How to quickly and naturally improve health, longevity, and performance without having to eat sheep testicles.

Greek Statue
Even the Ancient Greeks wanted to boost their performance.

Ever since men and women first began competing they have schemed to gain a competitive edge. Ancient Greeks tried to boost strength by eating sheep testicles, a prime source of testosterone. (1) Today’s athletes tend to eschew testicles in favour of things like performance-enhancing drugs. These athletes often ignore time-tested strategies that are legal, safe and as effective, if not more so, than alternatives which come with serious health risks. Also, they have the added benefit of actually adding to overall health and longevity. What we are talking about here are things like sleep, hydration, mindfulness, and nutrition. (And, by the way, modern research has shown that a whole foods diet with a healthy balance of carbs, proteins, and fats is better at boosting testosterone than a plate full of testicles.) (2)

Can’t beat a good night’s sleep

The importance of sleep has been known for centuries. But it has become one of the main casualties of modern living. Some 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders, warns the Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Sleep Medicine and Research. “The cumulative long-term effects of sleep deprivation and sleep disorders have been associated with a wide range of deleterious health consequences including an increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, heart attack, and stroke.” (3) There is compelling evidence now that sleep deprivation plays a role in Alzheimer’s disease. (4)

Sleep is probably more important than exercise and diet combined, says author and nutritionist Shawn Stevenson. “You will perform better, make better decisions, and have a better body when you get the sleep you require,”  he argues in his book Sleep Smarter. “High quality sleep fortifies your immune system, balances your hormones, boosts your metabolism, increases physical energy, and improves the function of your brain.”

Man napping at table
Lack of sleep is a performance killer

Avoid those late nights

“A lot of the science has been around for a long time, but people are now realizing that there is something there that can help them,” says Dr. Mark Rosekind, a sleep specialist who has worked with NASA and with Olympic medalists. “As athletics become more and more competitive to where a millisecond can be the difference between a gold and silver medal, everyone is looking for any possible edge they can get — sleep is that edge.” (5) “Our society reinforces that sleep loss equals a badge of courage; you don’t have to sleep so you can get the job done,” said Rosekind. “Yet, all the science says no. You might think that way, but your performance will suffer,” he told the Huffington Post. (6)

Sleep deprivation is known to reduce reaction times significantly, says Fatigue Science, a Vancouver company specializing in fatigue-related risk management. (7)

Even a single all-nighter can reduce reaction times by more than 300 percent, says the company on its website. Even a surprisingly low level of fatigue can impair reaction times as much, if not more, than being legally drunk, it says. A tired athlete is slower to react to a potential hit on the ice, the field, or the court. Fatigue also affects the body’s immune system, making players more susceptible to illness. Shorter sleep periods don’t provide sufficient time to regenerate cells and repair from the abuse of workouts, games, and daily activities. (8)

Gaining that critical edge

“If you told an athlete you had a treatment that would reduce the chemicals associated with stress, that would naturally increase human growth hormone, that enhances recovery rate, that improves performance, they would all do it. Sleep does all of those things,” says Casey Smith, Head Athletic Trainer, Dallas Mavericks. (9)

"Getting enough sleep is crucial for athletic performance," agrees David Geier, MD, an orthopedic surgeon, and sports medicine specialist in Charleston, SC. “Studies show that good sleep can improve speed, accuracy, and reaction time in athletes.” (10)

There are multiple reasons why athletes should make sleep a priority says the Fortius Foundation, a registered charity which focuses on funding and supporting world-class sport and exercise medicine. “In order to hit those PB’s, high-level athletes must be motivated to take on whatever the day’s training may have in store. If you take on the day fully rested, your mood will be boosted and you won’t feel the dreaded irritability that comes from lack of sleep.” (11)

Quality over quantity

It’s not just the amount of sleep. Quality is equally important. There are multiple stages to sleep. The beginning of the actual sleep cycle occurs in stage two, which lasts between 10 and 20 minutes. The deepest phases occur for about 30-40 minutes at stages three and four. That is followed by a period of active sleep called REM (Rapid Eye Movement).  Stages three and four are integral to athlete development. This is where Growth Hormone is released and cortisol is regulated, says the foundation.

Physical benefits of a good night’s sleep include less risk of injury and illness. “A study conducted by Milewski et al. in 2014  found that adolescents who had less than 8 hours of sleep compared to their counterparts who slept 8 hours or more were 1.7 times more likely to experience an injury.” (12) A 2009 study concluded that people who slept less than seven hours were three times more likely to develop a cold after direct application of a cold virus than those who got an optimal amount of sleep. (13)

“Sleep is the Swiss army knife of health. When sleep is deficient, there is sickness and disease. And when sleep is abundant, there is vitality and health,” says Matthew Walker an English scientist and professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. His research focuses on the impact of sleep on human health and disease. (14)

Baby Sleeping
Focus on sleeping like a baby and your performance will skyrocket.

How Much Sleep Do Athletes Need?

Most people need about seven to nine hours of sleep. Athletes may need more. "Just as athletes need more calories than most people when they're in training, they need more sleep, too," Geier says. (15) You're pushing your body in practice, so you need more time to recover. Athletes in training should sleep about an hour extra. You can go to sleep earlier, or take an afternoon nap, suggests Jim Thornton, president of the National Athletic Trainers' Association. (16)

Tips for a good night’s sleep

    • Increase natural sunlight exposure during the day
    • Reduce blue light exposure in the evening. Shut off the computers, phones, televisions, etc 90 minutes before bed
    • Avoid alcohol.
    • Avoid over-consumption of caffeine or drinking it later in the day. Depending on how your body metabolizes caffeine it can take 8 hours or longer to be out of your system. Caffeine directly works against melatonin which is crucial for a deep restful sleep.
    • Hydration is important but in the evening overconsumption of all liquids, including water, should be avoided.
    • Go to bed and wake up at consistent times
    • Make your bedroom sleep-friendly. Things like temperature, noise, external lights and furniture arrangement make a difference.
    • Don’t eat late in the evening
    • Establish a pre-sleep routine that helps clear and calm the mind. Listen to relaxing music, read a book, take a hot bath, meditate, stretch, do deep breathing and visualization exercises.

And don’t forget rest days

Although it may seem counterintuitive, gains in fitness actually happen at rest, not during training. Remember, you can only train as hard as you can recover.

Rest should be considered a critical part of the training program. It should be approached with as much discipline as the hardest workouts, advises Michigan State University (17) “The body is allowed to adapt to the stress associated with exercise, replenish muscle glycogen (energy stores) and provides time for the body tissue to repair. Rest days give the body time to repair and strengthen itself both physically and psychologically in between workouts.”

Drink your fluids, (but not too much)

The importance of hydration during and after athletic performance is often underestimated. Water is involved in the majority of chemical reactions involved in athletic performance. It maintains blood volume, regulates body temperature and is involved in muscle contractions. Dehydration may cause loss of coordination, impaired ability to make a decision, increased rate of perceived exertion and increased risk of heat stress.

Athletes should match their sweat rate with fluid intake as closely as possible, advises the SportsCardiology Clinic. (18) Perspiring is regulated by the autonomic nervous system and is controlled unconsciously by the hypothalamus; the structure in the brain that regulates the body’s status quo. Sweating is the body’s primary way of maintaining optimal body temperature. Restoring fluids maintains normal muscle function, helps prevent a decrease in physical performance and reduces the risk of heat stress. Symptoms of heat stress are tachycardia, hypotension, hyperventilation, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures and coma.

Watch out for dehydration

Losing as little as two percent of total body weight can negatively affect athletic performance. "For example, if a 150-pound athlete loses three pounds during a workout or competition, their ability to perform at peak performance due to dehydration is reduced. Proper fluid replenishment is critical,” says the U.S. Anti-doping agency. (19) It recommends plenty of fluids before, during, and after a workout or competition.

Athletes can gauge their hydration needs by weighing themselves before and after practice. For every kilogram (pound) lost during the workout, they should drink about1.5 litres (three cups) of fluid to rehydrate. Urine colour should also be monitored. Dark gold pee indicates dehydration. Pale like lemonade is a sign of a hydrated athlete.

“Many times athletes wait to drink until they are thirsty. Thirst is not an accurate indicator of how much fluid an athlete has lost. Athletes who wait to replenish body fluids until feeling thirsty are already dehydrated. As a matter of fact, most individuals do not become thirsty until more than two percent of body weight is lost.” (20)

Athlete drinking a metta
Healthy liquids before and after your workout are crucial for performance.

Can you drink too much?

Drinking more fluid than is comfortable, in any condition, has the potential to interfere with performance. In cool weather or when the exercise pace is gentle, the rate of sweat loss may be quite low. “It is unnecessary and potentially dangerous to drink at rates that are far greater than sweat losses. Such over-hydration during exercise can cause a dilution of blood sodium levels (hyponatremia). Symptoms include headaches, disorientation, coma, and in severe cases, death,” warns Sports Dieticians Australia. (21) It is important to note though that this is relatively rare and dehydration is a much more common issue.

What about energy drinks?

Energy drinks increase energy and enhance mental alertness and physical performance. At least that's how they're promoted. Next to multivitamins, they are the most popular dietary supplement consumed by American teens and young adults. Men between the ages of 18 and 34 years consume the most energy drinks. Almost one-third of teens between 12 and 17 years drink them regularly, says the National Institute of Health (NIH) (22). In reality, they are often high in caffeine, sugar and other unhealthy ingredients. There is scant evidence showing they help performance. There is a large body of evidence showing they can be unhealthy and even dangerous.

“Although energy drinks are easily confused with sports drinks and vitamin waters, they are actually quite distinct in that sports drinks and vitamin waters may be suitable for rehydration, whereas energy drinks are not,” warns Elizabeth Hartney in an article for verywell mind. (22)
“The main psychoactive ingredient in energy drinks is caffeine, typically containing from three to five times the amount contained in cola, with the highest concentrations found in 'energy shots'. Caffeine is a stimulant of the central nervous system, which has effects on the brain that make you feel more alert by blocking the message that tells your brain you are tired. While many people find the effects of caffeine pleasantly refreshing, for some, it can induce anxiety, depression and other unpleasant side effects,” she warns.
Fridge of energy drinks
Energy drinks can be a double-edged sword. Potentially improving performance but at a cost.

Too much caffeine reduces its impact

Caffeine, in controlled doses, can have a positive impact on performance, research has shown. However, like most drugs, its impact decreases with usage. The more coffee a person drinks, the more they will have to drink in order to get the same energy boost. One study found that complete caffeine tolerance occurred after just one to four days. (23) Another study showed caffeine tolerance occurs in part because the brain develops more adenosine receptors to compensate for those blocked by the caffeine molecule. (24)

Are sports drink any better?

Sports drinks are often used to replace water (rehydrate) and electrolytes lost through sweating after activity. Electrolytes are minerals, such as potassium, calcium, sodium, and magnesium, that keep the body's balance of fluids at the proper level. They can also restore carbohydrates that the body uses during activity. However, sports drinks often contain added sugars which add calories and have little nutritional value.

“Skipping the soda and reaching for popular sports drinks may seem like a healthy choice, but most sports drinks are only slightly better than soda in terms of sugar and calories, warns the University of Iowa. (25) A 32-ounce sports drink contains between 56 and 76 grams of sugar – equal to about 14 to19 teaspoons – and four to six times the recommended daily amount for kids and teenagers.

“They do have less sugar than soda, but it’s still a significant amount,” says Vanessa Curtis, MD, director of the pediatric cardio-metabolic clinic at University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. “Most sports drinks still have about two-thirds as much sugar as soda.”

“Decades of research has consistently shown that carbohydrate intake during exercise can enhance performance in endurance sports and high-intensity sports. Specifically, sports drinks have been shown to enhance performance in the following situations; 60 plus minutes of high-intensity exercise or intermittent high-intensity exercise and 90 plus minutes of constant lower intensity exercise. Sports drinks are unlikely to benefit performance when exercising for less than 60 minutes,” advises the Sugar Research Advisory Service (SRAS). (26)

Woman drinking sports drink
Sport drinks can help in specific situations but for most people aren't the answer.

Multitudinous benefits of mindfulness

The significant benefits provided by mindfulness have been known for centuries. More recently attention has been focused on what it can do for the athlete. Research is showing it can offer significant advantages, including improved focus, improved ability to cope with pain and anxiety, decreased stress, a strengthened immune system, and better sleep.

Effects are subtle, but powerful

“Mindfulness isn’t a super pill or an instant game-changer. The effects are subtle. But there seems to be something here, and it’s an important step that we’re starting to see careful studies that look not just at brain scans and other proxy measures, but at sports-specific outcomes like the handball agility test,” says author Alex Hutchinson writing in Outside Magazine. (27)

He points to a study involving 24 members of Denmark’s national junior handball team. “The results showed that mindfulness training improved, well, everything. In the cognitive tests, they had faster reaction times and got more right answers (avoiding the usual trade-off between speed and accuracy), and their minds wandered less. In the general agility test, they quickened their decision times, and in the handball test, they completed the task more quickly and with fewer mistakes. The control group, meanwhile, stayed roughly the same. 

woman meditating in a yoga studio
Ironically by calming your mind you can help turbo-boost your body.

'At least 50 per cent mental'

“With popular belief and scientific evidence being in such harmony, one might expect that mental training would be a top priority within the athletic community. However, curiously, this is not the case,” says Keith Kaufman, a Washington, DC-area sport psychology practitioner and research associate at The Catholic University of America. (28) His six-session program, developed in collaboration with Carol Glass, also of The Catholic University of America, and clinical psychologist Timothy Pineau, is outlined in the book “Mindful Sport Performance Enhancement. “We have met so many athletes and coaches who know that mental factors, such as concentrating, relaxing and letting go of thoughts and feelings, can aid performance, but have no idea how to actually do those things under the pressures of training and competition,” he says.

“It’s been suggested that many coaches regard sport as at least 50 percent mental when competing against opponents of similar ability. In some sports, that percentage can be as high as 80 to 90 percent mental.”

Boosting stress resilience

If athletes practice meditation for a few minutes a day, they may become better able to withstand the mental demands of hours of strenuous physical training, according to a study of Division I college football players.

Brief mindfulness training combined with yoga contributed to reduced anxiety, increased energy, and improved overall mindfulness ability amongst a select group of student-athletes, according to researchers at the University of Southern California. (29) They also found these effects to be long-standing. After a four-week program, archers, golfers, and distance runners reported increases in overall cognitive awareness and mindfulness and decreased worry at one-year follow-up.

Building resiliency

Many athletes spend hours working on physical conditioning, but never take the time to build mental strength, says Isaiah Houde, youth sports coordinator for the Cleveland Cavaliers youth program. “Therefore, it will be very difficult to make it through real-life situations and in-game moments that require a resilient mindset. Mind fitness through meditation can build this resiliency through a process called neuroplasticity. This process can help athletes build a certain level of toughness that will help them recover and deal with psychological stress,” he says. (30)

“While mindfulness might sound like a big topic, working toward increased mindfulness can be quite simple. One of the biggest steps to successfully practicing mindfulness is the idea of focusing on the breath. By simply focusing on the breath and learning to control the mind, an athlete can gain an incredible amount of leverage on their opponent. They can become more focused and avoid distractions while being able to control themselves better in the most emotional of moments. This grasp on the mind can do wonders in sports, and it is the reason that some of the greatest athletes in history have been able to stay calm in the most hectic of moments.”

Don’t forget to eat

Eat well for good health. Obviously, right? How the body is nourished affects mental, emotional and physical performance. Of course. And yet . . . the most popular diet in the western world is the Standard American Diet (appropriately named SAD). Its main features are highly processed foods and excess sugar. Most experts blame this diet for the increase in such critical and avoidable health problems such as obesity, heart disease, arthritis, and cancer. (31)

The ideal diet for an athlete is not very different from the diet recommended for any healthy person. Athletes just might have to eat more of it. But deciding on the ideal diet can be difficult. There is almost universal agreement amongst health experts that processed foods and added sugars are detrimental to health. There is much less agreement about what constitutes the ideal diet. Nutrition has become a polarizing subject ranking up there with religion and politics for causing the most heated arguments at outdoor barbecues and family reunions. There are more diets being touted in books, magazines and social media than there are flavours of ice cream. Social media is riddled with misinformation provided by charismatic health crusaders long on convictions and short on credentials peddling bogus products.

healthy meals on a table

No magic pill

“Everyone is looking for some kind of secret when it comes to nutrition and performance. There is always a new superfood people are trying to take advantage of or some new diet that people preach about. The reality is there is no secret, no magic pill, no special supplement. The best way to govern your eating is to make informed, well thought through decisions that relate to your individual needs and goals,” writes Robert MacDonald, General Manager and Training Director at Gym Jones  an elite strength and conditioning facility in Salt Lake City, Utah.. One of the best ways to do this, he says, is to keep a strict log of caloric intake for a few months.

Keeping a list of what you eat and drink each day is especially helpful when you are first trying to change your diet and incorporate healthier eating habits agrees Tasha McRae from the Live Well Exercise Clinic. “Food logs can help create some self-awareness around your eating patterns. Often we do not realize how much we snack and eat throughout the day. A food log can enable us to become aware of what, when and even why we are eating.”

Pick nutrient rich foods

The majority of health experts recommend a diet of unrefined, nutrient-rich foods. A 2019 study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition suggested that the Mediterranean diet boosts exercise performance in just 14 days. (32) Participants ran a five-kilometre race six percent faster after eating a Mediterranean diet than after eating a Western diet. The Mediterranean diet includes whole fruits and vegetables, nuts, olive oil, and whole grains. It avoids red and processed meats, dairy, trans and saturated fats and refined sugars.

Senior researcher Edward Weiss, Ph.D., professor of nutrition and dietetics at SLU, says the Mediterranean diet is well-established as having numerous health benefits. (33) He and his team hypothesized that the diet's anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, more alkaline pH and dietary nitrates might lead to improved exercise performance.

"Many individual nutrients in the Mediterranean diet improve exercise performance immediately or within a few days. Therefore, it makes sense that a whole dietary pattern that includes these nutrients is also quick to improve performance," Weiss said. "However, these benefits were also quickly lost when switching to the Western diet, highlighting the importance of long-term adherence to the Mediterranean diet."

But don't athletes need more protein?

“We know today that it is virtually impossible to design a calorie-sufficient diet, whether it is based on meat, fish, eggs, various vegetarian diets or even unprocessed whole natural plant foods, which is lacking in protein and any of the amino acids,” says researcher Saknas Halmstad. (34) The most severe form of protein deficiency is known as kwashiorkor. It most often occurs in children in developing countries where famine and imbalanced diets are common.

There is much disagreement and even hostility around the question of what should be the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein Currently it is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. To determine your RDA, you can multiply body weight in pounds by 0.36, or use this online protein calculator.  For a relatively active adult, daily protein intake would be as little as 10 percent of total daily calories. In comparison, the average American consumes around 16 percent of daily calories in the form of protein. (35)

More protein is better

The RDA is too modest, argued participants in a 2013 ‘Protein Summit’ in Washington which featured 40 nutrition scientists. People should actually be increasing their protein intake, recommended participants. The report from the summit was published in a special supplement to the June issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. (35) They argued the benefits of higher daily protein intake are numerous, including, appetite reduction, increased muscle mass and strength, metabolism boost and lower blood pressure.

“There’s a misunderstanding not only among the public but also somewhat in our profession about the RDA,” says Nancy Rodriguez, a registered dietitian, and professor of nutritional science at the University of Connecticut in Storrs. “People, in general, think we all eat too much protein.” (36) Based on the research presented at the summit, Rodriguez estimates that taking in up to twice the current RDA of protein would be healthy and safe.

“Before you start ramping up your daily protein intake, there are a few important things to consider," cautions Daniel Pendick, former executive editor of Harvard Men's Health Watch. "For one, don’t read 'get more protein” as “eat more meat.” Beef, poultry, and pork (as well as milk, cheese, and eggs) can certainly provide high-quality protein, but so can many plant foods — including whole grains, beans, and other legumes, nuts, and vegetables,” (37)

He quotes registered dietitian Kathy McManus, director of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital: “If you are not eating much fish and you want to increase that — yes, that might improve the overall nutrient profile that would subsequently improve your health. But I think the data are pretty strong against significantly increasing red meat, and certainly processed meat, to get protein.”

More meat is not the answer

There has been too much emphasis on increasing protein intake through the consumption of meat, says Dr. Garth Davis, bariatric surgeon and author of the book Proteinaholic. Animal protein is strongly associated with diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and cancer, he argued in his book. Carbs, on the other hand, are a source of energy and are staples in the diets of the longest-living peoples in the world. Davis started to doubt his own meat and protein-heavy diet, eventually becoming vegan, when he was diagnosed with high cholesterol levels.

“After years of intense research, I could come to only one conclusion: People whose diets are high in animal protein have significantly higher rates of chronic diseases: hypertension, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and many, many others, including cataracts, diverticulitis, diverticulosis, inflammatory bowel disease, gall bladder disorders, gout, hypertension, irritable bowel syndrome, kidney stones, and rheumatoid arthritis,”  he wrote.
“Obviously we need protein. My concern is more with the fact that we no longer talk about food as food. Rather we are obsessed with breaking food down to its component parts and, in so doing, have developed an unhealthy obsession for one particular macronutrient.”

I lift weights. I need my protein powder:

The global protein supplements market is huge. It was valued at $12.4 billion in 2016. (38) But, like energy drinks, people should proceed with caution. There are no studies on long term effects of high protein intake from supplements. A 2014 analysis of 36 papers found that protein supplements have no impact on lean mass and muscle strength during the first few weeks of resistance training in untrained individuals, reported the BBC. (39)

There are hidden dangers to protein powders, warns Harvard Health. (40) They may contain added sugars, calories or even toxic chemicals. Protein powder is a dietary supplement and the FDA leaves it up to manufacturers to evaluate safety and labeling. These powders often contain potentially harmful chemicals, and some are even contaminated with toxins and metals. Research has shown that many dietary supplements sold in major drug store chains, natural food stores, and respected online outlets do not contain what they are supposed to or contain ingredients not listed on the label.(41)

Buyer beware

The nonprofit group called the Clean Label Project has released a report about toxins in protein powders. (42) Researchers screened 134 products for 130 types of toxins and found that many powders contained heavy metals (lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury), bisphenol-A (BPA, which is used to make plastic), pesticides, or other contaminants with links to cancer and other health conditions. Some toxins were present in significant quantities. One protein powder contained 25 times the allowed limit of BPA. Not all of the protein powders that were tested contained elevated levels of toxins. You can see the results at the Clean Label Project's website (

“But even if athletes and gym-goers may benefit from a post-workout protein boost, that doesn’t mean they should reach for the supplements and smoothies. Most people get more than their daily recommended allowance from food,” says Kevin Tipton, a sports professor of the University of Stirling. “There’s no need for anyone to have supplements. They’re a convenient way to get protein, but there’s nothing in supplements you can’t get in food. Protein bars are really just candy bars with a bit of extra protein.” (43)

Athletic woman exercising with ropes
Athletes need more protein but be careful where you are getting it from.

Are there healthy performance enhancers?

An ergogenic aid or “performance enhancer” refers to any substance that significantly enhances the user’s high-intensity athletic output. Ergogenic supplements interact with the body in a number of different ways. For example, some ergogenic supplements, such as caffeine, work by stimulating the central nervous system (CNS). This helps to provide the user with more available energy during performances. Caffeine, despite its shortcomings, is by far the most popular ergogenic aid, featured in thousands of different pre-workout supplements. Ergogenic aids can also be used to stimulate other bodily functions as well. Supplements like creatine and Beta-Alanine (BA) can increase the energy supply within our muscles, neutralize lactic acid buildup, and deliver more oxygen to our muscles. Creatine and BA are safe to use when recommended dosages are followed and are WADA and USADA approved. (44)

The ancient magic of adaptogenic herbs

Adaptogens are herbs that build and strengthen vital force, restore harmony and balance, and greatly improve the body’s ability to adapt to stress, physical or psychological. Russian scientist Dr. Nickolai Lazarev coined the term in 1947 to describe herbs that can protect the body in stressful and physically demanding conditions by activating the circulatory, nervous, endocrine, and other body systems, reducing stress-induced damage, and promoting regeneration and repair. The definition was further refined in 1968 by Dr. Israel I. Brekhman, who stressed that adaptogenic herbs are safe and have no significant side effects. (45)

“Adaptogenic plants are proving invaluable in battling the modern problem of chronic stress,” says Naturopath  Dr. Drew Jamieson. (46) They have huge potential when it comes to dealing with the considerable physical and mental issues that athletes face on top of day-to-day stressors likes jobs and relationships. Popular remedies such as caffeine, alcohol and other stimulants provide short-term relief but are counter-productive in the long term, creating their own health problems such as irritability, anxiety, and insomnia. Medications such as sedatives, come with even more serious side effects such as addiction and other dangerous behavioral and health problems,  he argues.

Adaptogen powders and dried berries
Adaptogenic herbs are time-tested, effective and safe when it comes to improving performance.

Not like other stimulants

“Unlike stimulants where the body becomes immune to the effects and demands increasingly stronger doses, the benefits provided by adaptogens increase with usage. The longer you use them the more benefit you get from their stress modulating qualities. They’re also excellent sources of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents which aid in preventing cellular damage,” he said.

“One of the most amazing characteristics of these herbs is that they adjust themselves to the specific needs of the individual. They don’t have one specific action. They respond to what the body needs. For example, if cortisol levels are low, they help raise them to a normal level, and vice versa. They are often described as a natural thermometer increasing or decreasing stress response according to the body’s need.


If you are looking to boost performance naturally

Focus on the following

  • Sleep quantity and quality
  • Healthy nutritious whole foods based diet
  • Lots of water and fluids
  • Rest days and adequate recovery
  • Mindfulness practice
  • Adaptogens

Avoid or reduce the following

  • Energy drinks
  • Sports drinks
  • Processed foods
  • Late nights

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