Maca is a superfood loaded with nutrients and whose adulation by two of my favorite vegan athletes, Brendan Brazier and Rich Roll, and a bit of research, were enough for the vegan husband and I to jump on board with this natural supplement.
A root vegetable related to the mustard family, maca resembles both the turnip and radish. Native to the high Andes of Peru, maca has been used by Peruvians and others from the indigenous Andean societies for thousands of years.
Some of the reported benefits of maca include:
– fights anemia
– reduces chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms
– improves memory
– increases level of energy/athletic performance
– reduces symptoms of depression
– helps regulate female hormones
– helps alleviate menstrual problems
– reduces symptoms of menopause
– reduces/eliminates sugar cravings
– reduces risk of osteoporosis
– improves the immune system
– increases libido
– helps adrenal glands regenerate
In addition, Maca provides numerous minerals, including calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, sulfur, iron, zinc, iodine and copper… vitamins B-1, B-2, C and E… nearly 20 amino acids, including linoleic acid, palmitic acid and oleic acid… as well as various plant sterols, which are natural cholesterol-lowering agents. 
Thought to be an adaptogen, (a change in a plant or animal that makes it better able to adjust to its situation), maca was fed to livestock when the Spanish Conquistadors invaded Peru.
Because the conquerors were accustomed to land at sea levels, the adaptation to elevations in Peru put a physical stress on these warriors and their livestock resulting in a decline in fertility. When fed maca, the livestock eventually adjusted to the severe environmental conditions.
And you know what happened next…ahem, there was an increase in fertility in those woolly wonkers! Not long after, the warriors were fiercely battling one other for a morsel of this wonder food.
Just kidding! There was plenty to go around.
Today, maca is often referred to as “nature’s Viagra”.
For an athlete, an increase in energy levels often results in improved performance. Intense training creates physical stress. Maca helps regulate the hormonal imbalance that occurs when you physically stress the body. Keeping physical stress in balance leads to greater strength and better performance. On days when I want to increase my training times or just go harder than usual, I mix 1 tsp of maca in my water-bottle and begin my recovery as I am working out.
Thus far, maca is considered a safe supplement (it is a vegetable after all). However, because it can raise estrogen levels, it is strongly suggested that woman who are on hormone replacement therapy, those with a family history or who currently have breast cancer should not supplement with this super food.
It has also been associated with an increase in thyroid activity. If you have any issues in that regard, discuss the use of maca with your doctor.
Because there have not been long-term side effect studies, as a precaution, woman who are pregnant or who are breast-feeding should not take maca.
Due to its property as a hormone stimulator, it is suggested that users take periodic breaks from it. For example, two weeks on and a day or two off. Or one month on, one week off.
You may hear that maca has a butterscotch or a nutty taste. I did not find that to be the case. As a matter of fact, it took several doses before my taste buds welcomed this foreign food. But you may be one of the lucky ones and enjoy the taste from the start.
Maca can be mixed in smoothies, cereal, coffee, tea, soup or baked in a variety of dishes. It can be purchased in a liquid extract, capsule, or powdered form. It is thought that a gelatinized form is best because it removes the starch, which is hard to digest, and results in quick assimilation and easy digestibility.
While the vegan husband often sprinkles the gelatinized powder in his cereal, I mix it in my water bottle or a smoothie. We use 1 tsp per day which should be enough for most to derive the benefits of this root vegetable. If you train heavily, up to 1 tablespoon daily is ample to gain great results.
The Green Monster, my favorite smoothie recipe, in honor of the Red Sox!
6 ice cubes
4 – 6 leaves romaine lettuce
1 green apple, roughly cut
1/2 medium-sized cucumber, roughly cut
1 tbsp ginger, minced (good for inflammation)
1 tsp maca powder
1 heaping tbsp hemp seed
1/2 – 1 cup water
In order given, blend in vitamix or high-speed blender.
Beginner smoothie Recipe (for Julie)
6 ice cubes
4-6 leaves of romaine lettuce
2 very ripe bananas, sliced
5-6(+) strawberries, blueberries are a great addition or substitute (1/2 cup, or to your liking)
1 tsp maca powder, optional
1 tbsp hemp seed, optional
1 small handful of cubed cantaloupe, optional (the vegan husband likes this, I do not)
In order given, blend in a vitamix or high-speed blender.
Have you had any experiences with Maca? Please share… keep it clean, wonkers!
1 Stengler, Mark A. NMD. "MACA: The Super Food That Helps With Everything From Fatigue to Sex Drive". Bottomline Publications. Bottom Line Natural Healing. June 2008. Web. 2013.