How Ginseng boosts athletes' endurance capacity
Sports scientists at Konkuk University in South Korea have discovered how Ginseng supplementation may be able to improve the endurance capacity of runners, cyclists and other endurance athletes. Ginseng boosts fat burning in the first twenty minutes of endurance activities thus saving valuable carbohydrates. The Koreans did experiments with mice.
The most important active ingredients in Ginseng are ginsenosides, shown below. They all have different characteristics. Ginsenoside-Rg 1 for example has an anticatabolic, stimulatory and anti-oestrogenic effect, while ginsenoside-Rb 1 has a sedative effect.
The researchers were curious to know whether Asian Ginseng would improve sports performance, so they got male mice to train on a treadmill five times a week for a period of two weeks. The mice had to run at 65-70 percent of their maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max).
Half of the mice were given a placebo every day during the experiment. The other half were given Red Ginseng. The human equivalent of the dose used would be 1 g per 10 kg bodyweight. The composition of the supplement is shown on the right. One gram of the supplement contained at total of just 19.64 mg ginsenosides.
At the end of the two weeks, the researchers measured the amount of fats and carbohydrates the mice had burned during their exertions. They discovered that the Red Ginseng supplementation had reduced the mice's burning of carbohydrates and increased their burning of fatty acids. This happened during the first 20 minutes of each session.
RG = Red Ginseng; CON = placebo.
After the exercise, the Koreans found lower levels of glycogen in the mice's liver. But the reduction in the concentration was less than it was in the mice that had been given Ginseng.
"The present study had several limitations", wrote the Koreans. "Firstly, we did not perform a run-time to exhaustion test, which can provide more information on the beneficial effects of the intervention on endurance performance. Secondly, we didn't set the exercise and food control so that could not discuss the effect of Red Ginseng intake or exercise training on parameters related to energy metabolism."
"To clarify the synergistic effects of Red Ginseng administration in combination with exercise on energy metabolism in more detail, it would be important to add a resting group to the present experimental setting. However, we clearly revealed that Red Ginseng intake could enhance fat oxidation during exercise in exercise-trained mice as this result was not observed in exercise-trained mice that did not with Red Ginseng."
"In conclusion, Red Ginseng intake for two weeks promotes fat oxidation and the glycogen-sparing effect during exercise. Therefore, consuming Red Ginseng when training can improve endurance exercise performance."
Nutrients. 2014 May 5;6(5):1874-85.
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