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The Performance Benefits of <i>Rhodiola Rosea</i>

The Performance Benefits of Rhodiola Rosea

In this article, we take a look at the performance benefits of the popular adaptogen ingredient Rhodiola rosea.

By Dr. Adam M. Gonzalez
SHIFTED’s Chief Scientific Officer

Key Points:

  • Rhodiola rosea helps your body adapt to physical and psychological stress by strengthening your response. 
  • Rhodiola rosea can increase energy, strength, power, and mental capacity, all while reducing fatigue and managing symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • Several studies support the use of Rhodiola rosea for improving endurance exercise, strength exercise, and mental health. 
  • Rhodiola is a great addition to a pre workout/energy supplement as it works synergistically with caffeine to boost performance. 

  • What is Rhodiola rosea?

    Rhodiola rosea is a plant that grows in Arctic regions of Europe and Asia.  It also goes by other names including “golden root extract” and “arctic root”.  Supplementing with this ingredient helps your body adapt to physical and psychological stress by strengthening your response.

    There is evidence to suggest that supplementing with Rhodiola rosea can increase energy, strength, power, and mental capacity, all while reducing fatigue and managing symptoms of depression and anxiety.

    Rhodiola rosea has a long history of being used for medicinal purposes to help treat anxiety, fatigue, and depression, as well as promote general well-being.  Since it is a unique and relatively rare plant, it is often found as a dietary supplement in the form of an extract. 

    How does Rhodiola rosea work?

    Rhodiola rosea is classified as an adaptogen – a substance that help the body manage stress and restore balance, especially during stress.  Generally, adaptogens promote resistance to stress. 

    Other common adaptogens include panax ginseng, ashwagandha, astragalus root, and cordyceps, but Rhodiola rosea is rapidly becoming the most researched and beneficial of the bunch. 

    Over 100 bioactive compounds have been identified in Rhodiola rosea, but the most important ones for inducing the anti-stress and anti-fatigue effects seem to be salidroside and rosavin (9).  For this reason, Rhodiola rosea is often standardized to attain a specific concentration of these two.

    Rhodiola rosea can exert benefits on cognitive and physical performance through several potential mechanisms. These include its role as an antioxidant, decreased muscle fatigue, decreased muscle damage, favorably altered energy metabolism, and increased arousal and vigor.

    Rhodiola rosea for the endurance athlete

    Several studies have investigated the effects of Rhodiola rosea on endurance exercise performance.  While the results are somewhat mixed due to differences in research design, exercise tests, dosing protocols, and participant training status, it is clearly trending towards Rhodiola rosea being beneficial for the endurance athlete. 

    A 200 mg dose of Rhodiola rosea taken 60 minutes prior to exercise has shown to increase cycling time-to-exhaustion (7).  Similarly, another study reported improvements in cycling power and time-to-exhaustion (despite not reaching statistical significance for time-to-exhaustion) following chronic Rhodiola rosea supplementation (600 mg per day for 27 days) and an extra 200 mg 90 minutes prior to exercise (10).

    In a study on females, supplementing with ~170 mg Rhodiola rosea allowed participants to complete a 6-mile cycling test in less time (12). There is also some evidence that Rhodiola rosea lowers heart rate and can decrease mental fatigue during training which would indicate the body is working more efficiently (12, 15).  Other studies, on the other hand, have failed to show benefits during endurance-based exercise with the use of Rhodiola rosea (1, 13, 14).

    Rhodiola rosea for the strength athlete

    Because of the promising findings from endurance exercise testing, researchers have recently started investigating the effect of Rhodiola rosea on strength and power performance.  These results have been just as promising. 

    One study investigated the effect of a high dose of Rhodiola rosea – 1500 mg per day for 3 days and an extra 500 mg 30 minutes prior to an exercise test consisting of three 15-second all-out cycling sprints separated by 2 minutes of active recovery.  During the supplement trial, the female participants increased several performance variables including average power, anaerobic capacity, anaerobic power, and peak power (3). 

    Following the same dosing regimen, another study found that Rhodiola rosea increased male participants’ bar speed during an “explosive” max-effort set of 2 repetitions at 75% 1-repetition maximum (1RM).  However, the number of repetitions performed during the subsequent test consisting of 3 sets of repetitions-to-failure at 75% 1RM were decreased during the supplement trial. The difference, however, was small (~2 repetitions) and probably not all that practically meaningful. 

    Another exceptionally high-dose study found that supplementing with 2400 mg of Rhodiola rosea per day for 30 days increased 1RM strength in the bench press and the squat exercises and increased maximum voluntary isometric contraction in the knee extension. Plus, contrary to the previous findings, this study found that Rhodiola rosea increased bench press repetitions-to-failure (11). 

    Overall, the findings are very positive for the strength athlete, and it remains unknown if such a high dose is needed to reap these benefits.  More dosing studies are needed to clarify the optimal dose recommendation. 

    Boost mood, cognition, and mental performance with Rhodiola rosea

    Rhodiola rosea can lower perceived effort during a stressor such as work or training (8).  That is, the workout doesn’t feel as hard, despite performance being maintained. 

    Along with exercise performance enhancement, Rhodiola rosea can also alleviate stress, enhance mood, and improve mental performance (2, 9). 

    Encouraging results have been reported regarding the use of Rhodiola rosea in treating mild-to-moderate depression and generalized anxiety (4-6). By blunting the response to physiological stress, Rhodiola rosea can favorably impact anxiety and mood. 

    Lastly, Rhodiola rosea has also shown to reduce mental fatigue and enhance reaction time (10, 15).

    Rhodiola rosea: The bottom line

    The evidence supporting the use of Rhodiola rosea continues to grow, making it a popular adaptogen supplement.  Rhodiola rosea is also a great addition to a pre workout supplement as one study has demonstrated a synergistic effect of Rhodiola rosea and caffeine on muscular strength and endurance performance (11).

    Shifted Pre workout and Energy supplements contain a safe and effective dose of Rhodiola rosea extract with some of the highest doses on the market per serving.

    Click here to buy SHIFTED Maximum Pre Workout – our innovative, state of the art pre workout formula based on the latest in supplement science.

    Looking for an energy boost? SHIFTED has crafted the ideal energy drink to fuel you in the gym, the office, or anywhere you might need that extra kick – Click here to buy SHIFTED Energy.

    About the Author

    Adam M. Gonzalez is an associate professor in the Department of Allied Health and Kinesiology at Hofstra University.  He earned a Ph.D. in Exercise Physiology from the University of Central Florida in 2015 and holds certifications as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), along with a Certified Sports Nutritionist Certification (CISSN). 

    His primary research interests include exercise and nutritional strategies to optimize body composition, maximize health, and enhance adaptations to exercise.  He was also awarded the 2022 Nutritional Research Achievement Award by the National Strength and Conditioning Association.



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    1. Anghelescu, I-G,Edwards D,Seifritz E, and Kasper S. Stress management and the role of Rhodiola rosea: a review. International journal of psychiatry in clinical practice 22: 242-252, 2018.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29325481/
    1. Ballmann, CG,Maze SB,Wells AC,Marshall MR, and Rogers RR. Effects of short-term Rhodiola Rosea (Golden Root Extract) supplementation on anaerobic exercise performance. Journal of Sports Sciences 37: 998-1003, 2019.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30371146/
    1. Bystritsky, A,Kerwin L, and Feusner JD. A pilot study of Rhodiola rosea (Rhodax®) for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 14: 175-180, 2008.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18307390/
    1. Cropley, M,Banks AP, and Boyle J. The effects of Rhodiola rosea L. extract on anxiety, stress, cognition and other mood symptoms. Phytotherapy research 29: 1934-1939, 2015. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26502953/
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    1. De Bock, K,Eijnde BO,Ramaekers M, and Hespel P. Acute Rhodiola rosea intake can improve endurance exercise performance. International journal of sport nutrition & exercise metabolism 14: 2004. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15256690/
    1. Duncan, MJ, and Clarke ND. The effect of acute Rhodiola rosea ingestion on exercise heart rate, substrate utilisation, mood state, and perceptions of exertion, arousal, and pleasure/displeasure in active men. Journal of Sports Medicine 2014: 2014. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26464892/
    1. Ivanova Stojcheva, E, and Quintela JC. The effectiveness of rhodiola rosea L. Preparations in alleviating various aspects of life-stress symptoms and stress-induced conditions—encouraging clinical evidence. Molecules 27: 3902, 2022. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35745023/
    1. Jówko, E,Sadowski J,Długołęcka B,Gierczuk D,Opaszowski B, and Cieśliński I. Effects of Rhodiola rosea supplementation on mental performance, physical capacity, and oxidative stress biomarkers in healthy men. Journal of sport and health science 7: 473-480, 2018. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30450257/
    1. Liu, C,Zhao H,Yan Y,Yang W,Chen S,Song G,Li X,Gu Y,Yun H, and Li Y. Synergistic Effect of Rhodiola rosea and Caffeine Supplementation on the Improvement of Muscle Strength and Muscular Endurance: A Pilot Study for Rats, Resistance Exercise-Untrained and-Trained Volunteers. Nutrients 15: 582, 2023. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36771289/
    1. Noreen, EE,Buckley JG,Lewis SL,Brandauer J, and Stuempfle KJ. The effects of an acute dose of Rhodiola rosea on endurance exercise performance. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 27: 839-847, 2013. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23443221/ 
    1. Shanely, RA,Nieman DC,Zwetsloot KA,Knab AM,Imagita H,Luo B,Davis B, and Zubeldia JM. Evaluation of Rhodiola rosea supplementation on skeletal muscle damage and inflammation in runners following a competitive marathon. Brain, behavior, and immunity 39: 204-210, 2014. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24055627/
    1. Skarpanska-Stejnborn, A,Pilaczynska-Szczesniak L,Basta P, and Deskur-Smielecka E. The influence of supplementation with Rhodiola rosea L. extract on selected redox parameters in professional rowers. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism 19: 186-199, 2009. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19478343/
    1. Spasov, A,Wikman G,Mandrikov V,Mironova I, and Neumoin V. 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 7: 85-89, 2000. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10839209/
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