Ginseng is a dietary and medicinal herb traditionally taken to help with low energy. Ginseng is not included among the lists of banned stimulants for athletes and is used by many to enhance endurance performance. During marathons Eliud Kipchoge, the marathon world record holder who we is moments away from attempting the INEOS 1:59 Challenge, reportedly has a triple action isotonic gel and a Ginseng and Guarana energy gel!

 

If Ginseng is good enough for the fastest long distance runner in the world it’s no wonder that Ginseng has received a lot of attention amongst the running community. Ginseng supplementation is thought to provide users with increased mental vigilance, acts as an endurance performance enhancer, and improves muscle performance, notably increasing leg strength. Research suggests  that is the antioxidant components in Ginseng which reduce the damage brought on by exercise induced oxidative stress[1]. Excessive free radicals derived from oxidative stress can damage cell membranes, can have a deleterious effect on skeletal muscle performance and impair cellular function. Via the reduction of exercise-induced oxidative stress thanks to the supplementation of Ginseng, muscles recover faster and there is a reduction in muscle soreness. In short, Ginseng users are able to maintain their energy more efficiently during intensive exercise.

 

There are several species of Ginseng, such as Asian Ginseng, Korean Ginseng, and the most well-known Panax ginseng. This herb contains vitamins A, B, C and E,  minerals iron,  magnesium, potassium and phosphorus, as well as fibres and proteins.  In a study using Panax Ginseng supplementation on physiology responses during endurance performance, subjects took 200 mg of Panax Ginseng one hour prior to endurance performance[2]. Participants ran at 70% of their Vo2 max and the results revealed that heart rate and plasma lactate concentrations were lower in the Panax Ginseng trial compared with the placebo trial. In addition, the use of Ginseng has been shown to improve cardio respiratory function and lower blood lactate concentrations. Some studies report that the ginseng improves alertness, and fatigue resistance through cortisol stimulation[3].

 

Like most supplements, Ginseng has side effects which depend on the dose and one’s metabolism. The use of Ginseng has been shown to cause diarrhoea (not ideal if you are on a run) and has other side effects such as headaches and can cause digestive disorders[4]. Ginseng can also interfere with medications such as insulin, anticoagulants and  digoxin.  As with most herbal supplements more rigorous testing is needed to clarify the major effaces of taking the supplement. However, Ginseng supplementation may be one to try out if you are a regular runner.

 

BioCare are a professional supplement specialist and retail Panax Ginseng tablets, 1 tablet is equivalent to 300mg of Ginseng. If you fancy channelling your inner athlete, do a Kipchoge and combine Ginseng and Guarana in an energy gel, suppliers include Etixx Sports Nutrition.

 

[1] Williams M. Dietary supplements and sports performance: herbals. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2006;3:1–6.

[2] Chen CK, Muhamad AS, Ooi FK. Herbs in exercise and sports. J Physiol Anthropol. 2012;31:4.

[3] Ahuja A, Goswami A, Adhikari A, Ghosh AK. Evaluation of effects of revital on physical performance in sportsmenle. Indian Pr. 1992;45:685–8.

[4] Siegel RK. Ginseng and high blood pressure. JAMA. 1980;243(1):32–32.