Magic Mushroom: What 'The Caterpillar Fungus' Can Do For You

Cordyceps is a strange-looking fungus with a bizarre back story and a hard-to-pronounce name, but don’t discount it without reading this!

When you think about it, energy is perhaps the most valuable commodity on the planet. Humans go to extremes to make certain that they have an excess of it on hand, whether it's to fuel their economies, their vehicles, or themselves. Just consider what you'll do to make sure you have your morning coffee or your pre-workout energy booster—and what you'll be able to achieve once you've consumed them.

But while our complex modern lives run on energy, the sources of that energy are often things that are ancient and elemental-think wind, sun, coal, or oil. Fitness supplement manufacturers also tend look backward, to ancient healing traditions, to find the next great performance booster. One such discovery is the cordyceps fungus.

Cordyceps has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine, despite being extremely difficult to harvest. After all, it is normally found on the surface of high-altitude caterpillars, leading to its nickname of the "caterpillar fungus."

For most of the 20th century, it was a highly prized, expensive, and elusive nutraceutical. However, after a couple of high-profile success stories and the development of an effective way to produce cordyceps in the laboratory, it has been earning fans around the world.

Here are a few compelling reasons that athletes of all types should consider supplementing with this potent fungus.

1 / Cordyceps Increases ATP Levels

Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the energy currency of your muscles. It is also the go-to fuel for any short, explosive activities like jumps and sprints. One of the active ingredients of cordyceps is adenosine, a nucleic acid that is a crucial component of ATP.

According to a 2007 study out of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, cordyceps can significantly boost up your body's ability to produce ATP, which can help anyone from elderly people looking to stay active, to elite world-class competitors.

What does this mean to you? Part of the reason you "fail" during sets is because your body can't generate enough ATP to keep up with the intense demands you place upon it. By boosting ATP generation, cordyceps can extend the length of time you can lift heavy weights. This means more personal bests, as well as enhanced growth through greater muscle stimulation.

2 / Cordyceps May Help Boost Testosterone Levels

It's no secret that the testosterone hormone is crucial for supporting maximal muscle growth. Cordyceps has been shown in a handful of animal studies to boost T levels by stimulating the body's natural T factory (the Leydig cells in the testicles).

The ancient Chinese were hip to this one, even if the precise anatomical pathways weren't hammered down and named just yet. Cordyceps has been used commonly as a treatment for sexual dysfunction, as well as an energy enhancer. Today, many studies have shown us that the two go hand-in-hand.

Improved testosterone levels increase the ability to add muscle mass, but they also enhance a sense of well-being in many guys, as well as promoting reproductive capability.

Yes, cordyceps can help both you and your swimmers get stronger.

3 / Cordyceps Improves Oxygen Utilization

That's a complicated way of saying this mushroom has the potential to decrease your suffering while you struggle to reduce body fat. If performance is your priority, it may help there, too.

Just ask Chinese Olympic Athletes Wang Junxia, Qu Junxia, and Zhang Linli, who smashed five world running records at the 1993 games. Authorities were suspicious, but the athletes passed all drug tests. Their secret, they said, was an extract of cordyceps.

In the last decade, a number of Chinese studies have backed up the performance benefits of this mushroom. One, published in 2004 in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, found that cordyceps improved athletes' oxygen utilization by as much as 50 percent.

Another study published in the same journal in 1999 found that elderly patients taking cordyceps experienced a nine percent increase in aerobic capacity.

A number of studies have also shown that supplementing cordyceps can lower your heart rate, which explains why people report being able to train harder for longer periods when taking this supplement. Another study published in 1999 in the Journal of Alternative Complementary Medicine also pointed to long-term cardiovascular health benefits from cordyceps, indicating that it can lower total cholesterol by 10-20 percent and increase HDL by a quarter.

4 / Cordyceps Boosts Perceived Energy Levels

Herdsmen in ancient Tibet supposedly noticed that their yaks seemed to become energized when they grazed on cordyceps mushrooms. This helped build the reputation the mushroom has carried to this day of being an effective stimulant.

Users say that in supplement form, cordyceps gives a boost similar to caffeine, but without the side effects of jitters or an inability to sleep several hours later.

One of the reasons for this is that cordyceps attaches to the same receptors as caffeine, providing a noticeable feeling of enhanced energy. This is one reason that it's popular as an anti-aging supplement in China.

One study from that country in 1993 found that among elderly patients suffering from fatigue, an amazing 92 percent reported an improvement in their symptoms in 30 days.

The Takeaway ///

Though Eastern healers have been touting cordyceps for a long time, Western medicine is just growing acquainted with this fungus. So while it shows promise as an antioxidant, anti-aging treatment, and perhaps even as an anti-cancer treatment, we have yet to plumb the depths of its potential benefits.

Cordyceps hasn't found the popularity of other testosterone boosters such as fenugreek or energy boosters such as caffeine—at least not within the bodybuilding community. However, you could potentially derive the testosterone and energy benefits of those other supplements by taking a product that contains cordyceps as part of a multi-ingredient formulation, or a stand-alone.

For best results, seek out a supplemental product that contains 300-450 mg of cordyceps in a standardized extract form.


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About The Author

Steven Stiefel is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and editor. He has worked for numerous health-and-fitness magazines, and much, much more.

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SwolePatrol34

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SwolePatrol34

thought this article was going to be about shrooms haha

Mar 28, 2013 5:46pm | report
 
RobberRob

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RobberRob

1 for Cordyceps, I take Shroomtech before endurance and conditioning workouts, and especially activities like hockey, where your doing short burst of extreme energy output over an hour or so. It doesn't seem to do a whole lot when lifting, maybe helps get that extra rep or something, but I think other pre-workouts are better for weights.

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Mar 28, 2013 6:42pm | report
 
KthxHibye

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KthxHibye

Interesting article... I'd definitely give it a try.

Mar 28, 2013 6:50pm | report
 
mimtiaz3250

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mimtiaz3250

why not
sar

Dec 8, 2013 6:49am | report
travis132

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travis132

What would business be like if people just do the work instesd of buying into every new fad :P

Mar 28, 2013 9:58pm | report
 
amoor2222

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amoor2222

no more shrooms its truffles now lol

Mar 29, 2013 1:03am | report
 
Qotu79

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Qotu79

That guy's body is magic! Ha Ha ha. Nice and informative article, too.

Mar 29, 2013 7:09am | report
 
HARDBODY260

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HARDBODY260

what about my body ?lol

Oct 23, 2013 4:45pm | report
micahldixon

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micahldixon

I normally don't leave pessimistic comments. However, I am pretty sure that bodybuilding.com has had quite a few articles telling us to ignore anything with the word "Magic" in it when it comes to fitness....

Mar 29, 2013 7:51am | report
 
Zoso1116

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Zoso1116

inb4 swole mushroom tips

Mar 29, 2013 9:15am | report
 
BodySpaceAdmin

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BodySpaceAdmin

Touche. :D

Mar 29, 2013 3:11pm | report
ericool007

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ericool007

This is not a new fad cordyceps has just always been underrated. You will feel the endurance increase right away if taken before a run or swim meet. it is also has very mild diuretic properties.

Mar 29, 2013 1:46pm | report
 
Masamune11

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Masamune11

So literally there's a mushroom that will make you grow like super mario..awesome!

Apr 1, 2013 9:39am | report
 
sapereaude

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sapereaude

I've actually tried this before many years ago.. the real stuff- not a pill. Yes, it is a caterpillar that grows a fungus out of its head after it dies. I had it in a soup my mom made. I couldn't stomach eating caterpillars so I drank the broth. In retrospect, I did work a busy 12 hours with no fatigue the next day. Also, the real stuff is not cheap at all. I read somewhere Chinese olympians eat this stuff.

Apr 2, 2013 11:42am | report
 
BigNasty100

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BigNasty100

inb4 someone gets infected. Doubt anyone will get this reference...

Jun 22, 2013 1:31am | report
 
jayswob54

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jayswob54

I burst out laughing reading your post. Hopefully you have an immune system like Ellie.

Jun 30, 2013 7:09pm | report
jayswob54

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jayswob54

I burst out laughing reading your post. Hopefully you have an immune system like Ellie.

Jun 30, 2013 7:09pm | report
Karllark

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Karllark

I tried this and all it did was make me sick. It was like kryptonite, never again!

Sep 15, 2013 8:46am | report
 
jroth1184

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jroth1184

I am currently having great endurance results with cordyceps. And i DO NOT ever fall into supplement fads. i take the basics that r ESSENTIAL to building muscle, protein (obviously, u can lift all day, no protein, no muscle), multi vitamin, fishoil and sometimes i cycle creatine. from experience, ALL FAT BURNING products do not work, unless you do cardio and eat right (i think that is commen knowledge now, there is no easy way out).. so bottom line, im always a skeptic. however i have heard of cordyceps b4. so i tried them. i take about 3 or 4 grams a day. it has an increibley noticable increase in muscle duration. as in, everyday i can do more reps and weight than b4, and not just the standard gain of strenght from lifting weights. very noticable. Even with my legs. i have terrible genetics for leg mass. i barely weigh 160 and i am usually much larger than men who weigh 180 just because they have normal legs lol. they have always been my weak point. i have really been hitting them past 2 months, but squats would always kill me. after taking cordyceps, my legs can go and go, they feel the same training them as body parts that are use to extreme strain like my shoulders and arms. i rate them a 9/10. if i could only take one supplement, obviously not counting protein, it would probably by these. sorry for the rant, i never do these but figured i would share sense they helped tremendously

Sep 24, 2013 3:10pm | report
 
menewa75

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menewa75

What kind do you use (Brand) and where do you get it?

Oct 5, 2013 12:02am | report
scrappymcdoo

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scrappymcdoo

Hmm... Been taking getting Cordyceps at a Chinese tea store for about month and I've noticed a big improvement in my endurance. How do the supplements compare with the actual mushroom? I like getting the whole mushroom because it's cheaper, but will popping the pills get better results?

Oct 9, 2013 12:34am | report
 
Showing 1 - 21 of 21 Comments

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