Conquering Ultra-Marathons with The Power Of Mushrooms
“I conclusively noticed the power of the mushrooms: not only was I able to complete the 30+ mile training days I needed, but I felt great doing them- bubbly even.”
Winter for me means heavy training, a time away from the external motivators such as races, group runs, and events that summer season brings. I aim to be in bloom, peaking both physically and psychologically at the same time as the first flowers that greet the warmth of springtime.
This year (2019), my races are February and March instead of April, so the training peaked in intensity at the same time as the harsh winter weather.
It’s also an optimal time to play with my non-running interventions, including supplements.
Anything that helps me feel stronger or faster will be quickly noticed, as I crank out around 120 miles per week for 7 weeks and follow the familiar flow of fitness accruing. You can easily gather from my media presence that I put a LOT of value in the non-running aspects of training- and I wanted to know if mushrooms might fit perfectly into that regime.
From rotating shoes and doing the right workouts, to addressing sleep and supplements- there’s never a time where our entire 24 hour days are perfect.
I’m always tinkering, and trying to find ways to optimize performance.
It’s time to get mushroom powered.
Cordyceps mushrooms have been studied more than I expected, and many times with extremely promising results. This includes everything from increases in “time to exhaustion” at a given effort, to helping with performance in the bedroom. I’m focused on the former.
While it’s tempting to look at the research and conclude either that “it worked” or “it didn’t work,” due diligence requires us to also look at conditions and dosages.
That being said, the decisive trend in the academic literature is this: the further you are from peak health, the more Cordyceps will help you, and the smaller the dose needs to be.
This may be old news to those familiar with “adaptogens,” but I’m not typically crunchy enough to go in for all that!
Still, the research was clear… the typical person can take a 1 gram or so, get on the treadmill, and show improvement- while an elite athlete can do the same and see nothing.
That’s great news for 99% of people… but what about me?!
There are quite a few studies showing no effect from Cordyceps in highly trained people… but then there are also a select few that show increases in performance- similar to the results seen when dosing untrained people.
“The further you are from peak health, the more cordyceps will help you, and the smaller the effective dose will be.”
Obviously, interpreting results can be tricky, but the research showed me a clear trend- bigger dose, bigger result.
For highly trained athletes, it seemed a bigger dose made the difference between a “statistically significant” result or a “null” one. Again trying to stick to bullet points and not manically wander off into data, first we see no benefit from a gram a day, but benefit from 3-4 grams a day. Another study shows no benefit after a week, but a 5% increase in VO2 max after 3 weeks.
Yet another one shows a bump in testosterone, but only with chronic use of several weeks.
So I had my hypothesis, and it was time to put my money where my academia was -or my physiology where my psychology was maybe?
Nope, still doesn’t sound great, but it was time to take some mushrooms and see what happens!
I concluded I would need 4 grams of mushrooms per day, heavily focused on Cordyceps, and that I could expect to see results in 3-4 weeks.
I came across a few indications that some types of mushrooms work synergistically, but we just don’t have the research to say anything specific about that yet. Still, it helped inform my approach.
From a single scoop of Thrive 6 in early January, I quickly moved to 1 scoop Thrive6 and 3 scoops Hero (Cordyceps) and left it there for the remainder of the experimental period, which I decided would be until late February.
This was the only intentional change during this winter’s training.
I’ve been a workhorse of a runner for the entirety of my career, always able to train as heavy as I needed to. But it’s not always easy, and certainly not always fun in a conventional sense.
This is where I conclusively noticed the power of the mushrooms: not only was I able to complete the 30+ mile training days I needed, but I felt great doing them, bubbly even.
About 5 weeks into this experiment, I had a marathon worth (26 miles) of running on Saturday then 37 miles on Sunday –and I was borderline manic on the treadmill while closing out the last few miles. Mondays following weekends like that typically include a “training hangover,” and it’s too soon to say for sure, but Mondays seemed to feel better than ever as well.
This is something to look into next training block, or possibly over the summer, with some quantifiable data, such as “childish exploration” or “the zone” or the like, experienced on the days after huge weekends and recorded on a 1-10 scale each week.
Always something more to investigate and refine!
If you want to continue following the journey, this “study of one” is continuously on my Instagram page, @anthonykunkel.