Maca puts a new meaning behind the benefits of root veggies; this root from Peru is commonly referred to as a superfood, but due to its benefits, it’s much more useful than just making trendy recipes. Maca’s delicious caramel-like flavor mixes well with cacao, gojis and other superfoods in smoothies, energy bars, and even good old porridge! It’s normally known for its libido-boosting benefits, but maca can also enhance athletic performance and boost mental function. Maca is an adaptogen, which is a group of plants that come with balancing properties that either boost energy or relieve stress, depending on what the body needs. While certain doses of adaptogens may work differently for some than others, all athletes may want to consider experimenting with maca to see if they can benefit from its wide variety of benefits.
Maca comes in both gelantanized (minimally heated) and raw forms. Gelatanized is often easier to digest since the process removes some of the starch while still retaining beneficial nutrients. It tastes a little more nutty, while raw maca seems to taste a bit more mild and perhaps even a little sweeter. There are also different varieties of maca root, ranging from red to yellow and even black maca. You only need to take up to a tablespoon at most a day. While no serious risks have been found with high doses, they just aren’t necessary. Most people find that as little as a teaspoon a day is effective enough to meet their needs and/or desires, though active individuals may choose to choose up to a tablespoon. Remember, since superfoods are a condensed source of nutrients, a little goes a long way.
Check out how maca can help pre and post workout …
It’s Packed With Aminos
Maca contains 18 of the 20 amino acids needed in the human body. Though not a complete source of protein, it’s pretty close for a root vegetable! Amino acids not only improve performance, but also muscle recovery and regrowth. Maca also contains natural properties that boost metabolic function, primarily one of those being the way these amino acids promote thermogenesis of the cells.
Improves Thyroid Function
Maca is also helpful for balancing the thyroid and even improving overall thyroid function. Your thyroid works in conjuction with the rest of the hormone systems in the body, therefore due to maca’s overall beneficial effects on hormones, your thyroid naturally benefits too. Taking care of your thyroid is important for your athletic performance since it can affect both your workouts and your recovery afterwards. Other good foods for the thyroid include Brazil nuts, almonds, hemp seeds, sweet potatoes, coconut, romaine lettuce, herbs and most fruits and vegetables.
Testosterone is the hormone associated with producing muscle mass, relieving pain, and even boosting metabolism. It also helps the body naturally produce human growth hormone, linked to reduced aging effects and maintaining muscle mass. Maca helps not only reduce excess estrogen, but also boosts testosterone to improve energy and the libido, which it’s infamously known for (Goji berries do this too!). Excess estrogen levels often increase to unhealthy levels due to environmental factors, life changes, a poor diet and stress. They can also cause moodiness, irritability, consistent fatigue, and may affect your weight and how quickly you recover from a workout.
How many athletes do you know that have taken pre-workout stimulants, or maybe you have (or still do)? These stimulants may seem safe, may work short-term, and may even help you achieve the physical look you’re going for, but their overall affects are yet to be known. Many have risks for damaging your liver, some have been found to cause heart attacks and stroke, and many may actually weaken your metabolism or become dependent. Remember, in order to take care of your metabolism, boost performance and improve muscle synthesis, you need to avoid stimulants that only tear down the body and contribute to inflammation. Maca root is not only alkaline-forming to prevent inflammation, it’s also free of stimulants and 100 percent natural.
Improves Your Sleep
Believe it or not, as much as maca might help boost your energy before a workout, it can also help you rest both physically and mentally after a workout. Maca does not make you sleepy, but instead it naturally lowers physical and emotional stress in the body that can prevent you from resting. Try this: Take a teaspoon of maca before your workout and have one shortly after. It’s great to use if you workout at night and have a hard time recovering enough to sleep, or if you just have an anxious mind that prevents you from being able to rest. Rest is important for athletes to perform and recover, not to mention overall health.
Protects Your Adrenal Glands
Your adrenal glands are incredibly important when it comes to taking care of your health and optimizing your energy. When the body is constantly stressed, the adrenals are forced to produce cortisol in higher amounts and more often than they should. This stress hormone can be beneficial right before and during a workout when we need energy, but our body isn’t meant to produce it when we’re resting or not in a state of physical stress. Many people with high stress levels or that are incredibly active struggle with adrenal fatigue, which makes maca beneficial for helping lower cortisol naturally. This will in turn optimize adrenal function to help the body heal on all levels much more quickly.
Due to these overall benefits, you can easily see why maca is so great for athletes. But even if you’re not a hard core runner or bodybuilder, the average person can still benefit from maca due to all these amazing aspects it holds. If the somewhat high price of this superfood seems a little steep, be sure you know where to buy maca (online is best) since store products often come at 10-15 percent higher costs. It’s also important to buy from trusted brands that are organic and non-GMO. Maca will generally last a couple months in your pantry if you use 2 teaspoons a day, making it just pennies per day to use.
Try out some of our maca recipes and let us know if you use this superfood too!
Lead Image Source: Heather McClees