Adaptogens for Burnout & Stress (2022)


When it comes to training and fighting, it’s all about getting the edge while remaining physically and mentally healthy. I don’t want to fill my body with crap, but I do want to make sure I am at peak fitness and that my mind is sharp and ready. All athletes know that diet and nutrition are important for performance, but what about natural nootropics?

The definition of a nootropic is pretty vague. It could be defined as anything that has an enhancing effect on the brain. That would make coffee a nootropic. But the “real” definition is something that improves mental functioning and cognition without causing any damage. Ideally, you should be better off after taking them than before.

It’s a hot topic in sports and athleticism. Which supplements are okay and which ones are not? The argument is philosophical, too. No one wants to be a cheater. Yet, it’s perfectly fine to eat masses of protein to aid muscle repair and growth? I’d say that as long as it’s natural, we’re good to go, but you also need to check out the list of banned substances for your sport before considering any nootropic supplement, just in case.

Nootropics can have massive benefits for many different types of athletes or high-level competitors from the more mental side like chess to the stamina and focus needed for lengthy online poker sessions where you’re vying for millions of dollars to the intensity of being in the ring with another human being whose task is to punch your lights out! I’ll have the strongest one, please! Nootropics work by acting on pathways and neurotransmitters in the brain. Different supplements work on different pathways, but they are all related to cognitive functioning in some way. Nootropics can improve brain cell efficiency, increase blood and oxygen circulation to the brain, supply building blocks to repair, produce, and connect brain cells, and provide antioxidants to protect cells from free radicals.

At this point, you might be asking why is this so important to your MMA career? It all comes down to how the brain connects to the body. The mind sends signals to the muscles whenever they need to be used, and if these signals reach their destination quicker than that means better reflexes and increased accuracy, as well as improved reactions to opponents moves.

Nootropics, when integrated into a healthy physical and mental life, can help you to retain focus for training and fights. Mental focus can never be a bad thing. Not only that, but some nootropics might even indirectly aid muscle growth. Let’s take a look at the neurotransmitter Acetylcholine, which nearly all nootropics work on. Encouraging the release of Acetylcholine improves nerve transmission and impulses to the muscles, as well as improves blood flow and even increases recovery time by aiding in REM sleep. This all leads to improved muscle responses, growth, and strength.

Dopamine, another neurotransmitter that nootropics commonly work on, has been linked to improved focus, motivation, aggression, and muscle growth.

With thousands of nootropics on the market, it can be difficult to know where to start, but it’s important to remember that nootropics are not FDA approved and have varying degrees of research and validity behind them.

If you are looking for a supplement specifically beneficial for MMA, perhaps consider the Lion’s Mane Mushroom, an edible fungus that is full of antioxidants and is said to regulate blood sugar levels, improve cognitive abilities, and improve long-term brain health. You could also consider Ginseng, a root that enhances mental performance and is known for its energizing effects; this one could help you to get through a tough training regime! Ashwagandha, Indian Ginseng, has a similar energizing effect.

Ultimately, it is your choice whether you integrate nootropics into your MMA programme, and which ones you deem fit for use. But remember, nootropics are not a cheat or a sure way to win. You still need to put in all the work that you usually do. They are simply one more way to help keep your mind sharp, and therefore your body sharp, too!

Nootropics also cross over into ‘adaptogens’. Adaptogens are often defined as a substance, compound or herb which reduces physical stress. This is incredibly important for MMA as recovery is a constant battle in between training sessions and fights. Again Lion’s Mane Mushroom is an effective adaptogen thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties.

Lion’s Mane Mushroom – Reduces inflammation & increases NGF (Nerve Growth Factor) in the brain

  • Rhodiola Rosea – Increase dopamine levels, reduces cortisol & increases energy levels
  • Ginseng – Also reduces inflammation & increases NGF, also increases acetylcholine levels in the brain
  • Gingko Biloba – Improve blood flow & strong anti inflammatory.

lions mane mushroom infographic

There is a growing body of scientific evidence to show that these traditional remedies can help greatly with stress and burnout.

For example, this paper concluded that “RRE (Rhodiola rosea extract) offers comprehensive treatment of stress symptoms and can prevent chronic stress and stress-related complications”.

About Drew

MMA, Fitness & Marketing enthusiast from North Wales, UK. A Stoic Hippy with no hair. Not to boast but - 1st Class Degree in Sports Science from Loughborough, MSc in Nutrition from the University of Liverpool. 20 years experience of weight & fitness training.
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