Two Common Plant Extracts Found to Improve Physical Endurance in Young Men

·1-min read

If you want to make strides in your cardio performance, traditional Chinese medicine may not be the first thing you turn to. Ancient, herbal alternatives to caffeine-loaded pre-workouts are often written off as placebos, but newer doesn’t always mean better. After all, some of the medicinal plants used for centuries in Asia have benefits that are supported by the latest science.

According to researchers at the University of Hong Kong, supplements containing extracts of ginkgo biloba and rhodiola rosea – both easily available online and in health stores –
can improve the physical endurance of active young men without requiring them
to make any other adjustments to their training plans.

In their study, a group of 35 volunteers took four tablets containing 270mg of the mixture every day for seven weeks, then were tested on how long they could cycle on a watt bike.
Not only were they able to pedal for greater durations than the control group, they
were also found to recover more quickly afterwards.

Photo credit: Ilmar Idiyatullin - Getty Images
Photo credit: Ilmar Idiyatullin - Getty Images

The scientists attributed their enhanced performance to an improvement in their VO2 max,
or maximal oxygen uptake, which normally increases as a result of regular, limit-testing exercise. In this case, however, no extra sweat was needed. By increasing the amount of oxygen that their bodies could consume, the combination of ginkgo and rhodiola helped their muscles to work at a high intensity for longer.

The plant extracts also reduced the spike in stress hormone cortisol that is typically experienced after exercise. This has the added benefit of allowing protein synthesis – in other words, muscle-building – to start sooner. Anything that makes hill climbs marginally more tolerable is surely worth a pop.

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