Lion's mane (Hericium erinaceus) has gained significant attention for its remarkable properties. Not only is it visually striking - with its cascading white icicle-like appearance - but this functional mushroom also possesses a long history of medicinal use in various cultures around the world.
Lion's mane isn't just delicious. But it has the potential of offer a wide range of functional and medicinal benefits for your body, spirit, and mind.
So, it's no wonder that we're starting to see this mushroom appear in ingredient lists for natural preworkout supplements.
If you're here, you're likely wondering:
- What is lion's mane?
- What are the benefits of this mushroom?
- Does lion's mane increase energy and physical performance as a preworkout?
- What other mushrooms make great preworkout supplements?
We will explore how lion's mane may support exercise performance, enhance cognitive function, and boost energy levels, and be used as a natural alternative to conventional preworkout products.
Let's dive in!
What are lion's mane mushrooms?
Lion's mane mushroom, scientifically known as Hericium erinaceus, is a fascinating and unique fungus that has captured the attention of researchers and health enthusiasts alike. And not just because of it's fantastic culinary applications. With its distinctive appearance (resembling the flowing mane of a lion - hence the name), this mushroom is a sight to behold.
Lion's mane is a medicinal mushroom that has been used for centuries in traditional medicine systems, particularly in Asia. It is native to regions of North America, Europe, and Asia, where it grows on hardwood trees such as oak, beech, and maple.
In traditional Chinese medicine, it has been employed to support digestive health, strengthen the immune system, and promote overall vitality. It has also been used in Japan and Korea for its potential cognitive and neurological benefits.
What are the benefits of lion's mane mushrooms?
We are still working to fully understand the potential benefits of this medicinal mushroom. But early research - supported by centuries of traditional use - indicate that this mushroom may be able to:
- Support cognitive brain function and Alzheimer's disease
- Stimulate brain cell growth
- Block plaque buildup in the brain
- Provide depression and anxiety support
- Stimulate nerve growth and repair after brain & nervous system injury
- Provide menopause and mood support
- Prevent ulcer development
- Help fight cancer
- Reduce the risk of heart disease
- Provide diabetes support
- Assist with wound healing
- And so much more!
Check out our complete guide to lion's mane health benefits if you want to get more details and study information.
And while that's all well and good, you're here to learn more about lion's mane as a pre-workout supplement. So let's zero in on those potential benefits next.
How Lion's Mane Improves Exercise Performance
When it comes to optimizing your exercise performance - whether that's in the gym, on the field, or on the track - lion's mane mushroom shows a strong potential to support athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike.
Let's take a deeper look at the potential benefits it may offer:
1. Improved cognitive function for workouts that require concentration & coordination
Lion's mane contains bioactive compounds that have been studied for their potential cognitive-enhancing effects. Lion’s mane contains two important nerve generation compounds: hericenones and erinacines.
By promoting the production of nerve growth factors, such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), lion's mane may support overall cognitive function, including focus, memory, and mental clarity. One study showed that lion’s mane initiated nerve growth factor synthesis in cells, thereby enhancing nerve growth and improving cognitive function. [source]
A small human trial showed that folks with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) who took lion’s mane supplements over the course of 16 weeks exhibited “significantly” increased scores of cognitive function. (However, when the patients stopped taking it, cognitive function receded back to baseline.) [source]
These brain-boosting benefits may be especially beneficial for athletes whose workouts require concentration and coordination.
2. Neuroprotective Effects to Enhance Recovery & Performance
Regular exercise places stress on the body, including oxidative stress and inflammation.
Lion's mane mushroom contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that may help protect against exercise-induced oxidative damage and inflammation.
One study found that lion’s mane supplementation immediately following a nerve injury reduced recovery time by up to 41% in rats. It appeared to speed up this recovery by regenerating axons and stimulating nerve growth where nerve degeneration had occurred. [source]
In one animal study, supplementation at high doses reduced the size of a stroke-related injury by 44%. [source]
By supporting brain health and reducing oxidative stress, lion's mane could potentially enhance recovery and support overall exercise performance.
3. Anti-Fatigue Properties May Boost Your Endurance
Muscle fatigue is the enemy of every athlete. To date, traditional drugs and therapies designed to treat muscle fatigue have not been effective. But supportive methods are becoming increasingly popular.
One study aimed to study the effects of lion's mane on fatigue using a mouse model. The results showed that HEP had "significant anti‑fatigue activity by decreasing BLA, SUN and MDA content, as well as increasing tissue glycogen content and antioxidant enzyme activity" which shows promise for the use of lion's mane in the sports nutrition industry.
More research is needed in order to understand the anti-fatigue benefits for humans.
4. Lion's mane may boost your fat metabolism
If your workout goals include healthy weight loss and improved metabolism, then lion's mane may be a good fit for your preworkout supplement. In a small study, researchers looked at the hypolipidaemic effect of lion's mane on obese rats.
Hyperlipidemia - also known as high cholesterol - mans you have too many lipids (fats) in your blood.
The results showed promise for lion's mane as a potent cholesterol-lowering aid and showcases the potential of lion's mane as a therapeutic drug for controlling hyperlipidemia in humans. [source]
5. Lion's mane is packed with beneficial vitamins and compounds
Lion's mane isn't just tasty. Oh no! This fungus is jam-packed with beneficial compounds including antioxidants, beta-glucans, essential amino acids and polysaccharides which can help improve your athletic performance.
Hericenones and Erinacines: Lion's mane mushrooms are rich in bioactive compounds called hericenones and erinacines. These compounds have been studied for their potential neuroprotective and cognitive-enhancing effects. They are believed to stimulate the production of nerve growth factors (NGFs), such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which play a crucial role in the growth, maintenance, and survival of neurons in the brain. By supporting brain health and function, these compounds may enhance focus, memory, and overall cognitive performance during workouts.
Antioxidants: Lion's mane contains various antioxidants, including phenols and polysaccharides. Antioxidants help neutralize harmful free radicals in the body, reducing oxidative stress and inflammation caused by intense exercise. By minimizing oxidative damage, lion's mane may support faster recovery, reduce muscle soreness, and promote overall exercise performance.
Polysaccharides: The polysaccharides found in lion's mane mushrooms have been shown to have immune-boosting properties. A strong immune system is essential for athletes to stay healthy, as intense exercise can temporarily suppress immune function. By supporting immune health, lion's mane may help athletes maintain their training regimen without interruptions due to illness.
Beta-Glucans: Lion's mane mushrooms are a rich source of beta-glucans, which are a type of soluble fiber known for their immune-modulating effects. Beta-glucans have been shown to support a healthy immune system, which is important for athletes to maintain optimal performance and prevent illness or infections that can hinder training progress.
Essential Amino Acids: Lion's mane contains a range of essential amino acids, including phenylalanine, leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These amino acids are crucial for muscle protein synthesis, repair, and recovery after intense workouts. By providing these building blocks, lion's mane may support muscle growth, repair damaged tissues, and aid in post-workout recovery.
Important note on lion’s mane studies
For almost all of the research cited here, barring a few on Alzheimers and menopause, studies were done in-vitro (a.k.a., in a test-tube with human or animal cells) or on animals, such as mice or rats. Research on lion’s mane – and the overall health benefits of medicinal mushrooms – is limited, and more research in human trials is needed to support the above benefits. Lion's mane is generally considered to be very safe for most people!
Consult your doctor before taking lion’s mane for dose recommendations, possible interactions between lion’s mane supplements and any medication you’re currently taking, and general guidance.
How to Use Lion's Mane as a Preworkout Supplement
Now that you're more familiar with some of the potential benefits of lion's mane as a preworkout supplement, we can cover some of the basics of using this powerful mushroom as part of your pre-workout routine.
1. Choose your supplement type
Lion's mane supplements are available in various forms, including capsules, powders, and tinctures/extracts. When buying a lion's mane product, it's critical that you research the sourcing, extraction methods, and potency of the product first.
Our recommendation? Choose a form that suits your preferences and lifestyle.
Capsules offer convenience and precise dosage, while powders can be easily added to your existing pre-workout beverage or smoothie.
Here at Remeday, we prefer tinctures/extracts because of their potency and ability to be easily absorbed by the body. These concentrated liquids are easy to add to your morning coffee, preworkout shake, or simply take directly under your tongue.
Did you know? You can also cook with lion's mane? It's true! In fact, you might be able to find some at your local specialty food store. Here are some of the best recipes to try with lion's mane.
Tips for buying lion's mane supplements
Keep your eyes peeled for a few things when you’re shopping for a lion’s mane product:
- Always, always look for products with COAs. A COA, or a certificate of analysis, should give information on things like active compounds, microbiological components, and more. Ideally this COA is created by a third-party source.
- Look for a dual extract: There are a couple ways to extract nutrients from mushrooms: alcohol or hot water. Many of the studies above used a lion’s mane ethanol extract, which can isolate some non-water soluble compounds in the mushroom. On the other hand, hot water extraction isolates beta-glucans, which are water soluble and are nutritional rockstars.
Dual extraction products, in which extraction from both hot water and ethanol is involved, are favored in instances where a mushroom has high levels of both water-soluble and non-water soluble compounds, like reishi, and like our friend lion’s mane.
Read more about mushroom extraction here.
2. Determine your preworkout lion's mane dosage
Recommended dosages for lion's mane can vary depending on the form and concentration of the supplement. A great place to start? Follow the instructions provided by the product's manufacturer or consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice.
Generally, a typical dose of lion's mane extract ranges from 500 mg to 3,000 mg per day.
We recommend you start small - with at least a half dosage - before increasing your dosage in order to determine what feels best for your body.
Head on over to our lion's mane dosage guide for a more complete look at lion's mane and dosages
3. Take your lion's mane preworkout at the ideal time
This is an important one. No research has been completed to analyze the timing vs effect for a preworkout with lion's mane. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that taking your lion's mane preworkout 30-60 minutes before your workout allows sufficient time for the digestion and absorption of the mushroom's active compounds. Choosing an extracted product also helps make those compounds more readily available to your body.
4. Look for synergistic combinations
Lion's mane can be combined with other supplements or ingredients to enhance its effects. For example, try adding your lion's mane with caffeine to help reduce the potential jitters and crash associated with caffeine consumption.
Lion's mane doesn't have to replace your current preworkout supplement. Instead, you can simply add lion's mane tincture or powder to your current regimen - as long as you feel confident in your ingredient combinations & dosages!
You might also consider combining lion's mane with other powerful medicinal mushrooms. Cordyceps can also be used as a preworkout supplement.
>> We wrote a whole guide on using cordyceps as a preworkout if you want to learn more.
Experiment with different combinations, but always be mindful of your body's response and consult with a healthcare professional if needed.
5. Stay consistent to feel results!
Like almost any other natural supplement, the effects of lion's mane is more likely to be noticeable over time with consistent use. Incorporate it into your preworkout routine regularly for a sustained period to assess its impact on your exercise performance, cognitive function, and overall well-being.
Who should not take lion's mane as a preworkout supplement?
While lion's mane is generally considered safe for consumption, there are a few important safety considerations to keep in mind:
Don't take lion's mane preworkout if you're allergic to mushrooms: Some individuals may be allergic to mushrooms or even specific mushroom species. If you have a known allergy to mushrooms, we highly recommend avoiding lion's mane. Always start small and increase your dosage over time.
Don't take lion's mane preworkout if you're on certain medications or have certain conditions: If you're currently taking certain medications or have any underlying medical conditions, it's important to consult with a healthcare professional before incorporating lion's mane into your preworkout routine. Your doctor and pharmacist can help to provide you with personalized guidance based on your specific circumstances and ensure there are no potential interactions.
Talk with your doctor before taking lion's mane preworkout if you're pregnant or breastfeeding: Limited research is available on the safety of lion's mane supplementation during pregnancy and breastfeeding. To be safe, it's recommended to avoid lion's mane supplementation during these periods unless you've gotten the A-OK from your healthcare professional.
What are the best lion's mane preworkout products?
Here at Remeday, it's our goal to help you find the best lion's mane products on the market. With so many crappy companies out there, it can be hard to know which are the most effective.
At Remeday, our trusted products have passed our rigorous requirements for quality, potency, transparency, and 3rd party lab testing. We only ever recommend products we've tried ourselves and would suggest to family and friends.
If you decide to make a purchase after clicking on one of our links, we may receive a small affiliate commission at NO additional cost to you. This small revenue stream helps to keep our site up and running. We appreciate you stopping by and hope you found this article helpful!
1. Real Mushrooms Lion's Mane Powder
Real Mushrooms is the real deal when it comes to potency, quality, extraction, transparency, and 3rd party lab testing. We've used this brand ourselves for years! Simply add a scoop of this powder to your current preworkout supplement for maximum benefit for a fraction of the cost of specialty mushroom preworkouts.
2. FreshCap Lion's Mane Powder
We can't get enough of this Canada-based company. Not only are they hyper-focused on quality - but their sturdy packaging makes it so easy to throw in your gym bag. Their easy-measure scoop makes adding lion's mane to your preworkout supplement or morning coffee a breeze.
3. Life Cykel Lion's Mane Tincture
If potent extracts are more your speed, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better one than Life Cykel. This small company is hyper-focused on quality and potency with their small-batch production capabilities. Not to mention, this tasty tincture is so easy to add to any liquid or take directly under your tongue.
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