A Guide to the Benefits of Maca: The Energy Root
What is maca?
You’ve probably seen tubs of maca powder in the health section of your grocery store, but maybe labels printed with things like ‘Max Strength’ or ‘Pure & Potent’ have left you feeling a bit apprehensive about maca as a supplement.
Maca is a tuber plant native to the Peruvian Andes, and though it’s recently become one of the most popular supplements in the U.S., Maca flour has actually been consumed by local populations for thousands of years.
It’s a member of the Brassica family, which includes other healthy powerhouses like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage.
What’s the difference between maca root and maca powder?
Maca root is the part of the plant that’s underground, and it’s similar in shape and size to a turnip. Maca leaves are edible, but the root is what’s been used traditionally to boost health. Many Peruvians add maca root to soups, stews, and oatmeal, which adds an earthy taste to traditional dishes and an extra dose of nutrients.
Maca in its powdered form, which can be either raw or gelatinized, is most common in the U.S. With raw maca, the roots are dried and then ground into a powder.
For gelatinized maca powder, the roots are boiled and then pressurized, which creates a maca powder with significantly less starch.
Maca powder is a great option for those just starting to explore maca’s benefits, since it keeps longer than maca root and is easier to add to smoothies, stews, or even salad dressings.
Red maca, yellow maca, black maca: which should you choose?
Yes, there are actually three different maca color variations, and each have slightly different health benefits. If you’re wondering what kind color family your maca belongs to, here’s the general breakdown: “yellow” maca varies from white to yellow, “black” maca from light to dark grey, and “red” maca from light pink to dark purple.
So, what’s the difference? Yellow maca is a well known kind of maca, but some superfood enthusiasts value red and black maca more because they can have a milder taste.
Between red and black maca, red maca is slightly sweeter and has a milder flavor than black maca. One study that compared the effects of black and red maca across 175 participants also showed that red maca helped boost energy and mood more than black maca.
What are the health benefits of maca for men?
Check out our article on the best vitamins and supplements for men, if you're looking for further guidance.
Maca and male fertility
Several studies have shown that maca can help with healthy sperm production30175-X/fulltext) by supporting higher sperm counts and healthier sperm overall. For this reason, incorporating maca into a daily routine may be helpful for couples who are trying to conceive and want to support fertility.*
Maca and male libido
There is more evidence to support the connection between maca root and fertility than the connection between maca and libido. Part of this could be because measuring changes in libido is slightly more difficult, since it’s a subjective measurement that’s tied to how participants report feeling, which can be much harder to record accurately than observable measurements.
Maca and sexual wellness
There is no conclusive evidence that maca boosts sexual wellness in humans. That said, low energy and mood can affect sexual performance, so supplementing with maca as a way to support energy and overall mood may be helpful.
How can maca benefit women?
While many men supplement with maca for its sexual health benefits, maca can also support women’s health, particularly women who are looking to help support healthy hormone levels, or women who are going through menopause. Maca can also help support better calcium absorption, which is particularly important for women, who are at greater risk for low calcium stores as they get older. Here’s a closer look at how maca can help women in particular - and make sure to take a look at our guide to vitamins and supplements for women in their 30s, 40s, and 50s.
Does maca increase estrogen levels?
Unlike soy, which is a plant-based estrogen, maca doesn’t directly elevate estrogen levels. But, because of its adatopgenic properies maca does work to help balance hormones and support overall reproductive health.* For example, during menopause a woman's hormones tend to fluctuate, adding an adaptogen like maca may help to support the imbalance.
Maca and menopause
Since maca can help balance hormone levels, some women use maca to helps support PMS symptoms like hot flashes, mood swings, night sweats, and trouble sleeping.
Can maca make you gain weight?
Some women have noticed slight weight when they start taking maca, though it’s likely only indirectly related to the maca itself.
Maca can help support health muscle function. Since muscle is heavier than fat, putting on more muscle can lead to weight gain, even if it’s a healthy gain.
Like all supplements, maca works best as part of an overall health routine that includes a varied, fresh diet, and exercise.
What kind of maca should I take?
With so many options and differences in quality and sourcing, the maca market can be overwhelming. That’s why we made our single-ingredient maca powder from the maca we could find, sourced from high in the Peruvian Andes. Plus, it comes in single-serving packets that are easy to add to smoothies and soups.
What’s the right dosage when it comes to maca?
Unfortunately there’s no perfect answer to this question. The typical maca powder dosage in studies ranges from 1.5 to 5 grams, so 3 grams is a safe bet for the average adult.
Since a lot of maca powders on the market are sold in bulk containers, if you accidentally scoop too much into a smoothie or mix, don’t worry. There’s no research to show that higher doses of maca are dangerous, although some people can feel jittery from maca, similar to the feeling you get after you have one too many cups of coffee.
Does maca have side effects?
While maca has no documented interactions with medication, it’s always best to check with your doctor before you add a new supplement to your routine.
If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you should check with your doctor about any supplements to make sure they’re safe for your baby.
When should I take maca?
Since maca can help with energy levels, we recommend taking it in the morning to start your day off with a little extra boost. You can work it into your daily routine by adding it to breakfast smoothies or morning coffee. Ready to give it a try? Take a peek at our maca packets, designed specifically for easy, seamless mixing.