Life Extension Magazine February 2014
Beat Fatigue And Boost ATP Production With Powerful Herbal Duo
By Aram Stepovich
Do you ever wish you could just recharge your batteries?
Most of us do, especially as we grow older.
Fatigue is a major problem in American adults, accounting for millions of office visits each year.1 The complaints are similar: groggy for much of the morning, can’t sleep well or long enough at night, lack the energy for daily tasks and even enjoyable diversions.
Doctors hear these complaints all the time, and are nearly as frustrated as their patients at their powerlessness to do anything about it.
What’s worse, the only drugs available to combat fatigue have a daunting side effect profile, including the real possibility of dependence (addiction).2,3 Caffeine-laden “energy drinks” are now on the market, and while modest amounts of caffeine are likely to be harmless,4 large doses, especially in combination with sugar and other additives, can result in caffeine toxicity or overdose-related side effects.5-7
Surprisingly, drugs and caffeine don’t truly provide meaningful energy; they temporarily squeeze adrenaline from your adrenal glands and in the long run can wear down your defenses still further.8
But you can, in fact, literally recharge your batteries, with a pair of new supplements that work in combination to restore your natural energy levels. Cordyceps and fermented ginseng, both age-old life-giving supplements, are capable of boosting your body’s levels of adenosine triphosphate, or ATP.9,10
ATP molecules store energy in their chemical bonds, similar to the way a battery stores energy when it is charged up. Whether you are moving, thinking, speaking, relaxing—literally everything you do depends on a full charge of ATP.
And when we slow down with aging, it’s now clear that we are simply running low on ATP. We make ATP in our mitochondria, where we burn fuel for energy, but that process grows increasingly inefficient with age.11 While fatigue has many causes, both biological and psychosocial, insufficient ATP is a key factor in aging: either we don’t make it as efficiently as we did in youth, or we use more of it to do simple tasks that we could previously do with less effort.
Let’s take a hard look at cordyceps and ginseng to understand how they work in tandem to recharge your ATP levels, restore your energy, and beat fatigue. You don’t have to take aging lying down!
Cordyceps sinensis is considered one of the most valuable medicinal fungi in China.12 The fungi live on, and ultimately kill caterpillars of the “ghost moth” and other insects, replacing the dead caterpillar’s tissues with their own fungal structures.12 Formerly collected only in the wild at great expense, cultured, fermented versions are now available that have equal potency.13,14
Cordyceps has historically been used in traditional Chinese medicine, among other purposes, for its metabolic and energy-producing effects.15 A standardized, fermented extract of the fungus called “Cordyceps” is now available to consumers.
Studies show that cordyceps extract increases available energy in muscle and other tissues by boosting levels of ATP, the tiny “batteries” that our bodies use to store and move energy. Mice given cordyceps supplements, for example, demonstrated an 18.4% increase in liver ATP levels.16,17 This was accompanied by a drop in the building blocks of ATP, indicating that the body was using them up to create new energy-rich ATP molecules.
Cordyceps is especially effective at raising ATP levels under conditions of stress that produce fatigue. For example, in animals with iron deficiency anemia, a common cause of fatigue in humans, cordyceps boosted both ATP levels and blood flow, another measure of energy metabolism.9
And cordyceps reduces accumulation of toxic lactic acid, the substance that produces fatigue in over-stressed muscles.18 Our muscles produce lactic acid when they are forced to burn glucose without sufficient oxygen, such as when we sprint or do other intense exercise without enough time to breathe. This has direct bearing on exercise capacity; when rats are forced to swim until exhaustion, they show lower lactic acid levels, and swim longer, if they are supplemented first with cordyceps.18,19 Studies show that supplementation can increase swimming time by as much as 88%.18-20
Another way that cordyceps enhances your available energy is by increasing insulin sensitivity.15,21 The more sensitive your cells are to insulin, the faster and more completely they take up sugar from your blood. That has the short-term effect of allowing your cells access to more energy, and the long-term effect of lowering your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic conditions.
Cordyceps has been demonstrated to increase both immune cell production and heart muscle mitochondrial ATP production.14,22
In an impressive human study, 20 healthy adults aged 50-75 were supplemented with cordyceps extract, 333 mg three times daily for 12 weeks, or a matching placebo.23 Every day they performed exercise testing on a stationary bicycle to maximal levels, and had their physiological parameters measured continuously. By the end of the study period, the placebo patients performed no better than at baseline, but the supplemented subjects had a 10.5% improvement in the time until muscle fatigue was perceived (as measured by lactic acid levels in muscle). Their ability to work out until they were “out of breath,” increased by 8.5% as well.23
Cordyceps makes a contribution to energy levels by supporting maximal quantities of energy-storing ATP, the little “batteries” that run our bodies. Let’s turn now to ginseng to see how it is the ideal complement to cordyceps.