Rhodiola rosea improves physical performance

Maksim Khotimchenko

Rhodiola rosea have been studied for several decades and a lot of beneficial properties for human health were noted. Apart from its adaptogenic activity Rhodiola rosea was proved to enhance physical performance and stamina helping in training.

In 2004 a group of physiologists from Catholic University of Leuven have discovered that physical stamina and oxygen blood saturation were significantly increased after intake of 200 mg of the rhodiola rosea extract. What benefits high blood oxygen saturation brings for the body systems? Flowing through the lung vessels blood absorbs oxygen and distributes it throughout the body using special protein carrier hemoglobin contained in red blood cells called erythrocytes. Blood oxygen level or blood oxygen saturation shows what amount of hemoglobin in the body is bound to the oxygen molecules. Normally almost all hemoglobin is to be bound to oxygen and saturation index must vary from 96 to 99%. Reduced blood oxygen level lower than 95-96% may be found in patients with severe respiratory or cardiovascular diseases as well as with severe anemia associated with substantially reduced blood hemoglobin level.

Rhodiola rosea belongs to a group of the succulent plants having special tissues holding sufficient amounts of water. Russian researchers performing experimental studies with rhodiola root extracts back in second part of twentieth century have found that this herb makes animals to endure hard physical and psychic stress much longer. For example, rats could swim longer than usually.  

Belgian researchers have risen a question whether rhodiola rosea exerts its effects immediately after intake or some period is necessary to note its activity. They carried out small clinical trials with 24 healthy students. At the beginning of the study scientists have determined background stamina of students and then made the same tests one hour after the students had taken 200 mg of rhodiola root extract and repeated them after placebo administration. Students were to ride bikes with cyclometer (gadget measuring the distance made by bicyclist) and increase energy produced by 20 watts every minute before exhaustion. Within their studies Belgians have used a dietary supplement manufactured by German company Finzelberg, containing 3% of rosavin and 1% of salidroside. Nowadays, almost all herbal supplement with rhodiola rosea contain such exact amounts of active glycosides. Comparison of the results registered in the test and control groups have shown the following differences. In students given rhodiola extract lung respiration capacity was significantly increased (124.8 l/min vs 115.9 l/min). Also, there were noted increased blood oxygen saturation and carbon dioxide utilization capacity. There were found no differences in average amount of blood lactate level and average heart rate. Rhodiola herbal supplement prolonged period until exhaustion by about 3%. There were also some results showing that period before exhaustion was prolonged even by 9-10%. Some effects of rhodiola rosea were like the ones of amphetamines. But amphetamines lose their efficiency when taken regularly at the same dose for a long time. In clinical trials rhodiola rosea extract was administered to students for four weeks daily and its ergogenic effect was just slightly decreased. But this reduction was not statistically significant. And there is no need to take rhodiola rosea every day. It can be taken just one hour before intensive physical training or a contest and its beneficial properties would be clearly seen and felt by athletes. Continuous use of rhodiola rosea does not result in continuous increase of stamina. Unfortunately, physical strength of athletes also is not changing due to the use of rhodiola. Profound clinical trials had been carried out in American army for ten years focused on understanding if rhodiola can increase muscle strength. The results showed that it does not affect physical capacity of muscles.

Therefore, rhodiola rosea does not substitute training but help to train more efficiently.  

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