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ADAPT AND OVERCOME

By David Morin

From herbs to your physical modes: why adaptation is the key to greater performance and growth.

In the imortal words of Bruce Lee, “water is put in a cup, it becomes the cup”, this resounding

statement about adaptation is no doubt the Zen approach most athletes refer to as “The Zone!” What if i were to tell you that science has revealed tools to stay in that state longer and more frequently than ever before? Even better, it was discovered in nature and in it’s pure form. Not only has adaptive style training modes yielded fantastic strides in performance, health and body composition (crossfit)(P90X), but a relatively new class of Herbs called “Adaptogens” can elevate your workouts past stubborn plateaus to new zones!


An adaptogen is a metabolic regulator which increases the ability of an organism to adapt to environmental factors, and to avoid damage from such factors. Environmental factors can be either physiological (external), such as injury or aging, or psychological (internal), such as anxiety.

An adaptogen must have a normalizing effect, i.e. counteracting or preventing disturbances to homeostasis brought about by stressors. Moreover, it must be innocuous with a broad range of therapeutic effects without causing any major side effects. The adaptogen concept does not fit easily into the Western model of medicine.


The repeated administration of adaptogens gives an effect analogous to that produced by repeated physical exercise by a transition from homeostasis to heterostasis. The effect is mainly related to the HPA-axis (Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal-axis). Repeat dose administration of adaptogens has been shown to be of value in sports medicine and can lead to increased endurance for long distance runners, cross-country skiers etc., or to a more rapid recovery from a stressors events.The stress protective effect by repeated intake is not the result of inhibition of the stress response, but of adaptive changes in the organism to the repeated stress-mimetic effect of the drug. Adaptogens are stress agonists and not stress-antagonists.


Administration of adaptogens in a single dose is relevant when a rapid response to stress and strain is required. This effect is associated with the sympathetic nervous system. Suitable crude drugs for this purpose are Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberian ginseng), Rhodiola rosea and Schisandra chinensis, which also can be used for repeated administration.

Panax ginseng, on the other hand gives an adaptive effect only after repeated administration for periods of one to four weeks.


There are important differences between the stimulating effect of adaptogens and other stimulants of the central nervous system as summarized:


Example Amphetamine Ginseng

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Effect Stimulant Adaptogen

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Strength Very high High

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Recovery process after

physical load Low High

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Energy depletion Yes No

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Performance in stress Decrease Increase

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Survival in stress Decrease Increase

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Quality of arousal Bad Good

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Insomnia Very high Low

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Side effects Yes No

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DNA/RNA and protein synthesis Decrease Increase


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