Does Maca Help You Lose Weight?

Introduction

Maca Seeds and Roots

Maca has gained a lot of attention in recent years and is becoming a more widely known.  In fact you might have seen this superfood in your local coffee shop, health food store, or smoothie bar.  Maca is neither a supplement or vitamin, but rather a Peruvian root vegetable that grows in the Andes mountains. It has been traditionally used in Peruvian culture for more than 2000 years and long been praised as a source of nutrition and for its role in increasing libido.

Since maca can have a positive effect on hormone balance, the reported benefits from adding it to your diet are wide ranging. But, can maca help people lose weight? In this article we’ll answer this question based on research and experience.

There Are 7 Ways Maca Can Contribute To Weight Loss

Although weight loss isn't the first reason most people take maca, this simple food can indeed impact the body in several ways that promote weight loss.  Let's take a look at them here.

One: Maca and Regulating Hormones

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Maca is an adaptogen. This means that it directly interplays with our hormonal stress feedback systems through regulating the endocrine system. Rather than directly increasing or decreasing specific hormones, it seems to have a modulating effect to bring hormones back to balance for the individual. 

One clinical study published in the International Journal of Biomedical Science looked at the impact of maca as a hormone alternative in perimenopausal women. Maca showed to not only alleviate menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, weight gain, etc. but also balance hormones (FSH, E2, PG, and ACTH).[1] These four hormones impact metabolism and weight management, as they play a role in burning the calories we get from food into fuel and how we store excess calories. 

Two: Iodine Content

Maca is also high in Iodine, an essential mineral needed to be consumed through our diet. Low iodine levels can cause hypothyroidism or low functioning of the thyroid,  which directly impacts metabolism and weight loss (this is seen in hypothyroidism as one of the clinical signs is sudden and rapid weight gain).[2]   Read more about maca and iodine.

Three: Maca and Balancing Blood Sugar

Balanced blood sugar is key to weight loss, as an unregulated blood sugar contributes to insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone that is naturally produced when we eat to help keep blood sugar from getting too high. It also acts as a key allowing for blood sugar to be taken into cells and used for fuel, rather than sitting in the bloodstream. When your blood sugar is unregulated and insulin is constantly needing to be made, cells can become “resistant” to the hormone and not respond by letting blood sugar into the cell as easily (this is known as insulin resistance). This constant rollercoaster of highs and lows from an unbalanced blood sugar and pumping of insulin can lead to type 2 diabetes.[3] 

Maca root powder has been shown to “significantly improved lipid and glucose metabolism disorder by regulating the glycolysis/gluconeogenesis-TCA cycle and by modulating gene expression levels involved in the PPARα signaling pathway”.[4] Essentially this means that maca expresses genes and enzymes that increase glucose and fat metabolism, both of which decrease the risk of insulin resistance. This, therefore, helps balance blood sugar and potentially improve weight loss.

Inflammation is also another key player in insulin resistance, as pro-inflammatory cytokines (immune signaling molecules) are created in response to inflammation and when created in excess can induce insulin resistance.[5] One main pro-inflammatory cytokine named IL-6 or interleukin 6, was shown to be decreased significantly in a study with the group that consumed the most maca vs. the placebo. [6]

Four: Maca and Improving MoodLarge Maca Roots

The HPA axis (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis) is our bodies stress response system. This regulates how much stress hormones are produced in the body. These hormones can be produced due to personal things you individually perceive as stressful and things that are physically stressful to the body like inflammation and infections.

Dysregulation of the HPA axis has been implicated in the development of depression, specifically an overactivation of the HPA axis or excess stress hormone production. [7] Maca is a potent adaptogen that regulates this axis and brings balance back to it. In an animal study that looked at maca and depression, it showed that “maca extract (250 and 500 mg/kg) showed antidepressant-like effects... as well as attenuation of oxidative stress in mouse brain”. [8]

This is important to weight loss because your mood plays a big role in motivation and drive. Lethargy, fatigue, and withdrawal are all symptoms of depression. Without the mental power and energy to obtain a healthy lifestyle and lose weight, it will be incredibly harder to achieve your goals.

Five: Maca and Enhancing Sleep Quality

Maca Serving Example

Sleep quality is an overlooked aspect of wellness. It becomes one of the first pillars of health that gets pushed aside for other aspects of life but should be considered as important as exercise and nutrition. This is because sleep has many benefits, including for weight loss by impacting various mechanisms in the body.

Ensuring quality sleep dampens inflammation by reducing the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines.[9] Sleep deprivation has a profound effect on inflammation as this is a period of repair and regeneration of tissue and cellular debris. Sleep also impacts blood sugar regulation, as the amount of sleep decreases, blood sugar increases, escalating the issue and the risk of diabetes.[10] Lastly, sleep impacts stress hormone production, the lack of sleep one gets can increase their production of stress hormones the next morning.[11]

Why is this important? Because inflammation, blood sugar, and stress hormones in excess, can all impede weight loss. Ensuring a healthy balance of all these can be done by getting quality sleep and consuming maca as we learned above to negate those negative effects, but also maca directly improves sleep quality.

This is because maca’s adaptogenic properties balance the endocrine system by helping it produce the different hormones in correct ratios and at a balanced rate. This helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle. Just be sure when you’re taking maca to not take it at night as it has an energizing effect for some individuals.

Six: Low calorie and fat content

Maintaining weight loss includes staying in a caloric deficit, or burning more calories than you’re consuming. Choosing nutrient dense, yet low calorie foods can be an easy way for some to maintain a caloric deficit. Maca is very low-calorie food, but also low in fat (which in excess can oftentimes pack lots of calories) and very nutrient dense with: 1/2 ounce (1 tablespoons) containing: 

  • Calories: 45
  • Carbs: 10 grams
  • Protein: 2 grams
  • Fiber: 1 grams
  • Fat: .5 gram
  • Vitamin C: 65% of the RDI
  • Copper: 47% of the RDI
  • Iron: 12% of the RDI
  • Potassium: 8% of the RDI
  • Vitamin B6: 8% of the RDI
  • Manganese: 5% of the RDI

Seven: Increases energy and helps people want to exercise moreDog on a Hike

Maca has gained lots of popularity within the fitness and bodybuilding world as it has claimed to have benefits on muscle growth, strength, and endurance. Although there are no clinical trials proving its benefit on muscle growth or strength, a small pilot study looking at maca root supplementation in athletes found that 14-day supplementation improved physical performance with a quicker cycling time than before supplementation.[12]

Having an improved endurance and physical performance can give you the tools you need to reach those workout goals. It also helps give you the motivation you need to set exercise as a priority which will help you achieve weight loss quicker.

Conclusion:

Like other adaptogens, maca is considered to raise overall vitality and well-being. It follows naturally, and without much effort, that when we feel good we are more active, eat only what we need and have a brighter outlook on life. All of these support achieving a healthy body weight.  

So, although weight loss is not the top reason someone would take maca, we’ve found that it is a common result of someone who chooses to add it to their diet.  

We’ve received quite a few letters from customers who have had that experience.   You can see some of those here.

Learn more ways include maca in your diet by visiting our maca recipes page.

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Enjoy the day!

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