I’m sitting here beside a container full of my maca balls. I made them in an attempt to create something with maca in it that I can eat and enjoy. You see, I don’t much care for the taste of maca. I tried putting it in my smoothie – hardly any, only a scant half teaspoon – and ended up gagging the whole thing down.
Now I know what you’re thinking. Why in the world try to find a way to consume something that I obviously don’t like the taste of?!!
Well, for one, maca is not particularly cheap. Second, and more importantly – I really wanted to test out the purported benefits of maca. Because that’s who I am – I can’t really recommend something without actually trying it myself.
Purported benefits, you ask? Yes… Maca is an adaptogen. Adaptogens help our bodies to deal with stress. Whether it be physical or psychological stress, adaptogens have the ability to maintain hormonal balance (source: International Journal of Biomedical Science, 2006).
This is a good thing when it comes to running – because running can be a form of physical stress. Unless it’s an easy 30-45 minutes run you’re headed out the door for, your body will need help to recover. That’s obviously where good nutrition comes in. But maca can lend a supplementary helping hand.
What exactly is maca? It’s a plant from the same family as broccoli, kale and cauliflower (the Brassicaceae family), which should hint at how powerfully nutritious this plant is – full of phytonutrients that have “superpowers”. A Peruvian plant, it’s grown exclusively in the central Andes and is used primarily as a supplement. You’ll find in the form of a powder, sold in health food stores and supplement stores.
I should mention, maca is not only used for its ability to balance hormones and help your body manage stress. It’s been shown to improve endurance in athletes and boost their sexual desire (source: J Ethnopharmacol, 2009) – yes, the same study was looking at both components at once! It has also been successfully used to boost energy levels (although it contains no stimulants), to enhance fertility, heal osteoporosis, aide memory and protect skin against UV rays, among other benefits (source: International Journal of Biomedical Science, 2006).
I’m not one for putting all my eggs in one basket and I’m not doing so here. I firmly believe there are no shortcuts and our nutritional plan must be sound in order to recover well from our training, boost our immune system and protect against injury. So if your nutrition is already sound, maca may be be a good supplementary strategy – it has been shown to be very safe to use.
Don’t take my word for it, but after one of my strongest weeks of training to date, I’m closing in on 135km this week and feel great. And I mean, GREAT – strong, energized and looking forward to my run tomorrow! All due to the maca? Probably not. But maybe it gave me the cutting edge this week.
If you’re going to give it a try, you only need start with ¼ to ½ teaspoon and work up to no more than 1 tsp per day. My maca balls contain ½ teaspoon per ball. They are a great, tasty way to try out this superfood. In fact, I had trouble stopping at just two. No need to overdose! Click here for the recipe for maca balls.
Happy running 🙂
Sarah J Cuff, RHN