Why every athlete needs mushrooms in their diet
While we all know the importance of ‘eating the rainbow’ in order to get a wide variety of antioxidants and phytochemicals in our diet, we must not forget about our less flashy friends: mushrooms. There are a wide array of medicinal mushrooms touting various therapeutic effects, but some of the benefits can be found in the grocery store varieties. Amongst their many superpowers, mushrooms contain beta-glucans, compounds that are important for modulating our immune system. They are also rich in ergothioneine, which protects against oxidative stress. These actions are especially important for athletes because of the additional demands placed on the body. Prolonged periods of intense exercise are immunosuppressive as the body runs out of resources for highly metabolically active immune cells. As illness can be detrimental during training and competition, athletes can benefit from supporting their immune system. Here we will discuss three important types of mushrooms that can be easily incorporated into your diet.
- Porcini mushrooms
- Of the common grocery store varieties, porcini mushrooms may have the highest antioxidant capacity. Porcinis contain β-carotene, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), flavonoids, and tocopherols (Vitamin E). In addition, they are a complete source of plant protein, which makes these little fungi an attractive choice.
- Oyster mushrooms
- The period of recovery immediately following a bout of intense exercise typically is characterized by a reduction in immune activity. This may explain why athletes are likely to get sick after a big event, especially when competition involves travel during this period of immune system vulnerability. Compounds found in oyster mushrooms have been found to reduce this effect by improving immune cell activity during the critical post-exercise period when supplemented daily.
- Cordyceps are considered medicinal mushrooms as you likely won’t find them in the produce aisle. However, they are available in powdered form and in trendy mushroom coffee mixes. Their growing popularity is for good reason: there is a large body of evidence that shows cordyceps can improve athletic performance by both benefiting energy production, and by improving VO2 max (oxygen carrying capacity). Performance measures such as time to exhaustion, as well as markers of recovery, are improved by this fungi. There are small performance benefits immediately following cordyceps consumption, but chronic consumption is what really results in greater adaptation and significant performance benefits.
Whether they’re on your pizza, in your soup, or hey – even in your java, consider adding some shrooms to your daily routine. Your body (and your race times) will thank you.
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