Adaptogens: playing a vital role in sports nutrition

Sports nutrition is an essential player in athletic performance, no matter your chosen sport or the level you compete at. Nutrient timing around training days, competition days and rest days become a crucial component of your performance ability.

Every athlete is on the hunt for the magic formula to give them a competitive ‘edge’ to perform at their best and efficiently. The key to achieving that peak performance is striking a balance between fuelling for training and maintaining a healthy weight, as well as balancing physical stress on the body in training and adequate recovery.

More recently there has been a big focus on stress – both physical and mental – and the negative effects it can have on the body which in turn reduces performance.

The good news is, there are natural ways to counteract the effects of stress on your body, and adaptogens are playing a vital role in sports nutrition recovery.

Enter ‘Adaptogens’ 

Adaptogens help the body adapt to and resist stressors of all kinds, whether physical, biological, or even chemical. Originating in centuries-old Ayurvedic and Chinese healing traditions, these non-toxic plants are undergoing somewhat of a renaissance today. Scientific interest in adaptogens began during World War II; scientists were on the hunt for supplements to help pilots to fly better, faster and for extended periods.  The stimulant Schisandra Chinensis was extensively studied and found to improve energy levels and vision at night, perfect for pilots.

Examples of adaptogens are:

  • Siberian ginseng
  • Schisandra
  • Artic root 
  • Ashwagandha 
Siberian ginseng

How do adaptogens work?

Adaptogens work on a molecular level to regulate the stress response within our bodies. This creates a balance in the hypothalamic, pituitary and adrenal glands.

Through any kind of stress the body can progress through three stages:

  • Alarm phase – When we first perceive something as stressful, the body initiates the fight or flight response. 
  • Phase of resistance – If the perceived stress continues, the body continues to stay active at a higher metabolic level to offset the persistent stress. The body is unable to maintain this level indefinitely, and eventually resources will deplete. 
  • Phase of exhaustion – Extended exposure to a stressor will reduce the body’s natural resources; additionally, wear and tear as a result has the potential to suppress the immune system and cause bodily functions to deteriorate. 

For an athlete, the first level of stress could be through increasing their workout intensity by adding extra weights. 

The body will respond to this by pumping out adrenaline to enhance our ability to concentrate and improve muscular performance. Our body is resisting the stressor, allowing us to feel energised by the adrenaline and other hormones. And then, as we eventually fatigue, we then enter the final phase – exhaustion.

Adaptogens work by increasing our ability to resist stress (the second phase), allowing us to feel powerful and energised for a more extended period of time. 

Scientific studies have shown that adaptogens have multiple effects on the body, such as:

  • Improved energy and physical performance
  • Boost to the immune system
  • Improved sleep
  • Shorter recovery time from exercise 
  • Enhanced concentration 
  • Improved ability to perform efficiently 

What are the best adaptogenic herbs?

Each adaptogen works in a slightly different way, so the best one depends on which problem you are experiencing. 

Adaptogens to improve athletic performance:

  • Asian ginseng
  • Holy basil
  • Tulsi
  • Ashwagandha 

Adaptogens to help you sleep better:

  • Siberian ginseng
  • Rhodiola 
  • Schisandra
  • Ashwagandha 

Adaptogens for a boost to the immune system:

  • Ginseng
  • Reishi 
  • Maca Root

How do you add adaptogens to your diet?

Depending on what you are after, including a herbal tea with adaptogenic benefits can be helpful. Look for licorice, fennel or fenugreek teas for a stress busting beverage.

You can use adaptogens in supplements for a few days or weeks to get through a busy time at work or in training. If you are facing a time of chronic stress such as a looming deadline at work, or a heavy Ironman training program you can use adaptogens on a regular basis. It’s helpful to rotate the type of adaptogen you are taking after about 6 weeks. This way your body will benefit from the subtle differences among the herbs and can respond accordingly.

It’s simple to add adaptogens to the foods you’re already eating by using Bindi wellness powders. Try adding them to smoothies, salad dressings and soups. 


Bindi Supergreens contains Licorice, Maca Root, Aswaghandha Ginger and Dandelion to reduce stress and fatigue. Combined with Supergreens and Superfruits they have an antioxidant benefit and can reduce the risk of illness and injury.

Bindi Digest Blend contains natural prebiotics and delicious warming spices such as Turmeric and Ginger and is designed to stimulate healthy digestion and increase your uptake of essential nutrients.

Bindi Hot Chocolate with Magnesium is designed to relax and calm you for sleep. It contains Ashwagandha which can boost your brain power and focus, and it may help reduce anxiety and depression. 

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