5 Best Maca Powders and Benefits Guide

Top Maca PowdersMaca, or Lepidium meyenii, is a Peruvian root vegetable that has grown in popularity from its traditional use as a libido booster and adrenal tonic.

The fitness community has recently cottoned on to maca as a physique-shaping, performance-improving superfood. This wonder-root contains over 55 phytonutrients include alkaloids that have adaptogenic properties to help the body deal with all kinds of stress.

Below, we’ll cover how maca benefits Libido, Muscle Gain, Fat Loss, and Menopause.

Afterwards, we’ll explain how to choose a quality Maca supplement plus our top 5 choices.

Maca for Libido

Rumour has it that maca is one of the world’s best libido-boosters. Its mechanism of action is still somewhat of a mystery but it gives us a clue as to why it can also help build muscle and shred fat.

  • A 2008 study showed that a high dose of maca root (1.5g – 3g per day) may help to improve libido and sexual function in people taking SSRI medications [1]. A more recent study in 2015 confirmed these findings and suggests that maca helps to regulate androgen hormone levels in women [2].
  • An early study in 2002 suggested that 1.5g – 3g of maca root powder per capsule could increase sexual desire in otherwise healthy men without increasing their low serum testosterone levels or oestrogen levels [3].

It’s still unknown how maca puts humans in the mood for romance liaisons, but we do know how it doesn’t work. Most of the research available suggests that, unlike most other sex drive boosters, maca doesn’t force the production of testosterone or any other androgens, as shown in the 2002 study above. The 2015 study says that maca can regulate androgenic hormones, though… Interesting, right?

It appears that maca can help to regulate the balance of hormones to an ideal range for the person’s age and sex through an unusual mechanism.

A 2011 study found that maca may actually activate testosterone receptors itself, without having to increase levels of actual testosterone in the blood [4]. How it does this – we aren’t sure. It may be due to its alkaloid content interacting with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis where it chills out the central nervous system and clears any excess cortisol that was blocking the regular production or function of hormones [5]. This improved hormone activity can result in feelings of improved energy, vitality and arousal and may have beneficial effects in weight loss, muscle gain and menopause symptoms.

Maca for Weight Loss & Muscle Gain

Stress hormones have a major impact on metabolism, energy production and fat burning. High levels of cortisol cause the body to “hold onto” fat and promote feelings of sluggishness and fatigue. Good news – studies have recorded a reduction in circulating cortisol levels in participants taking 1.5g – 3g of maca root per day for 90 days [6].

Plus, maca has all the basic building blocks for weight loss and muscle gain. We all know that a toned physique requires fantastic nutrition. Good news – maca is packed with protein and high quality carbohydrates.

For a root vegetable, maca is particularly rich in protein – it makes up over 10% of its mass and a tablespoon of raw maca powder contains 4 grams of protein. It isn’t quite a complete protein but it contains most of the essential amino acids.

TIP: Pairing maca root with pea protein or rice milk forms a complete protein source.

  • Rodent trials showed that 28 days of taking maca resulted in an 8.6% reduction of body weight in male rats and a 14.3% reduction in female rats [5]. This is far from quality evidence that maca will work the same in human weight loss, but it’s a start!

Building muscles and shredding fat doesn’t end with protein through. The types of carbohydrates in raw maca root powder are also geared towards physique conditioning. The carbohydrate content (~60%) is primarily slow-burning starch, cellulose fiber and lignans that can keep energy levels high through tough workouts and support healthy gut bacteria for weight loss.

Maca Supplements for Menopause

Maca’s effects on the HPA axis and cortisol levels may help to relieve menopausal symptoms of hot flushes, mood swings and low libido by indirectly balancing hormone levels. Early post-menopausal women may experience an increase in luteinizing hormone (LH) and a decrease in follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) production as a result of taking 2g of maca root powder per day for at least 2 months [2]. Other studies don’t support this finding, but do suggest that maca root supplementation can help to reduce menopausal symptoms of anxiousness, low mood and sexual dysfunction [7] [8]. We may not know why, but we can agree that taking maca daily may help to relieve the symptoms of menopause!

Maca Root Nutrients and Best Types

Maca is packed with:

  • 8 essential amino acids and 16+ non-essential amino acids.
  • Fatty acids including lauric, linolenic, palmitic acid, oleic, and steric acid.
  • Vitamins including thiamine, riboflavin, vitamin C, vitamin E.
  • Minerals including magnesium, potassium, copper, zinc, manganese, phosphorous, sulfur, sodium, and iron.
  • Phytonutrients.

Gelatinized Maca VS Raw Maca

Maca root is traditionally processed by sun-drying for 2 weeks – 2 months, rehydrated overnight, then cooked with warm milk or water to form a porridge or a fermented drink called maca chicha. Commercially available powders are a little different but they generally begin with the same sun-drying process.

Raw Maca Powders are made with sun-dried maca that is then ground into a powder. There is no cooking involved so the powders retain a high concentration of naturally occurring starches, minerals and vitamins.

Gelatinized Maca Powders also use sun-dried roots but they are cooked and pressurised to break down the maca’s natural starch content.

Boiling does destroy some nutrients including glucoinolates but through the process of breaking down the starch content, some vitamins and minerals are released and become more easily absorbed. Secondary metabolites are still present in gelatinized maca.

With a low starch profile, gelatinized maca is much easier to digest than raw maca and is a more concentrated product – 1kg of gelatinized maca is equivalent to 4kg of raw maca powder. Gelatinized maca may be the best choice if you have digestive issues or want easily absorbed hit of maca’s heat-resistant phytonutrients. On the other hand, raw maca powder is a great choice for athletes and weight loss as the slow-burning starch can help to build muscle mass and suppress appetite.

CAUTION: Do not take raw maca root if you have thyroid disease. Maca is part of the Brassicacea plant family like cabbages, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. This family of plants have goitrogenic properties when eaten raw and can result in decreased thyroid hormone production. Stick to gelatinized maca if you have thyroid issues.

How To Take Maca Supplements

Raw powdered maca has a toffee flavour and can be added to smoothies, warm drinks, raw chocolate and nut milks. Gelatinized maca doesn’t have much of a flavour and is easy to simply mix with water. Capsulated supplements are often the easiest way to get high therapeutic doses.

How Much Maca to Take

Most studies are done with 1.5g to 3g per day. Side effects like gastrointestinal discomfort become more common around the 3g range.

NOTE: Most studies show that physiological impact occurs after 30 days of taking maca with results at their best after 3 months. Safety of longer-term use hasn’t been determined.

CAUTION: Do not take raw maca powder in high doses. The glucosinolate content may be toxic. Stick to a maximum of 1 tablespoon or 3g per day of raw maca.

5 Best Maca Supplements

#5 Anthony’s Organic Maca Root Powder (16oz / 454g)

Maca Powder SupplementThis organic gelatinized maca root powder is produced in Peru and packed in California in an allergy-free environment – no gluten, soy, peanut or wheat contamination and each batch is tested to be certified gluten-free. Every 5g teaspoon serve is a daily therapeutic dose of maca – just add it to smoothies, nut milk or water and stir well. This supplement is great if you have trouble swallowing capsules or tablets.

#4 Viva Gelatinized Maca (500mg, 250 capsules)

Maca SupplementViva have gelatinized the maca root for improved digestion and each capsule contains 500mg of powdered root. This supplement is an easy way to get a therapeutic dose of maca root each day without having to add it to smoothies or water – just take 2 per day for a 1g dose. The maca sourced for this product is organic and certified non-GMO.

#3 Divine Organics Raw Peruvian Maca Powder (32oz / 907g)

Raw Maca PowderThis powdered, raw maca powder is really raw – the root has been traditionally sourced, sun dried and ground into a powder by hand. Being produced without excessive heat means that Divine Organics raw maca is packed with nutrients and starch – great for athletes! Add to smoothies or workout shakes.

Divine Organics pack this maca powder in a vegan facility that is free from most allergens including grains, dairy, soy, gluten, eggs and peanuts – but steer clear of this one if you have a tree nut allergy. This is a good choice if you’re looking for a truly raw organic maca powder at a great price.

#2 Sports Supplements Maca Plus Complex (166mg, 60 tablets)

Mens Maca Plus

If you’re looking for a serious boost to your libido, vitality, and stamina, this supplement is a great choice. While each capsule only packs 166mg of maca root powder, Sports Supplements have included a therapeutic dose of herbs and nutrients that work in synergy with maca to improve energy levels, endurance and sexual function including zinc, L-arginine, American and Asian ginsengs and Tribulus. They’ve made this supplement with no fillers or additives.

#1 Halison Health Maca Marvel (750mg, 90 capsules)

Best Maca Supplement
Halison Health are offering a capsule with a blend of equal parts yellow, red, and purple gelatinized maca powder and literally nothing else – no fillers, binders, flow agents, or additives. They’ve packed a huge dose of 750mg of maca powder into each capsule so it’s easy to get a high therapeutic dose – 4 per day is the upper end of the recommended dose. And at a great price!

View Maca Marvel On Amazon Here

Further Reading:

  • [1] Dording, C., et al. (2008) A double-blind, randomized, pilot dose-finding study of maca root (L. meyenii) for the management of SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction. CNS Neurosci Ther., 14:3, 182 – 191. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18801111
  • [2] Dording, C. M., et al. (2015) A Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Trial of Maca Root as Treatment for Antidepressant-Induced Sexual Dysfunction in Women. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med., 2015. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4411442/
  • [3] Gonzales GF, Cordova A, Vega K, Chung A, Villena A, Gonez C, Castillo S. Effect of Lepidium meyenii (MACA) on sexual desire and its absent relationship with serum testosterone levels in adult healthy men. Andrologia 2002;34(6):367–372
  • [4] Srikugan, L., et al. (2011) First case report of testosterone assay-interference in a female taking maca (Lepidium meyenii). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22700073/
  • [5] Meissner, H. O., et al. (2006) Short and Long-Term Physiological Responses of Male and Female Rats to Two Dietary Levels of Pre-Gelatinized Maca (Lepidium Peruvianum Chacon). Int J Biochem Sci., 2:1, 13 – 28. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3614567/
  • [6] Meissener, H. O., et al. (2006) Therapeutic Effects of Pre-Gelatinized Maca (Lepidium Peruvianum Chacon) used as a Non-Hormonal Alternative to HRT in Perimenopausal Women – Clinical Pilot Study. Int J Biomed Sci., 2:2, 143 – 159. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3614596/
  • [7] Brooks, N. A., et al. (2008) Beneficial effects of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on psychological symptoms and measures of sexual dysfunction in postmenopausal women are not related to estrogen or androgen content. Menopause, 15:6, 1157 – 1162. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18784609/
  • [8] Meissner, H. O., et al. (2005) Use of gelatinized maca (lepidium peruvianum) in early postmenopausal women. 1:1, 33 – 45. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23674952/
About James Lyons

James Lyons (BHSc Nutritional Medicine) is a clinical nutritionist, medical writer, and educator. He specialises in plant-based nutrition and is passionate about improving public access to reliable and accurate health information.

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