If you polled kratom users to find out what one word best describes kratom to them, chances are you’d get as diverse a group of answers. For some words like life-changing or relieving would come to mind. Personally, my go-to descriptor for Mitragyna speciosa is versatile because it seems to be helpful for so many things and so many different populations.
One group that isn’t as often mentioned, however, are athletes. But yes, kratom is even used as a pre-workout or performance enhancer by some!
Many athletic performance enhancers and supplements are banned for professional athletes. Certain substances like steroids are entirely illegal.
Several other blends or ingredients may be perfectly legal but not quite safe on a long term basis.
Meanwhile, kratom is an all-natural herbal supplement with versatile effects even in the realm of athletic performance and competition.
In this article, we will explore how and why painkillers and opioids have become popular among athletes, bodybuilders, and others seeking to enhance their performance and extend their potential.
We will also show the dangers in that trend. We will offer some anecdotal information shared by fitness experts regarding kratom’s use by athletes and bodybuilders. Finally, we’ll examine some of the research that suggests reasons why kratom might be a better choice.
Kratom Vs Steroids And Painkillers
There have been multiple studies about the use of anabolic steroids as performance enhancers.
Many scientists are concerned with the dangers inherent with the trend in the use of painkillers alongside steroids.
A study by Kanayama et al reported that out of 88 opiate addicts, 25% admitted also taking anabolic steroids, and 29% said they were first introduced to opiates during exercise sessions. Many respondents agreed that their source for the illicit steroids was often the same as their source for the opiates.
Even back in 2015, before the opiate epidemic exploded into the terrifying levels of today, Sports Illustrated investigated the rise in opiate usage among athletes, bodybuilders, and even in college and high school sports.
Many athletes started with a simple sprain or fracture and then found themselves hooked on painkillers.
In some cases, the addiction spiraled, and they found that heroin was a cheaper alternative than pain pills. This, of course, led to tragic, often fatal results.
An author at Mel magazine trialed kratom for three months, referring to it as the “miracle drug for bodybuilders and addicts.” The article also mentions Chris Bell, the man behind A Leaf of Faith kratom documentary as well as Bigger, Stronger, Faster, a documentary related to steroids and bodybuilding culture.
Bell informed the Mel author about kratom at the 2016 Olympia Fitness and Performance Expo.
According to Bell, kratom helped him beat his chronic pain and kick painkillers. Apparently, WWE wrestler Matt Wiese (stage name Luther Reigns) also used kratom to kick pain pills.
Wiese and Bell were also convinced the negative press and campaign by the FDA to ban the plant were related not to inherent danger, but it’s effectiveness.
In addition to folks like Wiese and Bell, Brad Cattell, Jessamyn Duke, Caitlin Clelland, Mike “the Don” Bueno, Allison Warrell, Olivia Renee, and other athletes and fitness models have begun touting the benefits of kratom for fitness, workout routines, and sports.
Anthony Roberts, a fitness journalist and research consultant on Leaf of Fatih, has spoken highly of kratom as an enhancer. “It all depends on what you’re using it for.
I can’t feel the doses Joe Rogan talks about on his podcast, for example. However, two to four grams tossed and washed cause me to feel a mood elevation within the hour. It’s like whey protein.
Nobody is going to see changes with 20 grams of whey protein a day. But take 100 grams a day, and replace 50 to 75 percent of your protein with whey. You’ll see a difference, Roberts says.
Chris Bell even spoke with Olympian Lance Armstrong about kratom describing how it helps with pain. Some get a feeling similar to a “coffee buzz.”
Oliver Bateman, the author at Mel, took about two-gram doses and said he didn’t get much of an effect. Depending on your tolerance level and biochemistry, one to two grams may be sufficient. While depending on the person, even three or four grams may barely have an effect.
When experimenting with kratom or any other supplement though it’s always best to start low and move up if necessary.
In his article on kratom use in athletes, fitness expert Anthony Roberts reports on various anecdotal accounts from users who claim that kratom allows them to train longer and harder. Many people have also claimed it helps them during recovery from intense workouts.
Considering the potential benefits, it’s likely safer and healthier than using aspirin or acetaminophen after a workout.
Roberts also points out that one of the benefits of using kratom is that there isn’t a decrease in performance as it occurs when you use opiates or opioids.
The Mayo Clinic notes some of the dangers of combining opiates and exercise or sports. Breathing issues due to respiratory depression and reduced endurance from slowed heart rate (bradycardia). The potential for osteoporosis and bone fractures, being more likely to have fallen due to balance issues.
Luckily, these issues don’t seem to occur to any great degree with kratom use. Making them a much better choice for most people who want to use kratom as a pre-workout or performance enhancer.
Kratom Performance Enhancement And Science
There are also some studies related to kratom that could point towards it being a great choice in this arena.
Researchers Singh et al. conducted research pertaining to kratom and cognition. It explain why some people claim to have increased focus and cognitive ability while using kratom.
Focus, motivation, and cognition actually play an important role in training and athletics.
In the study, the scientists had 70 kratom users, and 25 other participants in a control group perform some tasks to test their motor skills, learning, memory, attention, and executive functioning.
Users in the kratom group were comparable to the control group. But, in tests involving more than 72.5-74.9mg of mitragynine, there was some drop in performance.
Kratom won’t incapacitate a person in the way that opiates will. It’s best to keep it in the optimal range to maintain optimal performance.
So heavy kratom use could result in very mild alteration that might not be optimal. But, kept in the low to medium range, kratom seems to have no negative effect on memory, motor skills, or learning.
In the Journal of Psychoactive drugs in March 2019, Singh published another study on the long-term effects of kratom on cognition.
Results from that test were that “higher intake of kratom juice (>3 glasses daily) did not appear to impair motor, memory, attention or executive function of regular kratom users.”
A 2019 study out of Thailand noted respondents claiming increased focus, lower anxiety, elevated mood, and other benefits that seem to be on a dose-dependent level. At higher levels, more negative effects like nausea, constipation, or dizziness were more likely to occur.
There have also been studies that suggest the potential for kratom to actually improve locomotor functioning that would definitely have the potential to enhance performance in sports.
In 2018, Singh et al. Also studied kratom’s effect on hormones, most specifically testosterone. They did a longitudinal study lasting two years centered around 19 daily kratom users.
The scientists concluded that blood factors, including testosterone, were unaffected by kratom use. This conclusion was based on the analysis of testosterone levels, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) and other factors.
That said, others have claimed that kratom has some effect on hormones. But, that it is more of an adaptogenic role,which is more likely to balance levels if out of control.
What Kratom Strains To Use For Sports And Bodybuilding
Different types of kratom do different things. This is part of the magic of the plant. It’s diverse varieties, and manifold effects make it applicable to so many different people for so many reasons.
In addition to the main ingredient, mitragynine, which makes up 66% of the total weight by volume, there is 7-hydroxy-mitragynine, which is less prevalent but far more potent. Those two ingredients are far from all that gives kratom its effects.
There are around 70 active ingredients, but not all of them are found in all types of kratom.
Depending on vein color, processing methods, growing conditions, and soil type — kratom may have different effects based on the quantities of the various active compounds.
Kratom’s mood elevation comes from dopamine, which can increase focus and is indelibly tied to motivation and reward feedback cycles.
Many pre-workout formulas rely on dopaminergic substances to give a boost of energy and focus. A good pre-workout kratom is going to likely be a stimulating variety like green or white Maeng Da or other energizing white veins like Thai or Sumatran kratom.