Herbs to Maximize Your Athletic Performance

If you work out regularly and love natural remedies, you probably already know about herbal supplements for relieving aches and pains and reducing inflammation. But did you know that many herbal supplements can also boost your stamina and actually help to prevent injuries from occurring in the first place? 

The key to maximizing athletic performance is to boost your energy level, maximize your nutrition, and prevent oxidative stress. Here’s how herbs can benefit athletes of all ages and fitness levels.

Boosting Your Energy Level with Herbs

We all experience energy highs and lows. Some days you feel like you can conquer the world, others require major effort to get through the day without a nap. You might walk away from your workout on an energy high one day, but the next day feel completely drained. This is totally normal, but it can take a toll on your performance, both in and out of the gym.

Athletes have the same stressors everyone else does… work, bills, relationships… the list goes on and on. But on top of that, athletes also experience additional stress to their body and mind due to the rigors of high-intensity exercise. 

The good news is herbs can help athletes manage stress and maximize their energy levels. Specifically, herbs known as adaptogens are especially useful for this purpose. Here are three adaptogens every athlete should know about.

  • Ashwagandha: Ashwagandha is an Ayurvedic herb that’s often used to relieve stress, anxiety, and depression. It’s also beneficial for thyroid and immune health. For athletes, ashwagandha helps to boost focus and improve stamina. It also regulates cortisol levels, which is beneficial for heart health and the immune system. Taking ashwagandha on an empty stomach or with a small snack maximizes its effects.
  • Tulsi: Tulsi, also known as holy basil, calms the nervous system and regulates the body’s stress response. It’s especially helpful for regulating insulin sensitivity and cortisol production, as well as supporting digestion. Its properties are both calming and energizing at the same time.
  • Rhodiola: Rhodiola is known as a general tonic for longevity. It improves mental clarity and focus, as well as increases energy. This herb can be quite stimulating and energizing, so it’s best to start with a small dose and increase it slowly until desired results are achieved.

Nourishing the Body with Herbs

As an athlete, you already know about the importance of electrolytes for athletic performance and recovery. Minerals and other trace nutrients are also key for building muscle, improving blood flow, and supporting the nervous system. 

These things are depleted during a workout, so replenishing them is key for supporting performance, both in the gym and in everyday life. Here are three herbs that are especially beneficial for replenishing and nourishing the body after exercise.

  • Nettle: Nettle is one of the most nutritious herbs on the planet. It’s excellent for replenishing and nourishing the body when taken as a tea or eaten as a fresh green in salads. This herb also has anti-inflammatory properties, so it’s a must-have for athletes. As an added bonus, it also works as a natural antihistamine, so it’s fantastic for allergy sufferers.
  • Oatstraw: Oatstraw is loaded with minerals and other trace nutrients that repair and soothe the nerves while helping to build muscles and bones.
  • Red raspberry leaf: Red raspberry leaf is often recommended for new moms because of its nutritive and digestive benefits. Those same benefits make it a fantastic herb for athletes who want to boost their performance with nutrition and digestive support, which improves nutrient absorption.

Fighting Oxidative Stress with Herbs

Oxidative stress produces free radicals, which cause damage to the cells throughout your body. Your body reacts by activating the immune system to remove those free radicals. 

When you exercise, your body burns more oxygen which creates more free radicals. That overload can overwhelm the immune system, triggering inflammation. 

High-intensity exercise strengthens the bone, muscles, and circulatory system, but it also increases the risk of oxidative stress and inflammatory issues like arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer due to oxidative stress.

Eating a diet that’s rich in antioxidants counteracts this effect, so you can enjoy the benefits of exercise without increasing inflammation. Choosing a diet that’s rich in colorful fruits and vegetables is essential for boosting antioxidants in the diet.

Here are three herbs that can also fight oxidative stress and free radical damage.

  • Lychee: Lychee, also known as goji berry, is a Traditional Chinese Medicine herb used to tonify the body. It replenishes the blood supply and supports circulatory health, which allows the body to remove free radicals more efficiently. Lychee is also a great source of antioxidants.
  • Rosehips: Rosehips are loaded with powerful antioxidants, particularly vitamin C. They help reduce inflammation and boost the circulatory system.
  • Cinnamon: Many people don’t realize that the herbs and spices that are already in their kitchen can have powerful health benefits. Cinnamon contains compounds that scavenge free radicals, so it helps the body eliminate them more efficiently. It’s also very energizing and stimulating. When paired with lychee or rose hips, it helps boost vitality and protect the body from oxidative stress.

Wrapping It Up

The herbs on this list are generally considered safe with no dangerous side effects. However, if you have a chronic illness or take medication, you should consult with your doctor before taking any supplement. Some supplements can impact the effectiveness of common medications.