness hasn’t yet been proven by science. Rhodiola rosea is one such herb. Rhodiola rosea is a plant that grows on sea cliff and mountain rocks in the Arctic regions of Europe, Asia, and North America. It grows to about 70 centimetres and has yellow flowers.
Rhodiola has been studied for several decades, particularly with regards to its role as an ‘Adaptogen’. This means it helps increase the body’s resistance to stressors, physical, biological, and chemical.
Adaptogens have also been shown to boost energy levels, enhance mental alertness, accelerate recovery, and promote deep, restful sleep. They also have a normalising effect on physiology.
How Rhodiola Rosea Can Help Improve Exercise Performance:
Lowers the body’s reaction to stress (lowers cortisol)
Cortisol is the body’s most powerful ‘catabolic’ hormone, meaning it breaks down muscle tissue. While you don’t want levels of it in your body to fall to zero because it does serve some essential functions, from an exercise performance perspective it is important to keep its levels in check.
Not only does cortisol break down muscle but it also promotes fat storage because it reduces insulin sensitivity. Furthermore, cortisol blocks the anabolic action of testosterone and suppresses its production in the body.
Cortisol suppresses testosterone production simply because they both come from the same ‘mother hormone in the body, pregnenolone. When the level of one hormone increases in the body, the level of the other decreases and vice versa.
Cortisol has also been shown to suppress luitenising hormone (LH), which is produced by the pituitary gland and stimulates the testes to produce testosterone. In addition to this, cortisol interferes with the testes production of testosterone!
When chronically-elevated levels of cortisol exist in the body growth hormone (GH) is also suppressed.
Accordingly, it is easy to see why people interested in exercise performance are so interested in finding ways to keep cortisol levels under control.
This is where Rhodiola comes in. Since Rhodiola rosea has been shown to lower cortisol levels in the body (suppress the body’s response to stress), which means it reduces cortisol production, testosterone levels may stay higher, growth hormone levels can stay higher, body cells can stay sensitive to insulin’s function, and overall you can perform better during training sessions.
Aids in recovery from ‘adrenal fatigue’
Many fitness enthusiasts these days use pre-workout formulas, thermogenic fat burners, or some form of stimulate prior to their workouts in order to boost their energy level, promote fat burning in their body, and to speed up their metabolism.
Unfortunately though, one of the major consequences of this behaviour is that over time, it may lead to a condition known as ‘adrenal fatigue’.
Since stimulants induce the release of the ‘catecholamines’ (adrenalin and noradrenalin) from the adrenals (as well as cortisol to some extent), to help boost energy and promote fat burning, constant use may lead to the adrenal glands becoming exhausted.
Some of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue include: difficulty getting up in the morning, constant feelings of fatigue (lethargy), increased recovery time from illness, mild depression, moodiness, lack of enjoyment in life, less focus, cravings from carbohydrates or salty foods, and headaches.
Since Rhodiola rosea helps to nourish and support the adrenal glands, you can ensure optimum adrenal function, which means you will have higher energy levels and will be able to train harder for longer.
Enhances mental alertness
Since one of the benefits of Rhodiola rosea includes enhancing mental alertness, you will be able to stay more focused and alert during your training sessions. This means they can be beneficial in improving the quality of your workouts, which means better results!
Rhodiola’s brain-boosting benefits result from its ability to increase neurotransmitter levels in the brain by inhibiting the enzyme responsible for breaking down neurotransmitters (monoamine oxidase and catechol-O-methyltransferase).
Rhodiola rosea has also been shown to accelerate recovery from exercise. Faster recovery from exercise means you can train more frequently and therefore get the benefits from a greater number of training sessions.
It appears that the acceleration in recovery from exercise results from a number of factors. However, the primary factor being Rhodiola’s powerful antioxidant effects.
Overall, Rhodiola rosea appears to be the ‘new kid on the block’ when it comes to improving exercise performance. Even though the scientific research supporting a direct relationship between Rhodiola and exercise performance hasn’t been establish yet, there is certainly enough indirect evidence as well as anecdotal evidence demonstrating its benefits.
If you would like to know more about Rhodiola rosea, please watch the following video: