Kava in sport: How using this pacific island drink may enhance your athletic performance

Picture of Kavahana

Photo by Dave Adamson on Unsplash

Calling all Athletes!

If you’re into sports of even just trying to stay active, you’re likely always looking for ways to help support your health and performance. Electrolyte drinks and other supplements can both help your body recover and support your energy. Many athletes prefer natural approaches to recovery as they tend to have fewer side effects, and kava is emerging as such a plant.

Kava is a plant that grows in the pacific islands. Its root has been used for centuries in traditional ceremonies and medicinally to treat different types of health conditions. It’s also used socially to build connection and camaraderie between communities and friends. It’s most well known for its relaxing and calming effects, sometimes even giving drinkers feelings of euphoria. Kava in sport, however, is a newer idea.

How it works

Kava’s calming properties are what may make it helpful for athletes. After a workout, especially a more strenuous one, your muscles need time to repair. The muscle fibers can only regenerate when you’re resting. It appears that kava’s relaxing effects on your muscles may make it easier for you to stretch-out and relax after a workout, leading to a better recovery.

Sleep is also a critical part of the recovery process. Kava’s active ingredients, called kavalactones, can help put us into a relaxing state to promote sleep. Certain types of kava are even taken at night due to their sedating properties. Getting solid sleep is essential for not only our physical wellbeing, but our mental well being too.

Kava in the NFL

There have even been reports of NFL players using kava after games. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was in the locker room in 2014 to find a group of players hanging out and sharing bowls of kava. He said that the bond he saw between these players was something different than he’d seen before. They were connecting on a deeper level.

A former player, Matt Masifilo, has even used it for pain when he tore the MCL in his knee when playing at Stanford. He was prescribed Vicodin, a potent opioid pain killer, but he wanted a different option. With his family being from Tonga, he had grown up with kava. That is what he used to get through the recovery of his injury. It not only helped with pain, but also helped with swelling. After seeing the benefits of kava in sport, he started to grow it on his own to get kava to NFL players and others who wanted a natural pain option. As a high contact sport, with high risk for injury, football is a perfect candidate for using kava instead of traditional painkillers.

Final thoughts

While kava in sport is a new area, there is increasing research exploring the benefits of kava on human physiology. This is an exciting new use for kava and if you are an athlete or someone who regularly works out may be a good nutritional tool to add to your routine.

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Kava in sport: How using this pacific island drink may enhance your athletic performance


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