Venerable root herb ginseng may heighten mental performance and fatigue resistance during gym training.
From as far back as ancient China all the way to the modern day, the versatile ginseng herb has been used as a remedy in more or less every form of medical practice. The asian ginseng, Panax ginseng, in particular, may be especially useful for exercise, with such potential pre-workout benefits as:
- Sustaining physical performance. Asian ginseng may moderately increase exercise strength, endurance, and energy.
- Enhancing mental performance. Taking the herb may boost cognitive processes and audio-visual reflexes.
- Improving cardiovascular conditions. Ginseng seems to boost overall cardiac function.
For thousands of years, ginseng, Panax ginseng to be specific, has been recognized as a valuable source of restoration. The bittersweet herb was first taken in traditional Chinese medicine in order to fortify both physical vigor and mental aptitude, especially for the elderly.1
It has a seemingly endless assembly of alleged uses in health and nutrition, some of which include increasing blood circulation, strengthening the immune system, improving vitality, and equally importantly, endowing its users with tranquility and clarity of mind.2 While ginseng has customarily been consumed in times of sickness, research in recent years has shed light on its potential in promoting overall exercise performance.
On the list of purported advantages are increases in strength, boosts in physical performance, fatigue resistance, memory enhancements, and improvements in mental acuity.3 The combined collective of mental and physical benefits may have adaptogenic implications. All in all, the outlook appears to favor ginseng as a suitable pre workout supplement on multiple fronts.4
How Ginseng May Help Pre Workout Formulas
Enhancing Mental Acuity
Ginseng’s positive impact on the mind has been demonstrated on numerous occasions and on a variety of fronts.6 Doses of ginseng before memory tests, cognitive demand tasks, and arithmetic exams seems to consistently lead to improved scores. It seems ginseng may improve cognitive performance and focus during sustained mental activity all the while mitigating mental fatigue.7
Stimulating Cardiac Function
Ginseng supplementation reportedly enhanced coronary blood flow through ameliorating arterial stiffness all the while stimulating the cultivation of new blood vessels. In addition, the herb shows restorative promise in people with coronary heart complications.8
Facilitating Exercise Recovery
Enhanced recuperation appears to be the name of the game with reduced muscle damage and inflammation, as well as limited lactic acid production at the end of workouts.12
Fortifying Fatigue Resistance
Taking ginseng before exercising not only facilitated post-workout recovery, but also reduced fatigue.13 Fatigue additionally seemed to be minimized in people with various medical conditions who took ginseng.14
Boosting Testosterone Levels
Ginseng additionally holds serious potential as a natural fitness and bodybuilding supplement due to its capacity to boost T-levels.
For starters, the ginsenosides found in ginseng root increase nitric oxide (NO) production by stimulating nitric oxide synthase (NOS) activity, which results in higher blood flow throughout the body.16 Elevated overall blood flow, in turn, enhances the quality and duration of erections, which has positive implications for testosterone production.
In conjunction with the elevation in NO synthesis, ginseng root extracts also surge blood T-levels.17 Heightening blood flow and T-levels are prime characteristics of high caliber PWO supplements geared toward nearly every type of sport and exercise.
A particular clinical trial discovered that the steroidal saponins widely available in ginseng capable of increasing not only T-levels, but also those of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), luteinizing hormone (LH), and various androgens in both healthy and severely hypogonadal men.18 Lastly, it would be unjust to leave out the snippet that the herbal gem furthermore improves sperm parameters.
Ginseng PWO Benefits & Uses
Quite disappointingly, research suggests that physical performance enhancement is, at best, moderate. Although a number of select studies have demonstrated ginseng’s promise in improving workouts, one systematic review highlights its frequent inability to significantly impact exercise performance.
- Speedy recovery and fatigue reduction, then, appear to be the most reliable muscle-related advantages of taking ginseng.
The good news is that mental performance seems to be considerably enhanced through ginseng supplementation. An assortment of impressive cerebroelectrical effects may aid mentally demanding workouts19:
- Activating sympathetic nervous system20
- Improving cognitive performance21
- Increasing dopamine, adrenaline, serotonin, and cAMP levels22
- Augmenting cerebral blood flow
Subsequently, the likely nootropic effects of ginseng may farther boost reflexes and general awareness while simultaneously heightening activity and memory.
Research indicates that ginseng has a wide-range of potential pre workout benefits:
- Neurological & cognitive boosts. A variety of animals given ginseng extract have displayed CNS-stimulating effects.23
- Improved cardiac blood flow. Improved blood flow in the heart as well as limited infarction size were reported in rats.24
- Anti-fatigue effects. In rats, ginseng ginsenosides elevated the total amount of time rats were able to swim.25
- Modest endurance assistance. Ginseng mildly improved exercise performance in rats undergoing high intensity endurance training.26
Studies indicate that ginseng may be a potent pre workout supplement for its ability to boost cognitive processes, including memory and reflexes. Another critical workout benefit appears to be the cardiologic and vascular improvements ginseng offers. Research is conflicting in regards to physical performance: moderate strength and endurance improvements have been noted in certain situations but not in others.
In this randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind investigation, cross-over designed investigation, 20 young adults were given 400 mg of ginseng with a 4% ginsenoside content and asked to complete a Cognitive Drug Research (CDR) test and two serial subtraction mental arithmetic tasks. Significant cognitive and self-rate mood improvements were recorded.
- The study concluded that ginseng “improved secondary memory performance on the CDR” as well as “improvement in the speed of performing memory tasks and in the accuracy of attentional tasks.”27
Ginseng at 200 mg – 400 mg (4% ginsenoside) may reduce blood glucose and increase cognitive function
In this placebo-controlled, double-blind, cross-over design investigation, 27 adults consumed 200 mg or 400 mg ginseng capsules with 4% ginsenoside 60 minutes before completing 6 cognitive demand tests. Ginseng enhanced performance of the mental arithmetic task and subjectively diminished mental fatigue during later stages of the cognitive demand task. In addition blood glucose was reduced 7-12%.
- The study concluded that “Panax ginseng may possess glucoregulatory properties and can enhance cognitive performance.”28
In this placebo-controlled, double-blind crossover investigation, 30 adults were given 200 mg or 400 mg of ginseng before taking cognition and mood tests. The 200 mg dose failed to improve scores, but at 400 mg, ginseng improved mental arithmetic task scores at the end of the 2-week study. Both doses improved overall calmness.
- The study concluded that “400 mg dose improved calmness (restricted 2.5 and 4 h on day 1) and improved mental arithmetic across days 1 and 8.”29
In this placebo-controlled, double-blind investigation, 18 male college students ingested 20 g of red ginseng, mixed with 200 mL of water, thrice daily prior to completing an uphill treadmill exercise test. Plasma creatine kinase (CK) activity and interleukin-6 (IL-6) levels were significantly lower in ginseng takers after the treadmill test. Also, insulin sensitivity increased, which decreased plasma glucose levels.
- The study concluded that “RG supplementation could reduce exercise-induced muscle damage and inflammatory responses, resulting in improvements in insulin sensitivity.”30
In this acute randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind crossover investigation, 17 healthy adults were given 3 grams of Korean red ginseng (KRG). Compared to the placebo, ginseng users had a 4% reduction in augmentation index (AI), which indicates an improvement in arterial stiffness.
- The study concluded that “KRG may improve arterial stiffness as measured by AI,” and that “ginsenosides may be the principal pharmacologically active component of the root.”31
In this placebo-controlled, double-blind investigation, 9 heat-adapted male recreational runners were asked to run in a heated environment one hour after taking 200 mg of Panax ginseng. Unfortunately, the endurance running times, heart rates, oxygen uptakes, and body temperatures of runners who used took ginseng did not significantly differ from those of the placebo. However, lactate production was reduced 60 minutes after the exercise began.
- The study concluded that “acute supplementation of 200 mg of PG did not affect the endurance running performance of the heat-adapted male recreational runners in the heat.”32
In this double-blind investigation, 50 adults who previously underwent a myocardial infarction (MI) were given 3 grams of ginseng daily after coronary stenting. Coronary flow reserve (CFR) improved as well as circulating levels of angiogenic cells, such as CD34(+), CXCR4(+), and CD117(+).
- The study concluded that “red ginseng extract increased CD34(+) , CXCR4(+) and CD117(+) circulating angiogenic cell mobilization and decreased inflammation in AMI patients, thereby improving CFR”33
Dosage for Pre-Workout
You can buy Ginseng in a few different supplement and dietary forms:
- A root extract product, 200 – 600 mg daily, 4 – 7 % ginsenosides
- A raw herb or dried root, some forms organic, 1 – 2 g
- Isolated ginsenosides, 20-30 mg
- Tea & drinks, either 1.5 g of dried root or 3 g of fresh root
- Adaptogen, 15% ginseng medium fermented with Lactobacillus paracasei A221
The multi-faceted herb is taken in various other forms for everyday purposes when combined with other compounds, including as a natural drink, candy, and paste, to mention a few.
Supplements in Review Says
- Ginseng root extract, 200 – 600 mg
Ginseng has passed the test of time. We recommended ginseng as a pre workout supplement not only for its potential to enhance cognitive performance, improve cardiac blood flow, and serve as a stim-free energizer, but also for the additional overarching health benefits it may support.
Try ginseng as a standardized 200 – 600 mg root powder capsule, taken before your gym training sessions, for pre workout benefits. While there are a variety of ginseng preparations, we recommended going with a standardized root extract pill at 200 – 600 mg once a day in cases of pre-workout purposes for reasons of consistency, safety, and efficacy.
- Goldstein B. Ginseng: its history, dispersion, and folk tradition. Am J Chin Med. 1975;3(3):223-34. ↩
- Jia L, et al. Current evaluation of the millennium phytomedicine- ginseng (II): Collected chemical entities, modern pharmacology, and clinical applications emanated from traditional Chinese medicine. Curr Med Chem. 2009;16(22):2924-42. ↩
- Kim S, et al. Effects of Panax ginseng extract on exercise-induced oxidative stress. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2005;45(2):178-82. ↩
- Panax ginseng. J Soc Integr Oncol 2010;8(1):31-32. ↩
- Chen JK, Chen TT. Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology. City of Industry, CA: Art of Medicine; 2001 ↩
- Chu S, et al. New achievements in ginseng research and its future prospects. Chin J Integr. Med 2009;15(6):403-408. ↩
- Reay JL, et al. Single doses of Panax ginseng (G115) reduce blood glucose levels and improve cognitive performance during sustained mental activity. J Psychopharmacol. 2005 Jul;19(4):357-65. ↩
- Lee NH, Son CG. Systematic review of randomized controlled trials evaluating the efficacy and safety of ginseng. J Acupunct Meridian Stud. 2011 Jun;4(2):85-97. ↩
- Kulaputana O, et al. Ginseng supplementation does not change lactate threshold and physical performances in physically active Thai men. J Med Assoc Thai. 2007 Jun;90(6):1172-9. ↩
- Engels HJ, et al. Effects of ginseng supplementation on supramaximal exercise performance and short-term recovery. J Strength Cond Res. 2001 Aug;15(3):290-5. ↩
- Allen JD, et al. Ginseng supplementation does not enhance healthy young adults’ peak aerobic exercise performance. J Am Coll Nutr. 1998 Oct;17(5):462-6. ↩
- Engels HJ, et al. Effects of ginseng on secretory IgA, performance, and recovery from interval exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2003 Apr;35(4):690-6. ↩
- Kim S, et al. Anti-Fatigue Effects of Acute Red Ginseng Intake in Recovery from Repetitive Anaerobic Exercise. Iran J Public Health. 2016 Mar;45(3):387-9. ↩
- Elam JL, et al. Methodological issues in the investigation of ginseng as an intervention for fatigue. Clin Nurse Spec. 2006 Jul-Aug;20(4):183-9. ↩
- Ellis JM, Reddy P. Effects of Panax ginseng on quality of life. Ann Pharmacother. 2002 Mar;36(3):375-9. ↩
- Scott GI, et al. Ginsenosides Rb1 and Re decrease cardiac contraction in adult rat ventricular myocytes: role of nitric oxide. Br J Pharmacol. 2001 Nov; 134(6): 1159-65. ↩
- Fahim MS, et al. Effect of Panax Ginseng on Testosterone Level and Prostate in Male Rats. Journal of Reproductive Systems. 2009 Jul 9;8(4):261-3. ↩
- Salvati G, et al. Effects of Panax Ginseng C.A. Meyer saponins on male fertility. Panminerva Medicina. 1996, 38(4):249-54. ↩
- Kennedy DO, et al. Electroencephalograph effects of single doses of Ginkgo biloba and Panax ginseng in healthy young volunteers. Pharmacol Biochem. 2003 Jun;75(3):701-9. ↩
- Yook T, et al. Comparing the effects of distilled Rehmannia glutinosa, Wild Ginseng and Astragali Radix pharmacopuncture with heart rate variability (HRV): a randomized, sham-controlled and double-blind clinical trial. J Acupunc Meridian Stud. 2009 Sep;2(3):239-47. ↩
- Scholey AB, Kennedy DO. Acute, dose-dependent cognitive effects of Ginkgo biloba, Panax ginseng and their combination in healthy young volunteers: differential interactions with cognitive demand. Hum Psychopharmacol. 2002 Jan;17(1):35-44. ↩
- Itoh T, et al. Effects of Panax ginseng root on the vertical and horizontal motor activities and on brain monoamine-related substances in mice. Planta Med. 1989 Oct;55(5):429-33. ↩
- Zhao H, et al. Long-term ginsenoside administration prevents memory impairment in aged C57BL/6J mice by up-regulating the synaptic plasticity-related proteins in hippocampus. Behav Brain Res. 2009 Aug 12;201(2):311-7. ↩
- Arbuzov AG, et al. Phytoadaptogens-induced phenomenon similar to ischemic preconditioning. Ross Fiziol Zh Im I M Sechenova. 2009 Apr;95(4):398-404. ↩
- Zhao W, et al. Experimental study for the anti-fatigue effect of ginseng general ginsenosides P.E. in vivo. Wei Sheng Yan Jiu. 2009 Mar;38(2):184-7. ↩
- Zhang CL. Effect of Panax japonicus on anti-oxidation of myocardial mitochondria of rats with high-intensity and endurance training. Zhongguo Ying Yong Sheng Li Xue Za Zhi. 2010 May;26(2):205-6, 248. ↩
- Kennedy DO, et al. Modulation of cognition and mood following administration of single doses of Ginkgo biloba, ginseng, and a ginkgo/ginseng combination to healthy young adults. Physiol Behav. 2002 Apr 15;75(5):739-51. ↩
- Reay JL, et al. Effects of Panax ginseng, consumed with and without glucose, on blood glucose levels and cognitive performance during sustained ‘mentally demanding’ tasks. J Psychopharmacol. 2006 Nov;20(6):771-81. ↩
- Reay JL, et al. Panax ginseng (G115) improves aspects of working memory performance and subjective ratings of calmness in healthy young adults. Human Psychopharmacol. 2010 Aug;25(6):462-71. ↩
- Jung HL, et al. Effects of Panax ginseng supplementation on muscle damage and inflammation after uphill treadmill running in humans. Am J Chin Med. 2011;39(3):441-50. ↩
- Jovanovski E, et al. Effects of Korean red ginseng (Panax ginseng C.A. Mayer) and its isolated ginsenosides and polysaccharides on arterial stiffness in healthy individuals. Am J Hyperten. 2010 May;23(5):469-72. ↩
- Ping FW, et al. Effects of acute supplementation of Panax ginseng on endurance running in a hot & humid environment. Indian J Med Res. 2011 Jan; 133:96-102. ↩
- Ahn CM, et al. Red ginseng extract improves coronary flow reserve and increases absolute numbers of various circulating angiogenic cells in patients with first ST-segment elevation acute myocardial infarction. Phytother Res. 2011 Feb;25(2):239-49. ↩