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increase your VO2max with cordyceps

 Measuring fitness 

The gold standard to measure aerobic fitness is the VO2max test. The body's maximal oxygen uptake is one of the best indicators of athletic performance, especially amongst runners and cyclers. Most untrained athletes can improve their VO2max by as much as 25% with interval training. More experienced athletes have to work harder to gain 1-2% points [i]. For athletes that have plateaued, cordyceps could be the solution.  

What is a VO2max 

VO2max, or maximal oxygen uptake, is a measure of an individual's maximum capacity to consume and utilize oxygen during intense exercise. It serves as a key indicator of cardiovascular fitness and endurance. The higher an individual's VO2max, the more oxygen their body can utilize, enabling them to sustain higher levels of aerobic activity for prolonged periods. VO2max is expressed as milliliters of oxygen consumed per kilogram of body weight per minute (ml/kg/min) and is influenced by genetics, age, gender, and training status [ii].

Think of your VO2max as your peak output - the last push over the finish line.  

There are 4 factors that influence your VO2max:  

Cardiac output is measured by the volume of blood pumped per heartbeat. During exercise, your heart beats faster. However, this is only part of the equation. The amount of blood your heart pumps per beat can also have an influence on your performance. Endurance athletes often have lower-than-average heart rates because they have a higher cardiac output [iii].

Oxygen carrying capacity is related to how red blood cells transport oxygen throughout the body. The protein Hemoglobin is responsible for delivering oxygen to the body's tissues [iv].

The circulatory system is the network of blood vessels that carry blood away from and to the heart. It delivers oxygen and nutrients to cells and takes away waste [v].

Efficiency of the muscles consists of many factors such as the concentration of aerobic enzymes and mitochondria within muscle cells and the proportion of different muscle types.  

Study on Cordyceps and VO2 Max 

Cordyceps is an energizing mushroom that impacts the body in many ways. One of its primary benefits is its impact on the heart. Cordyceps has been shown to improve oxygen utilization, reduce cholesterol, and clear away lactic acid.  

A 2004 study set out to find the effect cordyceps had on the exercise capacity of elderly adults. Thirty-seven elderly Chinese subjects were randomly assigned a daily dose of cordyceps or a placebo. Subjects took a VO2max test at the beginning of the study and after 3-weeks of supplementation. Individuals assigned 3g of cordyceps daily saw an average increase in their VO2max of 7% [vi].

A more recent 2016 study of twenty-eight individuals in their mid-twenties garnered similar results. Subjects were given a daily dose of 4g of cordyceps supplementation for 1-week with 10 participants extending to 3-weeks. There was no significant increase in VO2max by week one. Participants that extended saw a substantial increase in their VO2max of 11% [vii].

How to increase your VO2max with Cordycep supplementation 

While cordyceps can lead to increased oxygen utilization, exercise is the most effective way to increase your VO2max. Particularly, high intensity interval training. Pairing cordyceps and exercise can help you accelerate fitness gains. Experts recommend a dose of 2-6g per day. Higher dosage may lead to some stomach discomfort, so it is recommended to start small and increase gradually [viii]. As demonstrated by the 2016 study, long-term supplementation is more effective.  Cordyceps, like most mushrooms, take time to impact the body. So, it is important to take supplementation regularly to reap benefits. 




[i] Hurley, S. (2022, March 23). Vo2 Max training for cyclists: How to improve VO2 max for Cyclists & Get Faster - TrainerRoad blog. TrainerRoad Blog VO2 Max Training for Cyclists How to Improve Your VO2 Max and Get Faster Comments. 

[ii] Jewell, T. (2023, March 28). VO₂ max: Definition, how it’s measured, how to improve. Healthline.

[iii] Chertoff, J. (2023, June 26). Why do athletes have a lower resting heart rate?. Healthline.

[iv] Billett HH. Hemoglobin and Hematocrit. In: Walker HK, Hall WD, Hurst JW, editors. Clinical Methods: The History, Physical, and Laboratory Examinations. 3rd edition. Boston: Butterworths; 1990. Chapter 151. Available from:

[v] Circulatory system: Anatomy and Function. Cleveland Clinic Medical. (2021, September 21).

[vi] Yi, X., Xi-zhen, H., & Jia-shi, Z. (2004). Randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial and assessment of fermentation product of cordyceps sinensis (CS-4) in enhancing aerobic capacity and respiratory function of the healthy elderly volunteers. SpringerLink.

[vii] Hirsch, K. R., Smith-Ryan, A. E., Roelofs, E. J., Trexler, E. T., & Mock, M. G. (2017a, January 2). 

Cordyceps militaris improves tolerance to high-intensity exercise after acute and chronic supplementation. Journal of dietary supplements

[viii] WebMD. (n.d.). Cordyceps: Overview, uses, side effects, precautions, interactions, dosing and reviews. WebMD.,best%20for%20a%20specific%20condition.