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Dried maca root is rich in protein and contains essential amino acids, including leucine and isoleucine, which are key amino acids in energy production.
A study on adult men and women living at low altitudes found that consumption of 3g of maca increased energy when compared to placebo. Study participants noted improvements in energy at week 2 and this continued through the end of the trial (week 12). Over 80% of subjects reported increased mood and energy with maca consumption (1).
In addition to energy, maca is traditionally used in Peru to support performance and endurance. Human clinical trials are emerging in this area and more studies need to be conducted. A placebo-controlled pilot investigation studying the effects of maca supplementation on endurance performance in male cyclists found that 2 g maca daily for 14 days significantly improved 40 km cycling time performance compared to baseline.
Another traditional Peruvian use of maca is to support fertility and increase sexual desire. As interest in maca is growing, more research is being done to support its benefits for sexual wellness.
In healthy men, maca has been shown to increase sperm quality parameters. One study on healthy men found that supplementation with 1.75g of maca led to a total sperm count increased by 20%, sperm concentration increased by 14%, motile sperm count increased by 18%, semen volume increased by 9% and normal morphology of sperm increased by 21% (1).
A second study had similar positive findings. The study concluded that supplementation with 1.5-3g of maca lead to increases in sperm concentration by 35%, total sperm count by 84% and sperm motility by 109%. The results were not changed by dosage (2).
Maca has also been studied for its influence on sexual desire. One study looked at the effect of 3g of maca on men and women and found that supplementing with maca increased perception of sexual desire over time from week 1 to week 12. The study found that approximately 50% of participates reported an increase in sexual desire by week 12, at both low and high altitudes (3).
A second study found that overall sexual desire in male cyclists significantly increased with supplementation of 2g of maca daily for 2 weeks when compared to placebo (4).
For post menopausal women, 3.5g of maca per day was effective in reducing psychological symptoms, including anxiety and depression, along with lowering measures of sexual dysfunction associated with menopause (5).
Maca is classified as an adaptogen, and adaptogens can help support the body’s ability to manage stress through various mechanisms (1).
Stress is often described as a state of worry or mental tension caused by a difficult situation. It is a natural human response that occurs when we experience challenges; everyone experiences stress to some degree.
Your body handles stress through a “fight or flight” response. When an acute, or short term, stressor takes place, your brain and body react by releasing adrenaline and cortisol, the primary stress hormone, to help you manage the stressful situation. This is meant to be a short term response and your body returns to normal once the stressor has resolved.
Chronic stress occurs when you feel pressured, or overwhelmed for a long period of time and the stressor does not resolve. Chronic stress can lead to prolonged elevation of cortisol levels (2).
One of the ways that adaptogens help your body better manage stress is by improving your resistance to stress, which leads to stress protection. Instead of exhaustion, your body becomes better adapted to manage stress (3). Maca’s adaptogenic properties come from the rich content of polysaccharides, macamides and macaenes found in this plant (4).