Our second episode of our Staff Recommends series comes from Manon, our front-end Web Developer. Manon writes about how she was looking for natural alternatives to her usual industrial chemical pre-workout blends. She wanted to try a few natural ingredients known for reducing fatigue and improving stamina. Find out about the benefits of Rhodiola Rosea and Cordyceps Cs-4.
I've been doing CrossFit (strength and conditioning workouts at high intensity) for more than two years. Over time, I’ve had the occasion to try a few different pre-workouts.
I was looking for natural alternatives to my usual industrial chemical pre-workout blends so I decided to try a few natural ingredients known for reducing fatigue and improving stamina. Rhodiola rosea and Cordyceps Cs-4 are the ones I’m still using after a year.
Popular for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine, Cordyceps has been widely tested for its anti-fatigue and performance effects since in 1993, Chinese females supplementing with Cordyceps performed at a world record-breaking level.
Studies show a substantial effect on endurance and resistance to fatigue (1). It boosts aerobic performance, improves maximal oxygen consumption and ventilatory threshold. It enhances lactate clearance, meaning it helps delay reaching that Lactate Threshold known as Lactic Acidosis (2) which causes you to stop because of that burning sensation and ache in your muscles. It also has potent antioxidant properties.
Rhodiola is used as an anti-fatigue agent and an adaptogen, meaning it helps the body to adapt to stress. It’s also known to help longevity. It has been used by several different cultures for millennia. Used by Scandinavian Vikings but also in traditional Chinese Medicine and by Russian Olympians, it is thought to aid to boost stamina.
Studies (3) show an improvement in endurance performances and a decreased heart rate when it concerns aerobic exercises (what we call “cardio”).
I haven’t experienced more than the one you would expect from any energy boosting ingredient: it can disturb sleep if taken too late in the day.
How do I take them?
I mix both in a small quantity of water. It mostly tastes earthy because of the Cordyceps and alcoholic because of the tincture. It’s not insanely pleasant to drink but not horrible either.
I take it on every workout day (meaning five days a week), an hour before training.
It is recommended to cycle your supplements to avoid building a tolerance. 1 week off every 3 weeks works well.
Goes well with
- Ginkgo Biloba
Known to promote blood flow, it enhances the aerobic endurance benefits of Rhodiola Rosea (4).
- Beta-alanine amino acid and Creatine
Those are common ingredients in industrial pre-workout blends. I now add them to my homemade blend so I can have the benefits of those ingredients in addition to the stamina given by the Rhodiola and Cordyceps mix.
Don’t expect Cordyceps and Rhodiola to replicate the effects of an industrial pre-workout blend. It won’t be as effective for anaerobic exercises such as sprinting or strength training because you won’t get an immediate “kick” and explosiveness.
But I found that combination very effective in terms of endurance for all aerobic exercise (Metcon workouts above 20m, swimming, cycling, long distance running...). It makes it a lot easier to carry on. I don’t feel as drained, out of breath or achy. I have definitely experienced an increase in stamina.
Give it a go and tell us in the comments if it worked for you or if you have any other favorite natural pre-workout supplements :D
Most importantly, always remember the fundamental ingredients to get better at what you're doing: eat well, sleep well, work hard, stay consistent, and be patient.
See you in training!
Katie White Photography