The Pros and Cons of Maca Root: Its Promising Benefits and Potential Downsides
Maca root is a promising, emerging supplement for improving performance, blood flow, mood, and more.
Well, it might not be fair to call it “emerging,” because indigenous Incan communities have been consuming maca root — which grows high up in South America’s Andes mountains — for thousands of years.
It’s probably more accurate to say that science and research are starting to catch up with what indigenous practitioners have known for millennia.
If better workouts, improved recovery, and enhanced performance is your goal, then here’s everything you need to know about the pros and cons of maca root.
What is Maca Root?
Maca (Lepidium meyenii) is a vegetable native to the Andes in Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina. It’s an especially tough plant, as its native environment is 12,000 feet above sea level.
It’s classified as a brassica, which means it’s a cousin of some of the world’s most popular superfoods like broccoli and brussel sprouts. It’s filled with vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
Unsurprisingly, as we have learned more about the benefits, it’s become more popular for boosting energy, mood, and even increasing sexual vitality (because of its known benefits for increasing blood flow).
The root of the maca plant is the underground portion and has the highest abundance of vitamin and mineral content. It’s also the easiest to consume.
Today, maca root is considered an adaptogen, which is kind of a catch-all marketing term that refers to herbal medicines that help us adapt to stress.
Because of its rise in popularity, it’s now available in powders, capsules, and, as we’ll talk about later, as an emerging ingredient in health-conscious pre-workouts.
In fact, it’s numerous performance benefits are why we include it in our ready to drink pre-workout, Troov.
The Benefits and Maca Root
Looking at the pros and cons of maca root, there are clearly a ton of benefits — many of which have solid scientific research, others which we still need to learn more — without much downside.
Here are the wide array of potential benefits of maca root.
Enhanced Athletic Performance
Maca root has found itself as a more and more popular ingredient among athletes.
A study on healthy, male cyclists revealed that maca increased their speed in long-distance races compared to the placebo.
Although the increase was modest, it shows that maca supplementation can flat-out boost performance.
In mice, maca extract also increased swimming endurance. (You’re welcome for implanting the image of mice swimming in your mind.)
From animal to human studies, maca’s benefits for athlete performance, in particular endurance, seem more and more promising.
While we don’t know the exact mechanism for the increase, one may be because of maca’s effects on blood flow, which has other performance-boosting benefits, especially in the gym.
Increased Blood Flow → Increased Pump
As we’ll talk about later, maca is most famous for its improvements in sexual function, in both men and women.
These benefits, as well as many of the benefits for athletic performance, stem from maca’s benefits for improving blood flow.
In the gym, one consequence of this is increased muscle pumps. That is, when you train, more blood and oxygen will get shuttled to the muscles you’re working.
This can, in turn, improve your mind-muscle connection, which is a crucial component of effective resistance training, building muscle, and improving performance. It may also explain the endurance benefits of maca, because muscular endurance relies on our ability to shuttle oxygen (via blood) to our muscles.
Because of this same mechanism, maca root may also enhance recovery. Think of fresh blood like the repair crew. Blood cells come in with all the nutrients and oxygen needed to heal muscles, and on their way out, remove the by-products. The more effective our blood flow, the more effective this recovery process will be.
Maca Root May Speed up Healing
This may be why some research has shown that maca root speeds up wound healing. A study on mice showed that maca root helped them heal faster from UV damage, as well as help protect mice from UV damage.
Now, we don’t have concrete research yet on some of these specific benefits, like improved pumped, recovery, and endurance. However, the research points to this as an underlying mechanism for improving overall performance.
Because of its safety, that makes maca root a great ingredient for anybody looking to increase performance.
These improvements in blood flow may also support healthy blood pressure. In a study on menopausal women, maca root supplementation lowered blood pressure.
Improved Energy Levels
Maca root also seems to provide an energy boost. While not a stimulant, maca does seem to provide some stimulant-like effects. Some studies showed increases in subjective energy levels.
This also lines up with the anecdotal reports for maca root.
One of the challenges with this is that “energy” has many definitions. In the context of performance, we know that stimulants like caffeine, which have the subjective “energy” boost even in the absence of actual calories, because of increased dopamine and cortisol, which increases motivation. In sum, it creates an ideal physiological cocktail to want to perform your best.
Maca root may increase energy because of similar pathways. In the context of training, this means maca root, may increase your motivation to go to the gym.
Again, we don’t know the exact mechanism, but most people who use maca root report a jolt of energy.
Improved Sexual Function
We can’t talk about maca root without talking about its traditional benefits: sexual performance. And, this is for men and women.
Going back to its blood flow benefits, studies have shown improvements in erectile dysfunction in men.
Some studies show it may even increase sperm concentration, which means it may help with fertility.
As for libido (sex drive), a 2010 review, a compilation of all the available research, suggested that maca root may increase libido. In menopausal women, in particular, research has shown improved libido and sexual performance across the board.
Coming back to the adaptogen idea, maca root may help balance hormones and reduce stress, two factors which are critical for sexual performance.
In addition, the known blood-flow benefits of maca will help almost anyone in the bedroom. The Incans were onto something when they traditionally used maca root as an aphrodisiac, and western research is now catching up.
There are even some studies that suggest that maca root may improve mood. A 2016 placebo, double-blind study on healthy adults showed that maca improved mood, energy, and quality of life.
We don’t know the mechanism for why, but it’s probably at least partially a result of its other known benefits. Supporting our energy levels, increasing our performance, and relieving stress are all precursors to an improved mood.
There isn’t anything magic about maca in this regard, but it showcases the widespread benefits when we consume healthy ingredients. The downstream effects included better overall mood.
Reports about maca and mental health may arise because of these overall effects. For example, a 2015 study with postmenopausal women showed a reduction in symptoms of depression.
Of course, this doesn’t make it a conclusive, effective treatment for serious mood disorders, but it does underscore its potential overall health benefits.
Finally, there’s even some research that maca may enhance cognition. Or at least, it may offset the decline in brain function. A mice study showed that maca root supplementation slowed age-related decline in brain function and motor skills.
Clearly, there’s a lot of promise in maca root, which is why more and more athletes and ordinary people trying to feel their best are taking it. But what about its drawbacks?
Cons of Taking Maca Root
Maca root is a safe supplement. As we’ve mentioned, it’s a plant related to other well-known superfoods with few practical downsides.
However, there are a few important considerations and cons to maca root.
Maca Has a History of Laced Ingredients
Supplements like maca root are not regulated by the FDA. This means that supplement companies don’t legally have to put in the bottle what they say is on the label.
Generally speaking, it’s crucial to buy supplements that are third-party tested so you know that what you think you’re buying is what you’re getting.
With maca root, this is even more important. Because of its known benefits for sexual health and performance, maca has found its way into the sketchiest supplement market out there: boner pills. We’re talking about the types of supplements that run advertisements on porn sites.
Because of this maca supplements have been found to be laced with actual drugs, like Viagra.
While this may sound like a problem, you can solve it easily by making sure you get maca root from a trusted source.
Our ready to drink all-natural pre-workout, Troov, which contains an effective dose of maca root, is third-party tested so you know. More importantly, our values as a company are that of health-first and full transparency.
This eliminates the biggest risk and downside of maca root.
To get all of the benefits of maca root (and many more superfood ingredients) try Troov today.
Its Benefits are Modest
While we have talked about a lot of the benefits, we also want to be clear that, even in a lot of these hallmark studies that have received a fair amount of media attention, the benefits are modest.
Maca root on its own won’t change your life, just as eating broccoli won’t, as well as any other nutritional or supplemental intervention, no matter how promising and proven the research shows.
Maca root is effective as a part of a comprehensive nutrition and supplement plan. On its own it won’t give you pumps like Arnold in Pumping Iron, however, when combined with other proven ingredients like l-citrulline, it can have a big impact and give you impressive pumps in the gym.
(This, in fact, is why we have a perfect all-natural pump cocktail of l-citrulline – sourced from plants, beetroot, and maca root in Troov.)
Perhaps more importantly, maca root is clearly a health-focused superfood. Just like eating broccoli and kale once won’t suddenly make you healthier, drinking Troov, which is full of bio-active, nutritious compounds like maca root, has a cumulative effect.
This is also shown in a lot of the research, where maca root and other ingredients show performance benefits when taken consistently for weeks or months. There is no one-time magic pill. But after about 7 days of drinking Troov, you’ll notice the cumulative benefits, from performance and energy to mood and recovery.
Research is Ongoing
Finally, as we briefly mentioned, we’re still learning a lot. The research is ongoing. Some of these benefits we’ve mentioned may not pan out as we learn more. Others may strengthen.
But, if you always wait for consensus, you’re going to be decades behind. Especially when we know the safety of maca root, it makes sense to just try it and see if it works for you.
As we’ve mentioned throughout the article, there’s still a lot that we don’t know about the mechanisms for maca root’s effects.
May Impact Sleep
One of the concrete downsides, which has been reported by many users, is the negative impact on sleep. While not a stimulant, we have talked about how maca root can give you energy. Before a workout, this is great. However, it’s not so great if you take it too close to bedtime.
Some users also report jitters. However, most do not, so the “jitter” effect may be dose-dependent.
Generally, then, you shouldn’t take maca root in the evening. That’s why it makes the most sense as a pre-workout ingredient.
This brings us to the best time to take maca root.
What’s The Best Time to Take Maca Root?
Given that it may boost performance and increase energy, maca root is an ideal ingredient for a pre-workout supplement.
However, you won’t see maca root in most pre-workout supplements. Instead, you’ll see loads of stimulants, artificial crap, and untested ingredients.
So if you’re looking to try maca root as part of a complete, health-first, all-natural pre-workout, then we’d like to introduce you to Troov.
Troov is a complete pre-workout formula with everything you need to improve your energy, focus, and performance in the gym without the crash, jitters, or unwanted side effects.
It’s why we only included all-natural ingredients like maca root in our formula.
It’s also third-party tested, FDA compliant and approved for purity and quality. As we mentioned this is crucial if you’re going to take any supplements at all, and especially important if they contain maca root.
In addition to 1590mg of maca root, Troov also contains…
- All-natural brewed green tea for slow-release, sustained energy
- Fermented beet juice for naturally occurring nitrates to boost blood flow
- L-citrulline for pumps, recovery, and reduced fatigue
- Polyphenols for optimal blood flow
- EGCG to minimize inflammation
What’s the Best Dose to Take of Maca?
The standard dose for maca root in supplements is often around 500-1000mg. This, to be blunt, is under-dosed, as most of the studies show benefits starting at 1500mg.
That’s why Troov contains a full, effective, 1590mg dose.
Why is Maca called Peruvian Ginseng?
This is a common nickname for maca root. The Peruvian part of this is obvious. Maca is grown in Peru.
The ginseng comes from the fact that the root looks similar to ginseng, and because it also has stimulant-like effects. However, most roots out of the ground look kind of similar, and the truth is that maca has more in common with cabbage than ginseng.
Why is Maca root not included in most energy drinks or pre workouts?
Quality maca root is expensive for companies to get ahold of. For them, this means cutting into their profits, especially when their nitro-mega-super pre-workout that contains heaps of stimulants and artificial ingredients sells just as well, thanks to their effective marketing.
Troov, on the other hand, sources from the purest and most effective ingredients on the planet.