Adaptogenic herb rhodiola may augment endurance exercise performance.
- Boosting endurance capacity. Rhodiola seems to fight fatigue and improve performance during endurance exercise.
Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea) is a shrub-like plant that commonly grows in the high-altitude regions of Europe and Asia. It is recognized as an adaptogen in traditional medicine for its supposed ability to help the body cope with all sorts of physical and mental stress.
Rhodiola is a popular dietary supplement used to ward off various disorders, including insomnia, depression, erectile dysfunction, and chronic fatigue.1 Indeed, rhodiola is believed to have a multitude of health benefits, including:
Countless athletes and fitness enthusiasts—most notably Russian Olympians—use rhodiola as an ergogenic aid with the hopes of boosting stamina and overall performance. Today, it is a particularly popular ingredient of bodybuilding pre-workout formulas.
How Rhodiola Rosea Might Help Pre-Workout Formulas
Regulating the HPA Axis
The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis manages a person’s response to physiological stress. Rhodiola has demonstrated an aptitude to protect the HPA axis from stressors that would otherwise trigger the release of hormones (i.e., cortisol), enzymes, and proteins involved in stress stimulation.2 3 4
Stimulating ATP production in muscle
Rhodiola was found to activate the production or resynthesis of the body’s fuel molecule, adenosine triphosphate (ATP), in the mitochondria of animal skeletal muscles during bouts of exercise, which ultimately bolsters physical working capacity.5
Rhodiola Rosea Pre-Workout Uses & Benefits
Bodybuilders and other workout enthusiasts take rhodiola to reduce both physical and mental fatigue and promote endurance during exercise, as well as improve concentration, mood, and other cognitive parameters. There is some evidence to suggest that rhodiola does indeed help fight fatigue; however, this effect seems to be restricted to aerobic exercise such as long-distance running, cycling, and swimming, rather than the anaerobic workouts undertaken by weight lifters.
Research indicates that rhodiola may enhance workout performance by:
Clinical studies indicate that rhodiola may help improve performance during endurance activity such as cycling and running.
In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial, 24 adults took either a placebo or 200 mg of a rhodiola extract 1 hour before performing a series of exercise tests. The trial consisted of 2 two-day sessions separated by a period of 4 weeks. The rhodiola group displayed a significantly increased time to exhaustion (from 16.8 ± 0.7 min to 17.2 ± 0.8 min) and peak oxygen intake (VO2peak from 50.9 ± 1.8 ml/min/kg to 52.9 ± 2.7 ml/min/kg).
- The researchers concluded that “Acute Rhodiola rosea intake can improve endurance exercise capacity in young healthy volunteers.”10
In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled investigation, 18 adults ingested either a placebo or 3 mg of rhodiola per kg of bodyweight before engaging in a 6-mile timed bicycle trial. The same trial was repeated 2 to 7 days later. Rhodiola significantly decreased heart rate (rhodiola: 136 ± 17; placebo: 140 ± 17 beats/min) and the average rating of perceived exertion (RPE) (rhodiola: 6.0 ± 0.9; placebo: 6.6 ± 1.0). The rhodiola group also completed the timed biking trial significantly faster than the placebo group (rhodiola: 25.4 ± 2.7; placebo: 25.8 ± 3.0 minutes).
- The researchers concluded that “acute R. rosea ingestion decreases heart rate response to submaximal exercise and appears to improve endurance exercise performance by decreasing the perception of effort.”11
In this placebo-controlled investigation, 12 resistance-trained men ingested either a placebo or 1500 mg of rhodiola per day for a 4-day window during which they completed forearm wrist flexion exercises to fatigue. Compared to the placebo, rating of perceived exertion and time to exhaustion were improved, but not to a significant degree.
- The researchers concluded that “R rosea ingestion does not improve ATP turnover during or immediately after exercise.”12
In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled investigation, a group of foreign language students were administered either a placebo or 50 mg of a rhodiola extract, SHR-5®, every day during a 20-day period of stressful examinations. Rhodiola was found to most significantly improve physical fitness and mental fatigue with few adverse side effects.
- The researchers concluded that “the study drug gave significant results compared to the placebo group but the dose level probably was suboptimal.”13
Dosage for Pre-Workout
- Successful clinical research suggests rhodiola doses of 50 – 1500 mg for endurance.
- Rhodiola supplements typically come in 100 – 500 mg doses of root extract.
- Root extract standardized to 3% rosavins and 1% salidroside.
- Herb powder or tea.
Supplements in Review Says
- Rhodiola rosea extract standardized to 3% rosavins and 1% salidroside 100 – 600 mg as a pre-workout.
Rhodiola rosea may help fight fatigue during endurance exercise. We recommend rhodiola as a pre-workout supplement to improve performance during endurance exercise such as running, swimming, or cycling.
The optimal way to take rhodiola seems to be as a standardized root extract. We suggest sticking to 100 – 600 mg of a rhodiola root extract supplement standardized to 3% rosavins and 1% salidrosides.
- Hung SK et al. The effectiveness and efficacy of Rhodiola rosea L.: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials. Phytomedicine. 2011 Feb 15;18(4):235-44. ↩
- Panossian A, et al. Rosenroot (Rhodiola rosea): traditional use, chemical composition, pharmacology and clinical efficacy. Phytomedicine. 2010 Jun;17(7):481-93. ↩
- Wang Q, et al. Salidroside protects the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonad axis of male rats undergoing negative psychological stress in experimental navigation and intensive exercise.Zhonghua Nan Ke Xue. 2009 Apr;15(4):331-6. ↩
- Schriner SE, et al. Protection of human cultured cells against oxidative stress by Rhodiola rosea without activation of antioxidant defenses. Free Radic Biol Med. 2009 Sep 1;47(5):577-84. ↩
- Abidov M, et al. Effect of extracts from Rhodiola rosea and Rhodiola crenulata (Crassulaceae) roots on ATP content in mitochondria of skeletal muscles. Bull Exp Biol Med. 2003 Dec;136(6):585-7. ↩
- Zhang ZJ, et al. Dietary supplement with a combination of Rhodiola crenulata and Ginkgo biloba enhances the endurance performance in healthy volunteers. Chin J Integr Med. 2009 Jun;15(3):177-83. ↩
- Kang DZ, et al. Anti-Fatigue Effects of Fermented Rhodiola rosea Extract in Mice. Prev Nutr Food Sci. 2015 Mar;20(1):38–42. ↩
- Lee FT, et al. Chronic Rhodiola rosea extract supplementation enforces exhaustive swimming tolerance. Am J Chin Med. 2009;37(3):557-72. ↩
- Huang SC, et al. Attenuation of long-term Rhodiola rosea supplementation on exhaustive swimming-evoked oxidative stress in the rat. Chin J Physiol. 2009 Oct 31;52(5):316-24. ↩
- De Bock K, et al. Acute Rhodiola rosea intake can improve endurance exercise performance. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2004 Jun;14(3):298-307. ↩
- Noreen EE, et al. The effects of an acute dose of Rhodiola rosea on endurance exercise performance. J Strength Cond Res. 2013 Mar;27(3):839-47. ↩
- Walker TB, et al. Failure of Rhodiola rosea to alter skeletal muscle phosphate kinetics in trained men. Metabolism. 2007 Aug;56(8):1111-7. ↩
- Spasov AA, et al. A double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study of the stimulating and adaptogenic effect of Rhodiola rosea SHR-5 extract on the fatigue of students caused by stress during an examination period with a repeated low-dose regimen. Phytomedicine. 2000 Apr;7(2):85-9. ↩