Also known as Peruvian ginseng, maca is an edible root vegetable native to Peru. It’s a relative of the radish plant and even looks similar to it.
Historically, maca was fed to stressed and dying horses in extreme weather conditions at high altitudes. Ancient people found that maca helped the horses to survive, adapt and reproduce.
In the context of humans, maca is a nutritionally dense and powerful herb with a host of different benefits, and it’s particularly valuable to bodybuilders. It helps with mood, energy, performance, stamina, fertility, and hormonal balances and it boosts the mood.
Why Is Maca Good For Bodybuilding?
In scientific circles, maca is known as Lepidium Meyenil and it’s a cruciferous vegetable whose power mainly comes from the root. In recent years, nearly every single natural bodybuilding supplement in the world uses maca, and here’s why:
It helps to boost brain function:
Incan descendants refer to maca as “food for the brain” and for good reason. Recent data shows that maca contains a brain lipid known as “anandamide”, which is known as the “bliss molecule.” Its name literally translates from Sanskrit to mean “joy, bliss and delight”.
Anandamide synthesizes in areas of the brain where memory, motivation, superior cognitive processes and movement are controlled. It can help to improve feelings of motivation, improve memory and learning ability.
Maca is rich in nutrients:
Maca is rich in manganese, zinc, copper, niacin, iodine, calcium, vitamin c and multiple B vitamins. Maca also contains macamides and a powerful alkaloid called macaridine.
In fact, 1 teaspoon or 5 grams of maca provides 10% of the RDAs for iron for men and women over the age of 50 years old. The same teaspoon can provide about 20% of your RDA for copper.
Maca is also a quality source of protein which can help to increase energy and endurance. Just two tablespoons a day will give you 8 grams of protein.
Maca may help to boost performance:
The better you feel, the better you perform. Maca’s calming and mood-boosting properties can play a huge role in improving your performance. This is all thanks to the herb’s high amino acid properties, which are known to improve performance, recovery and regrowth.
Maca has also been shown to have an effect on stamina. In one study, 14 days of maca supplementation improved the 40km cycling time of trained male cyclists. In another study, maca improved the swimming endurance capacity of swimmers.
Moreover, maca raises energy in a balanced way. That’s why Peruvians used it in the Andes where oxygen levels are low.
Maca has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, anti-fatigue and anti-viral properties. As such, it helps to promote the production of natural antioxidants that fight oxidative stress, which can lead to cell damage and aging. Maca’s anti-aging properties are the reason why you’ll find it in certain skincare products.
Maca also helps to fight free radicals in the body because it’s packed with potent antioxidants, such as superoxide dismutase and glutathione. The more we kill free radicals in the body, the better our chances to combat diseases like cancer and heart disease.
Maca is an anabolic:
Anabolic means building up muscle. It’s also an adaptogen which means that it has the ability to increase bodybuilding performance and balance testosterone levels. This makes Maca popular among bodybuilders.
It promotes hormonal balance in the body:
The herb has been shown to assist with hormone regulation and hormonal balance. Hormones play a big role in weight gain and weight loss. For some people, this balancing of hormones can lead to an increase in hunger and appetite, thus helping with weight gain. In others, it can have the opposite effect, leading to reduced hunger and appetite, and thus weight loss.
Also, hormones play a big role in blood sugar levels, appetite and fat distribution. If you’re thinking of taking maca to gain weight, just be mindful of the fact that it could have the opposite effects on you. Everybody is different.
The good news is that maca promotes hormonal balance and can help to improve mood. A study done with post-menopausal women showed improvements in anxiety and they didn’t feel as depressed after taking maca powder for 2 to 3 weeks. It can play a huge role in improving your motivation to work out.
Different Types of Maca
There are different varieties of maca available on the market, including black, red and yellow, and each has its own effects and benefits. Studies show that red maca is the most effective at improving mood, while black maca has been shown to have the most energy boosting properties.
In one study that tested all the different maca colors, the black variety was shown to improve sperm motility and sperm count, while red and yellow maca didn’t show the same results. The maca variety you choose ultimately depends on your goal.
What is Gelatinized Maca?
Gelatinized maca is where the starch has been removed to make it more digestible and the nutrients easier to absorb. The gelatinization process makes for a more concentrated product.
It’s important to note that historically, maca was often cooked or boiled. That’s why some people opt for gelatinized maca over raw, but either one works. You can put it in shakes, smoothies, or porridge, or have it straight with water.
How Much Maca Should You Take?
As with anything, it’s important to use caution and common sense when trying out maca for the first time. Some people recommend using maca for two months and taking two weeks off, some people use it for three weeks and take one week off.
Because maca is an adaptogen you might not see the benefits from it for a while. Its effects are gradual. For best results, it always helps to start small with 2 grams to 5 grams and take it from there.
And don’t just settle for any kind of maca. Invest in the best maca powders available on the market so you can get the most out of this wonderful plant.