Lepidium meyenii Walp (maca) is an annual or biennial herbaceous crop, which has been grown and cultivated exclusively in Peru's Central Highlands for the last 2000 years. Anecdotal evidence exists to suggest that consumption of maca improves stamina and strength and increase sexual drive and fertility in men.
In a recent study (2013) maca was administered to eight participants for a 14 day period, each completing a 40 kilometre cycling time trial before and after the 14 days of supplementation. During this study, and adjusting for variables (the study design was randomised, cross-over, double-blind), time to complete a 40 kilometre time trial was significantly improved following 14 days supplementation with maca. All eight cyclists improved their performance time from baseline in the maca trial. It is to be noted, that post supplementation all eight athletes experienced no significant change in heart rate or rate of perceived exertion (RPE), hence it is likely that any change in performance was not related to increased effort but rather that other mediating physiological variables were responsible.
Consumption of maca has tentatively been linked to increases in testosterone in some studies but not all. Increased testosterone is also assumed to be responsible for increases in markers of sexual desire. In the above mentioned study, 14 days of supplementation of maca significantly increased self-rated sexual desire with no changes being observed in the placebo trial.
Future studies should aim to investigate the mechanism of maca and its components on specific physiological markers during even paced exercise, particularly for pre-competition testosterone.
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