There Is Always Mushroom For Improvement
The plant kingdom is fascinating if you’re interested in health and wellness. It yields many treasures for our well-being, and some remain most definitely unexplored. In between plants and animals, mushrooms are underrated powerhouses.
We share 30-35% of our DNA with the mushroom kingdom. This fact translates into an impressive bioavailability. This explains why an impressive 45% of modern day pharmacopoeia originates from mushrooms.
Even more impressively we have 80% commonalities in the DNA portion that is responsible for protein synthesis. It therefore comes as no wonder that can be instrumental in our attempts to build more muscle.
The nervous system is of prime importance in training. Evidently so with speed and strength athletes but it also stands true for physique trainees. Yet it remains essentially an underestimated variable in the Iron Game.
I often harp on the fact that – for most trainees – the nervous system adapts to a particular workout in as little 6 workouts. The body is lazy, functionally lazy, as it will only hypertrophy when neural adaptations – which are less expensive in terms of energy expenditure – cannot keep up and generate the force that the training endeavours require. AT that stage the body will then make an executive decision and initiate protein accretion. Until, it becomes more profitable to use the nervous asset once again. The pattern is cyclic. And this is why variation is key. Be it through changing tempos, grips, angles, rest periods, and exercise order, it is necessary to keep the nervous system on its toes to prevent stagnation.
Many of the most successful methods I’ve popularized over the years have a nervous component to them. In no particular order: Over warm-up, the Modified Hepburn method – an all time favorite amongst students, the ever popular Wave loading and Cluster sets methods. And the list goes on!
Of course, these methods require more than a modicum of focus. In this day and age many people can rival with squirrels when it comes to attention span abilities… Hence any help is welcome! Especially if it means greater gains in strength and hypertrophy down the road.
How about something that will light up your brain, and help repair it on top?
Lion’s Mane is an all-natural cognitive enhancer. It superbly supports concentration. Many of my clients have switched from drinking coffee to drinking Lion’s mane. I love it before I write articles or programs.
But Lion’s Mane offers more than a liquid quick in the butt. It helps repair your brain too!
Any serious athlete, trainee or human being for that matter should take care of their nerves. The approach should be two pronged. First comes the mechanical part. Indeed muscle adhesions can lead up to nerve entrapment or create frictions which will hamper nerve transmission. Soft tissues treatment such as ART, Guasha, Rolfing etc play a huge part in the mechanical aspect of the care.
As for the chemical part, a substance like Lion’s mane is gold. This chemical helps repair and promotes the growth of myelin. 1 Myelin provides a sheath for nerves and neurons’ axioms. This insulation allows greater frequency of electric signalling as well as protection.
Additionally, Nerve Growth Factor stimulated by Lion’s Mane can help maintain the function and the size of the forebrain, which is where most of our decision-making, analytical thought, memory processes and motor control activities occur.
Neuroplasticity is that amazing thing our brains can do that allows people to learn to speak again after terrible brain injuries or even allows some people to live with only parts of their brains. For trainees it means better motor skills and enhanced coordination.
Mature lifters will benefit from Lion’s Mane preventive action on dynapenia. Dynapenia as the degenerative process whereby muscle strength is lost with ageing. World class athletes have been known to lose about 1% of their word record performances with each year after retirement. Lion’s Mane can slow down the process.
Fight or Flight, Rest and Digest, Sip and See
Another bias through which the nervous system impacts sport performance is the neuroendrocrine system. More precisely the stress response, fight or flight, sympathetic circuitry that depends heavily on the adrenals.
Striking a healthy balance between rest and digest and fight or flight is paramount for performance and progress. Of course zealous athletes often see their physiology tip over to unfavourable ratios, or at least ratios that are not conductive to the level of improvement they seek.
Adaptogens are fantastic adjuvants to our arsenal.
These plants and mushrooms are sturdy survivors since they grow in unfavourable conditions and harvest phytochemical that will prove invaluable for balance.
The cordyceps mushroom has a pretty crazy origin story: it’s an endoparasitoid, meaning that it grows as a parasite — typically on insects. There are hundreds of species of cordyceps all over the world, but most of them can be found in Asia, where they’ve been used in traditional medicine for hundreds of years.
“It does seem to have positive effects on steroid hormone synthesis and antioxidant capacity, at least in animal studies,” says Trevor Kashey, a nutrition consultant who holds a PhD in biochemistry. That means it can have a beneficial effect on your testosterone levels. “For men and women if testosterone goes up, their concentration tends to go up, and so does overall vitality, work efficiency, and attention span.”
Cordyceps is an adaptogen, not a stimulant, so it helps you produce and maintain steady energy levels. Coffee can give you an energy spike, followed by a crash; cordyceps, on the other hand, helps your body produce its own energy.
Raising the issue of balance provides a nice segue into a topic dear to my heart: sleep. I’ll refer you too my numerous articles on the topic. If you have occasional stress and difficulty sleeping, Reishi mushroom can help you relax and get a good night sleep.
If there was only one thing to remember about sleep, it would be how Growth Hormone liberation occurs at night. GH proves pivotal in an endocrine cascade that see its conversion to IGF1 in the liver and triggers the mTOR pathway. mTOR is the master switch of protein synthesis. This ushers us into the realm of physiology. Mushrooms can help on this aspect of the muscle picture.
First and most obvious is the role they can play in performance and recovery.
Blood Flow and VO2 MAX
One trigger to muscle growth is mechanical stress, yes the “pump” is by itself anabolic.
Hence why extended TUT sets are highly conductive to protein synthesis. But high volume, pump inducing workouts need an increase in blood flow and oxygen transport as well as a solid buffering system lest muscle pH drops too fast.
“It may increase your lactate threshold, which is basically the amount of energy you can put into exercise before you swap to anaerobic metabolism,” says Trevor Kashey, a nutrition consultant who holds a PhD in biochemistry. “Basically, you can have higher intensity low intensity work, meaning you might be able to push harder during long runs without having negative effects on your endurance.”
Another anabolic switch is energy status. If we think of energy as a currency, building muscle is a metabolically expensive process. The overall energy status allows or put a brake on muscular growth. Energy substrates availability comes to mind first and mTOR is indeed triggered by amino acids and glycogen status. But oxygen availability is another variable. Surprisingly cordyceps boosts lungs capacity and can improve VO2 max by as much 50%. Making it an undeniable ally in our quest for muscle growth.
Moreover increased blood flow helps get rid of metabolic waste that accompanies physical exertion.
Energy production entails the creation of waste products. And such metabolic waste products must be cleared up. Mitochondria which are the powerhouse of the body release a fair amount of ROS during ATP production. Chaga mushroom has antioxidant properties that can help tip the balance back in our favour.
In addition it also helps with alkalization since it is rich in potassium, magnesium, zinc, and iron.
Chaga mushroom is called the king of mushroom and as it can help support immune functions it seems that indeed it earned the nickname.
The immune system is pivotal in muscle building. An overactive or underactive immune system is equally problematic.
Functional medicine circles draw the distinction between cold Inflammation and hot Inflammation aka acute vs chronic or rampant inflammatory state. It means the difference between healthy inflammatory mechanisms unpinning muscle growth and satellite cell activation and state of crisis where the body doesn’t “want” to build muscle or lose fat. Priority is and always will be survival.
Mushrooms are immune regulators. This means they are neither stimulants nor suppressants, but can play either part depending on the body needs. That’s how they work their adaptogenic magic.
Plus an overactive immune system steals glucose from circulation and creates an environment of insulin resistance. This protective mechanism that survived evolution makes little sense nowadays since risk of infections are less evident. Whereas an overabundance and availability of sugar is most definitely a variable that can weight in the equation.
When we remember that insulin is the number one hormone when it comes to anabolism. It makes insulin sensitivity a crucial asset. Here again several mushrooms can help. Reishi balances blood sugar. Maitake also has positive action on blood sugar regulation via alpha-glucosidase blocker.
It also helps repairs the GI tract.
Immunity and gut health go hand in hand. Since our digestive system hosts a staggering 70% of our immune system.
Therefore hammering on the importance of maintaining a healthy gut lining for nutrient absorption but also to secure immunity.
Another way mushrooms can help with gut health is fighting pathogens. A healthy microbiota depends on how diverse and balanced bacterial populations are. Any disruption that tips the balance towards the bad bugs will cause adverse effects. Candida infection is very common and looms large as one of the most potent disruptors of a healthy micro biome. Fungi fight fungi.
In the end we can harvest mushrooms benefits to make them instrumental in our attempts to build more muscle.
And funnel their many faceted benefits through the two main avenues relevant to performance namely neural and anabolism.
Please have a look at Four Sigmatic website for more fungal bounties.