Among history's hardest bodies, the Incan warriors of Peru rank high. The secret to their legendary strength: maca, the root vegetable they chowed prebattle for energy and stamina. "Maca makes you feel like you've got all your juices going—and like you could march to Bolivia," says natural-medicine expert Chris Kilham, the founder of Medicine Hunter. Now athletes, models, and in-the-know health fanatics alike are turning to the wonder root, which tastes like earthy butterscotch meets graham cracker and is used primarily in powder form, for their daily energy hit.
Take note: The Incas also swore by the root's libido-boosting qualities. "Maca is an aphrodisiac," says David Wolfe, the author of Superfoods and a self-described maca fanatic. "It will definitely make you horny."
WHAT IT DOES
Many contemporary nutrition experts classify maca (pronounced MAH-kuh) as an adaptogen, a metabolic regulator that sends a wake-up call to your brain and balances your hormones. "When you're balanced," says Los Angeles endocrinologist Eva Cwynar, the author of The Fatigue Solution, "you don't suffer from anxiety or stress or depression and you have better concentration and memory."
HOW TO GET YOUR FIX
The easiest way to get a maca kick is to add a tablespoon to a post-workout protein shake or a breakfast smoothie. The root is also available as a concentrated supplement, though it tends to leave a bitter aftertaste. In the U.S., it's rare to find the root fresh, but if you do, try boiling and mashing it and adding a touch of horseradish oil and salt.