How Maca Root Can Benefit Runners

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There has recently been a lot of buzz about the Peruvian maca root and its super benefits. From helping to defend the body from free radicals to boosting energy and libido, no one is surprised a runners interest would certainly be piqued. But in fact, the maca root has been used repeatedly over thousands of years by the Peruvian people from the Andes Mountains. It has been used over ancient times as a supplement, along with now traditional medicines, for many health care advancements from improving fertility to improving memory. Over more recent years the popularity of the maca root has grown as it is found in natural and bio specialty grocery stores and it has made its way into the superfood trends now existing now in modern times.

What is the maca root?

Maca, also known as maca-maca, maino, Peruvian ginseng, among other names, is a cruciferous vegetable coming from the mustard plant family and related to broccoli, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts. Looking like a rugged potato, the maca root grows wild in the Andes mountains of Peru. Nutritional benefits include high levels of iron, iodine, potassium, calcium, amino acids, vitamins & minerals. Maca has a nutty and earth-like flavor and is typically ground into a powder and used in Peruvian cooking for traditional flavoring. Aside from its use as a culinary ingredient, the hype around maca is more associated with its perceived ability to promote health benefits.
 

What are some benefits of the maca root?

Improved Energy:
 There is some scientific evidence that suggests taking maca will improve energy in sport. There is a small pilot study dating back from 2009 examining the effects on eight male cyclists who took 14 days of maca supplementation between two 40 kilometers timed trials. The report concludes a significant improvement in performance time. However, the report suggests more participants and long-term research is indicated to determine the efficacy of maca on performance.
 
Another study investigates the effects of maca on mice during a swimming endurance and anti-fatigue test. According to the report, the mice given the highest doses of maca had improved their swimming endurance times significantly. Although this may not reflect the same amongst humans, it does suggest that maca may fight fatigue during physical activity. While more scientific studies may help to prove the maca effects, there already are some positive notes that maca does provide shots of energy for athletic endeavors including running.

Reduced Blood Pressure:

A 2015 pilot study investigated how maca played a role in improving blood pressure in twenty-nine post-menopausal women. The report found taking maca daily for 12 weeks lowered diastolic blood pressure in this group of women.

Reduced Sun Damage and Free Radicals:

A 2008 study looked at the maca roots effects as a solar protectant on rats and found that the maca that was administered on the skin of the rat did provide UV protection. At the same time, the maca root’s nutritional values provide antioxidants resulting in the body’s improved ability to resist free radicals, which in turn could ward off cardiovascular disease and systemic diseases like cancer.

Improved Mood:

One of the previously mentioned studies from 2015 that found maca can reduce blood pressure in postmenopausal women also found that maca may reduce the symptoms of depression for this same group of women. This is believed to be due to the fact the maca contains flavonoids. This study from 2017 finds that dietary flavonoids significantly minimizes depression risk due to their antioxidative tendencies.

Improved Memory and Learning:

There are several studies out there that find maca can help improve the memory and cognitive function in mice. While on the human front, a 2014 report suggests maca, while cannot cure Alzheimer’s disease, shows promise in improving cognitive function such as learning and memory performance in these individuals.

Improved Libido:

Maca is most popularly known to being somewhat of an aphrodisiac which boosts the sexual drives in both men and women. A few studies ranging in years from 2002 to 2015 found maca increased libido for men and women.

Improved Fertility and Decreased Menopause Symptoms:

While the sex drive enhances with maca, it has also been found to increase fertility in men too. A 2009 study and 2016 report also found that maca root may have benefits in improving semen count and quality for men experiencing mild erectile dysfunction.

While at the same time, there are a handful of studies that suggest that maca may reduce postmenopausal symptoms in women. This systematic review found maca may benefit in reducing physical symptoms associated with menopause.

How to incorporate maca into your routine?

While maca root comes in typically powder form it can also be found in a capsular form. There is no standard dose but it is advised to keep it to about 3 grams per day of which can be combined when mixing a smoothie, as an ingredient in no-bake energy balls, or sprinkled on top of foods like oatmeal or cereal.

Are there any risks in consuming maca root?

Research to date does not report any harm in human consumption, however, as with any supplement, it’s best to discuss with a medical professional to make sure maca does not interfere with any medications you may be taking.

In Conclusion:

Maca root is said to be an adaptogenic plant meaning it helps the body to fight stress and adapt to its environment. Maca does have some evidence to back up a multitude of potential health benefits from increased energy for those who participate in sports like running to enhancing the sex drive for both men and women. As with any supplement, it’s best to seek advice from a medical professional before consuming.

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