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Unlock the Power of Mushrooms

Why you should make room for ‘shrooms to fuel your workouts and your life

“You’re drinking WHAT???” 

-everyone

Most people are horrified when I tell them what’s brewing for breakfast. They’ve never heard of consuming mushrooms for the health benefits, only as the occasional burger topping, or as a way to take a trip without leaving the room. 

This is neither. 

As if being the largest organism on the planet and the only organism that biodegrades plastic in weeks isn’t enough to warrant a standing ovation, these fungi are quickly gaining the spotlight as more nutritionists and health gurus discover their seemingly endless benefits

You don’t need to try hallucinogenics to get psyched about these mushrooms. 

click to enable picture of dried mushrooms in a jar
dried mushrooms for making healing teas and elixers

With over 1 million known species out there and an estimate of over 5 million undiscovered species, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of options. Here are the ones that are proven to pack a punch and are used by athletes all over the world to level up their performance (and their lives) naturally. 

This is your beginner’s guide to unlocking the power of mushrooms.

Cordyceps: the ‘Shroom that makes you Zoom

Let’s start with the mushroom that athletes everywhere are clamoring over. This fungus will make you fly. You won’t sprout wings but you’ll feel like you are when you’re cruising across the finish line after keeping your heart rate lower and breathing more even than you thought possible. 

Cordyceps are an athlete’s secret weapon. They are thought to increase the body’s production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) which is critical in delivering energy to muscles during exercise. Studies show that this may improve your overall use of oxygen, benefit anaerobic threshold, increase V02 max, and enhance overall endurance performance. 

enable here to view picture of cordycep mushrooms
This unobstrusive mushroom packs quite an aerobic punch

This little mushroom that grows primarily at high altitudes in Nepal is quite literally nature’s steroid. I drink this cordyceps elixir before tough workouts and on race day.

Cordyceps have quite the backstory: though a longtime staple of Tibet, they first gained national researcher attention when Sherpas exhibited superhuman physical capabilities such as climbing high elevation peaks like Mount Everest. Check out more about how they grow–unless you are squeamish, then skip this. 

Reishi: Make way for the Queen of Mushrooms. 

Yes, these ‘shrooms are lovely to look at, but it’s what’s on the inside that makes them so potent. In Asian countries, Reishi has been used for thousands of years for its medicinal properties. What sets this mushroom apart is its calming abilities including easing anxiety and depression, promoting better sleep, and encouraging deeper focus upon waking. After just a few sips you’ll feel as mellow as a Sunday afternoon. 

enable to view reishi mushrooms
Reish is known as the “Queen of Mushrooms”

Every runner knows that resting hard is just as critical to training as cranking hard on those tough workouts. This will help you chill in the evenings, fall asleep faster, and get deeper sleep. 

I like to unwind in the evening with this Reishi cacao blend.

Chaga: a 50-foot Fortress around your Immune System

You know what disrupts training more than anything? Getting sick. The best way to avoid that completely is to prep your immune system.

The “King of Mushrooms” is aptly named for its’ incredible healing and fortifying abilities. It looks disgusting in nature: a coal-colored parasitic fungal mass that grows on birch trees only in the frigid North. BUT the health benefits outweigh the yuckiness of its origin story.

enable here to view dried chaga mushroom tea
Chaga tea – a strong antioxidant, boosts the immune system, has detox quality, and improves digestion.

Chaga is an antioxidant powerhouse that has been used in Siberia and parts of Asia since the 12th century. It has been linked to slowing DNA damage boosting white blood cell defense. It contains anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties. It also has one of the highest ORAC (oxygen radical absorption capacity) in the world. 

Why should this matter to you? As runners, we put our minds and bodies through the ringer. Running long distances can cause DNA damage, increase free radicals, and cause inflammation. This doesn’t mean we should stop running (never!) but it does mean that our bodies may require some extra TLC. By replenishing our bodies we can create a longer health-span for ourselves.

Try this Chaga chai latte recipe for a warm winter pick me up. 

Mushroom Blends

Just in case you don’t want to drink several cups of different mushroom elixirs a day, here are the mushroom blends that I enjoy on the daily. Don’t be deterred by their *earthy* flavor. Add a little non-dairy creamer and you’ll be good to go. 

Four Sigmatic Blends 

I’ve tried all three of these blends and saw a huge boost in my health, sleep, energy levels, and mood. I added this to hot water and creamer and enjoyed it as a tasty treat after my morning workout. 

MudWTR

Coffee makes me feel like I’m having a heart attack. But I want a pick-me-up in the morning that also has all the benefits mentioned above. I switched to MudWTR last year and I’ve enjoyed the rich cinnamon and turmeric mixed in with all my favorite mushrooms. 

enable here to see a hiker enjoying a cup of mushroom tea
Natural energy without the caffeinated jitters

Fun(gus) Facts– sorry can’t help it!

There is a mushroom that tastes like fried chicken 

The first known historical mention of mushrooms was in the 29th century B.C. in a Chinese book on wellness practices. 

There are more species of fungi in the world than there are plants and animals combined.

Fungi are described as “the internet of the forest” because they send nutrients and electrical impulses to one another

enable here to view a picture of brown mushrooms growing in nature
Mushrooms growing on a tree trunk in Autumn

More Reading Please

Now that I’ve convinced you that mushrooms truly are the most incredible organism known (and unknown) to humankind, here are some books to wow you even more.

*Caveat* I’m not a doctor or nutritionist, I’m just a runner who is enthusiastic about mushrooms. I’m not going to list all the possible complications that could arise because no one even knows all of the potential effects (or species) of mushrooms out there. Just use your common sense, pay attention to your body, and consume with care.

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Rachel Cheney is a writer, runner, and mushroom enthusiast. She ran competitively before realizing that it’s way more fun to jog around in the woods and take pictures. She, her partner, and their Australian Shepherd enjoy discovering new trails and climbing on rocks.

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