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Is it Working Out? (Maca, part 2)

So Keith Richards probably isn’t the best place to go for health advice. On the one hand, the dude has done all the alcohol and treats that deem him a rock god (allow us to elucidate using stereotypes, why not). At rock star parties, I am sure that on more than one occasion the other rock stars have said to him, “Leave some for me, Keef. Gosh!” His regimen of balancing his cocaine use with a measure or two of opiates does not, in any way, sound like good advice in the area of taking care of a human body.

That’s on the one hand.

On the other hand, he is still alive.

So no, he might not be a paragon of advice in living a healthy life. But he must have figured something out about being a human being that means he can spend a lifetime abusing his system and not wear it out. The answer isn’t just that he’s a mutant. It can’t be. Nobody is that lucky.

I read his autobiography. In it, he talks an awful lot about being aware of his own body. He talks a lot about self-regulating and about discipline. Which, considering the source, might ring a little hollow, but I’m totally useless when it comes to taking care of my body, so I’ll take wisdom where I can get it.

Besides, the way he talks about paying attention to his body sounds a lot like the way that people who exercise talk about exercise. It’s just coming from the other side: what is happening to my body, rather than what am I doing to it.

I think that matters an awful lot in the area of exercise. For one thing, for a lot of us—me, anyway—one of the toughest parts of working out is getting started. I am not very good at remembering how I felt so good after the last time I worked out, so I should work out again. I am not very good at remembering there’s a connection between working out and the way I feel more at ease now. I am not very good at remembering the benefits of working out. I only remember the work part. There is plenty of other things with “work” parts that I’d rather do than work out, so I place preference on them.

Face this truth too, grunts and beauties: we live in a world that places perpetual urgency on doing the next thing. There isn’t much infrastructure in place to encourage us to work out. Or take care of ourselves at all, really. Sure, there’s a lot of spoken encouragement. There are plenty of cultural memes out there—on the internet and off it—that say exercise does you good. But when was the last time the demands on your day paused for twenty-five minutes and said, “All right—time for a stretching break!”

Right? Not often. It’d be good, but it doesn’t happen.

So it’s hard to get started. It’s difficult to overcome the physical sluggishness that seems to arise in the face of exercise—and disappear, oddly, on the way to the pub.

Part of it is psychological, naturally. I can’t help you with that part very much.

But I can a little.


I’m doing some writing/research on maca root. That’s the point of this essay, secretly. The research I’m doing is partly just reading. I’m reading about the history and chemistry of the stuff. Maca, for instance, has enormous amounts of protein for a vegetable. That’s one thing. And the kind of protein in it is a kind that mammals can use particularly well. In its protein, it has a huge variety of amino acids. One that maca’s got in particular is something called valine, which is apparently essential for human beings, but which our bodies can’t produce. (Yet another reason why humans are weird.) Maca’s a good source of it.

They did this study with mice and maca, timing how long Mice on Maca could swim versus ones without any maca in them. The ones who’d practically overdosed on the stuff swam for almost twice as long as the ones that didn’t have any.

So that’s one thing. There’s the science in it. Apparently, maca makes bodies work better.

Another part of my research has been in the area of actually eating the stuff, to see whether I feel different. So I’ve been adding it to everything for the last few days while I’ve been writing. I like it in teas, I find. It reminds me a little bit of matcha—a little of miso (not the flavor, but the experience)—a little of something called Cold Snap that my mum always gave me when I was getting the flu. So tea works for me.

Yesterday, when I was writing about maca and drinking one of these things of tea, I was thinking a lot about Keith Richards, because my body was being funny.

It almost felt like caffeine. I almost felt jittery. Jittery, but without the twitchiness or the nerves. I didn’t feel antsy, like I do when I’ve had too much coffee. I didn’t feel like I had to take a walk or do a handstand or anything. I just felt like I had extra energy.

I kind of liked it. I wanted to keep writing, so I did, but it was nice because writing takes a lot of energy and I felt like I had it and to spare. If I were a working-out-in-the-afternoon type, I might have gone to do that, because I felt—calmly—like I had the energy to start something. Didn’t matter what. Just something. And that’s the hard part of working out for me: the will to start.

Now, the thing is, in my researches, I’ve discovered that the evidence suggests that any big effect that maca’s going to have on my system comes only after a couple of weeks of daily use. I haven’t been eating it every day for a couple weeks. I have for a few days, but not a couple weeks, so it might have been a placebo thingy.

I don’t think so, though. Other things I’ve been reading about maca say that there’s an immediate boost of energy I can get from it. I believe that, given its chemical composition. It’s high in the things my body needs to use to make energy, so it ought to be an energy booster.

So there’s the anecdote: according to my experience, maca can provide this warm bubble of non-jittery energy, like discovering an extra well inside of me.

And, here’s some science: mice who overdose on the stuff can swim twice as long as mice without any of it.

Choice is yours, folks.

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Penned by Oliver Shiny, a Music writer bound to confuse you, as he does, also,
write about superfoods, and other amazing things, being the amazing wordsmith that he is.

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