Maca root (Lepidium meyenii Walp) is a cruciferous root vegetable prized by the indegenous Andean people as a remedy for stress, improving energy, and enhancing libido in men and women. Popularly known as “Peruvian Ginseng,” Maca is in a class of herbs known as adaptogens, which help the body adapt to physical and mental demands. Maca has become a popular supplement to augment recovery among competitive athletes, particularly endurance athletes.
Many of the studies on Maca have been conducted in Europe and Asia, and there is a growing research interest in the U.S. There is encouraging but not conclusive evidence for using maca to enhance endurance sport performance. One short-term study showed taking a maca supplement for 14 days can improve performance time in highly-trained male cyclists. Both long-term studies and large-scale studies are necessary to understand if the effects are consistent over the course of training cycles and the duration of a competitive season. Also, it needs to be determined if the effects are the same for women and among different age groups.
Scientists don’t yet understand how maca works in the body, but they have attributed the health benefits to the many vitamins (such as B vitamins), minerals (iron, potassium, copper), and the unique plant compounds it contains, including ‘macamides’ and other active metabolites known as glucosinolates, which are of great interest to nutrition scientists.
Maca is available in powder, tincture, and capsule form. To determine if maca can support your athletic endeavors, consult with a holistic physician who is trained in botanical medicine.