Athletic training has been known to be incredibly rigorous, usually taking long hours of the day for more than half a week. Though it is expected to make the body stronger, overtraining may take a toll on the human body. And it may reach its physical and physiological limits. In clinical practice, this is known as overtraining syndrome. When there is cumulative training and non-training pressure. This syndrome is reflected by functional and mental manifestations. And it may take long-term interventions for recovery, depending on the patient affected. The patients most affected are the athletes at the competitive level. Actually, they are expected to have regularly long hours of training. It is much higher in patients involved in individual sports (at 37% risk) and in the international level (at 45% risk). This risk assessment, performance evaluation, and overall prediction of prognosis are tested through the measurement of salivary cortisol.
Salivary Cortisol is a potent stress hormone that is released by the adrenal glands upon exposure to stressful stimuli and is regulated by the gland HPA axis. This happens as a sign of catabolic activity that is, the break down of biomolecules for energy. From the evolutionary perspective, this hormone serves as an adaptive response to get humans to safety and for survival. Such as running from predators or fighting the harmful elements of nature. In relation to this, testosterone is an androgen that denotes anabolic activity, as it is instrumental to the synthesis of protein, sparing the muscles from catabolism and ultimately improving muscle development. In translation to today’s times, salivary cortisol and testosterone are now measured for their potential. Thus, evaluating the metabolic capacity of an athlete in response to physical training.
To address the problem of overtraining syndrome, it is important to do a quantitative assessment of these metabolic parameters. Which are currently being used by studies to evaluate athletic performance and predict the risk of overtraining syndrome.
The treatment may be more difficult for these patients as they have to meet restrictions on certain medications and substances that can prohibit them from competing. Thus, the treatment may call for a more non-pharmacologic approach. Adequate nutrition is good for the recovery of the affected muscle groups. But is not entirely enough to treat the manifestations. In addition to these, reduction of training load is advised to decrease overall stress. And also to maximize facilitation of body recovery. These dietary and exercise adjustments may not be the ideal interventions, especially in training athletes. Although an integrative treatment would be highly beneficial for them. This is where medicinal mushrooms come into play. As they contain essential bioactive compounds that would help them maximize their training and achieve their performance goals more efficiently. And with much less risk for overtraining.
Cordyceps supplementation is advised to athletes as it has been studied to improve overall exercise performance. In a study, cordyceps has been administered as supplements along with Rhodiola crenulata for two weeks. Straight along with training, they had remarkable effects. Not only on acute performance but also on regulatory activity. The athletes lasted longer in the training field, reflecting better endurance. Additionally, the decline in parasympathetic activity was prevented, which regulates the autonomic response to exercise. Intake of cordyceps thus ultimately improved the physiological adaptation to physical training and the overall aerobic performances of the athletes in the study.
Reishi also plays a significant role in improving the metabolic effects in athletes, especially when taken as a supplement during training. Upon intake of Reishi supplements for three months in a study, the performance status was assessed via the exercise biomarkers, which resulted in the lowering of the testosterone/cortisol ratio after physical training, which is an indication of better outcomes against overtraining syndrome. In addition to the various health benefits of reishi, it is now being studied for its benefits to the athletic community.
As overtraining syndrome has been found to blunt the effectiveness of each athlete, it has become a burden on these sports professionals, which are highly dependent on their skills and performance. The challenge of having limited pharmacologic interventions to help with this, along with the effort to maintain a clean record from blood doping in athletes, make the use of medicinal mushrooms highly recommendable.
Medicinal mushrooms are being studied further to be used as part of the integrative treatment for overtraining syndrome. Moreover, studies have shown conclusive evidence of their effect on athletic performance and for their succeeding performances in the near future.