Maca is a nutrient-dense superfood that’s gaining a lot of attention these days. Back in 2003, Zach Adelman started Navitas Naturals after experiencing the health benefits of maca. It was our first product, and it remains a best-seller for many reasons. This radish-like root native to the high altitude Andes Mountains of Peru has been used by the indigenous culture for centuries to increase stamina, boost libido, combat fatigue and more. At the heart of Navitas is our respect for and belief in traditional medicinal uses of plants by native peoples. Modern science is catching up to ancient knowledge about maca. To celebrate our roots, we’re offering a 30% discount on all of our organic maca products this week.
Fresh Harvested Maca Root in the Andes Mountains of Peru
For example, recent published studies have shown that maca: protects cells from oxidative stress and is capable of scavenging free radicals; is therapeutic for the adrenal and endocrine systems; improves fertility and sexual arousal in rats; can reduce prostate size; improves bone mass associated with osteoporosis; can increase sperm count, quality and mobility; and has anti-depressant qualities. The most recent research is a 2011 study published in Maturitas Journal entitled Maca for Treatment of Menopausal Symptoms: A Systematic Review. The goal of the review was to assess the evidence for and against the effectiveness of the maca plant as a treatment for menopausal symptoms. The review focused on four randomized clinical trials that tested the effects of maca on menopausal symptoms in healthy perimenopausal, early postmenopausal, and late postmenopausal women. According to the researchers, each of these studies demonstrated favorable effects of maca.
High Altitude Hand-Harvesting of Navitas Naturals Maca at 14,000 feet
Navitas Naturals' organic maca root is cultivated on the Junin Plateau in the Peruvian Andes. After harvest, the maca roots are slow-dried and gently milled into a powder at low temperatures to preserve the natural integrity of the food. Gelatinized maca powder is a concentrated form. To create it, the starch is extracted, which makes this superfood more digestible and its nutrients more bioavailable for absorption. Watch this short video to learn how Navitas Naturals maca is sustainably harvested.
Navitas Naturals Maca Source & Processing
Maca is a nutrient-dense superfood that is rich in amino acids, vitamins B1, B2, C and E, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, sulfur and iron, and is a good source of powerful plant sterols and fatty acids. It has a mild butterscotch flavor and blends well in many recipes, especially paired with cacao. Here is a short video by chef Julie Morris with tips on how to add maca to delicious superfood recipes.
Russ Marchewka is a pro beach volleyball player and inspiring health advocate. Fueled by Navitas Naturals superfoods, he has achieved excellent results in 2011. His two-man team is currently ranked 11th on the USA Volleyball circuit. We interviewed Russ shortly after he had an especially good tournament at the 39th MotherLode Volleyball Classic in Aspen, Colorado in early September, where his team earned 2nd place in the finals.
Mic LeBel, Navitas Naturals: Can you tell us the inside story about a grueling beach volleyball tournament? The heat must be a big factor, especially in Miami where the National Volleyball League championship was recently held. Do you take the sun and heat into account when choosing the specific foods and drinks you consume?
Russ Marchewka: It was 95 and humid in Miami during the heat wave that hit that tournament. Some of the best players in the world fell to heat exhaustion. Years ago, I would have been one of them. Not anymore. I definitely pay close attention to what I eat and drink during a tournament and even more so when it’s ridiculously hot out. Can you name any other professional sport where you play multiple matches/games in a single day? With regularity, in pro beach volleyball we play 3, 4 or 5 matches in a single day. If you add the warm-up and cool down, that’s a potential 6-10 hours each day of the tournament we ask our bodies to be firing on all cylinders.
I have a superfruit smoothie in the morning to charge my body with antioxidants (and to protect my skin) and natural fruit sugars to load up my cells for the energy they will burn. It includes almond milk, vanilla rice protein, wheat grass, Navitas Twister Antioxidant blend and maqui berry powder. This gives me an amazing spectrum of nutrition and energy to start my tournaments with - whether it’s hot or cold. Volleyball may not be a contact sport, but it requires an all-around athleticism including endurance, strength, speed, flexibility and coordination. There is a reason there are no overweight professional volleyball players. It’s just not possible. Beach volleyball is a lifestyle sport: the only one you play half naked and the fans wear less clothes than us!
NN: What, and when do you eat the day of a match, and is there a pre-game plan for energy and endurance, and then a post-match plan for recovery?
RM: I eat carbs early in the day and then I switch to fat for the second half. I’ve discovered a little known secret for sustained energy throughout my tournament day. After my first match or two, the calories from the smoothie are long gone and the delicate process of how to sustain energy and hydration throughout the day starts. Water and electrolytes are extremely important. I add fulvic acid to my water to help the minerals from my food convert more effectively in my body. I also switch to a high fat intake for the second part of the day. I take an amino acid called L-Carnosine. Elevated levels in the blood signal the body to convert fat to glucose for energy. It’s a lot easier to get the calories I need to play 4 matches from fat. When it’s hot, it’s hard to eat enough and drink enough, so fat is the easiest way to get the calories needed.
Post-match recovery is tricky, but doable. I usually add an Oxylent (effervescent multi-vitamin) to water along with some sea salt and coconut water. This gives me a broad range of electrolytes and vitamins. I found a specially formulated protein powder called Pure Green Protein that matches the human muscle amino acid profile. This speeds the exact formulation of protein to my muscles for recovery and endurance. I snack on Navitas 3 Berry Trail Mix, hemp seeds, and my new favorite the Navitas Cacao-Goji Snacks throughout the day.
NN: Do a lot of other guys on the pro volleyball circuit eat healthy, and are there many vegetarians and vegans?
RM: I was the first. A guy got skin cancer and went vegan. Now he is retired. There is one other player who is pretty close to making the full switch. I still field a lot of questions about not eating meat. People incorrectly relate meat to energy. In its truest form live (raw) food is energy. Dead food (meat, processed food and cooked food) are just calories. Our body has to convert them to energy. I have way more energy throughout tournaments consuming superfoods than I did before on a conventional diet.
I would like to clarify that I am “mostly vegan,” a term that I have coined. I don’t consume animal products with the exception of fish oil. There is no better source for the amount of EPA and DHA fatty acids that my body needs than from fish oil. I use Nordic Naturals because they care about the environment and sustainability as much as Navitas Naturals.
NN: What is the most common injury in beach volleyball, and is there a food that you eat to help prevent that, and perhaps a fitness exercise or technique, too?
RM: Well the obvious most common "injury" would have to be sunburn. All the antioxidants that I get from superfoods really help to protect my skin. The knees and shoulders though are problem spots for many players. The repetitive nature of jumping and swinging at balls can take a toll on joints.
RM: Vitamin C plays a critical role in lubricating joints and anti-inflammation. I add camu and pomegranate powders to my fruit smoothie if I don’t use the Navitas Twister blend. Fish oil is also good for that. Because beach volleyball involves so many different muscles, I incorporate a BOSU ball at the gym with my workouts. It’s kind of like one of those big exercise balls cut in half. It’s great for balance and core strength. I’m so used to working out on the BOSU ball and playing a sport on an unstable surface (sand) that working out on flat ground kind of makes my legs wobble now.
NN: What is your favorite (Navitas) superfood, and why?
RM: Oh my, can I get political with my answer? Seriously, I love them all. I’ve added pretty much all the superfruits to my morning smoothies. I make an amazing chocolate protein shake with the maca and cacao. I use the coconut oil in oatmeal but also as a face moisturizer. I’ll cook some brown rice or quinoa and then scoop it up and eat it with the nori sheets. I love to take the Navitas Power Snacks with me wherever I go when I want some energy or just something delicious to snack on.
NN: From a superfoods culinary perspective, is there a particular favorite recipe that you could tell our readers about?
RM: I’ve loved cooking since I was a little kid. I made dinner for the whole family starting in middle school. So naturally, one of the most exciting things about being a vegan is coming up with delicious ways to share my lifestyle and the amazing benefits with others. I’m not as creative and artistic as (Navitas Chef) Julie Morris, but I love the way I eat and never get bored. You ready to have your mind blown?
Superfruit Smoothie (easy version): 8oz almond milk, banana, blueberries, 3 ice cubes, super greens, 2 tbsp twister anti-oxidant, 2 tbsp twister sprouted omega, 1 tsp maqui and vanilla rice protein. Blend.
Chocolate Super shake: 8oz almond milk, 3 ice cubes, 1/2 tsp wheatgrass, 2 tbsp cacao, 1 tbsp gelatinized maca and chocolate rice protein. Blend.
Power Oatmeal: make some organic oatmeal and mix in 2 tbsp coconut oil, 2 tbsp palm sugar, and 2 tbsp hemp seeds. **To turn this recipe into Purple Power Oatmeal: add 1 tbsp acai.
The most amazing, delicious juice ever: 8oz pineapple juice, 2 ice cubes, 1 tsp camu, 1 tsp maqui, 1 tsp acai and 1 tsp pomegranate.
NN: I saw in your recent Facebook post that Miami had some good vegan choices when you were there for the 2011 Jose Cuervo Pro Beach Volleyball Series in September, do you have any restaurant advice for vegans and other healthy eaters visiting that city?
RM: Aside from California’s restaurant liberalism, Miami Beach had the most amount of vegetarian/vegan friendly restaurants I’ve seen. I was there for 11 days and never felt challenged to compromise on my dietary choices. There is a place called Fresh on Fifth that made fresh juices, smoothies, sandwiches, wraps and salads. I filled out an order sheet that allowed me to customize everything about the order including vegetables, tofu, sauces, and toppings. It’s an amazing place!
One of the best restaurants was Books and Books. Half their menu was vegan and it was truly varied. I ate there twice: once for lunch; and the second time dinner. The black bean hummus was excellent, curry chicken salad (vegan) was unbelievable, and grilled tofu fajita wrap was panini-style grilled which was unique and delicious. I splurged and got sweet potato fries because I’m human and they were amazing.
NN: Where do you like to shop for food when you are home in Santa Ana?
RM: Hands down, Trader Joe’s. There is no other store that offers organic produce at reasonable prices. For almost every major produce and grocery item in the store they have an organic option. It’s important to me to eat as much organic food as I can. Trader Joe’s is the only place to go for that on a budget. My only beef with them is that they don’t sell Navitas Natural’s products. Can we please get them in there so I can stock up before tournaments without having to drive all the way over to Whole Foods?
NN: What did you eat back in college when you and your teammates at University of California-Irvine were ranked #1 in the NCAA? Is it a lot different than your current regimen?
RM: I ate terrible. Back then I was on the standard American diet: lots of meat; refined foods; and junk food. I got sick all the time in college. Sinus infections and sore throats were a regular part of life. With 22 guys on the team, if one got sick, we all got sick. My current diet is 180 degrees from my college life of late night fast food runs. Beach volleyball is an older sport. Many of the top guys are in their mid-30s and almost done with their careers. I am the second youngest of the top 20 players. With my current diet and supplement routine, I think I can play well into my 40s and compete for titles.
NN: You must see some interesting things spending a lot of team at the beach like you do in your sport, and in your home region of Los Angeles near Venice Beach, etc. What is the craziest thing you have seen at the beach, and/or at a tournament?
RM: YEP! I was in the middle of a match and a slightly older, slightly inebriated man was walking across the beach and didn’t feel like changing his course to walk around the court. He literally shuffled slowly across our court and we had to delay the match and all watch him go about his way. I don’t really feel like sharing any of the fat men in Speedo stories. Let’s just say those stories come in all shapes and sizes and leave it at that...!
NN: If you could spike one package of conventional food over the net in angst, what would it be and why?
RM: A carton of milk. Pasteurized and homogenized dairy products are the downfall of our society in my opinion. Most people are allergic to it and may not realize it. It promotes and accelerates cancer growth and is highly acidic to our bodies. Check notmilk.com if you don’t believe me.
NN: We know that a green lifestyle and advocating for healthy nutrition are important to you, can you tell us about some of your other endeavors?
RM: I feel like our personal health and the health of our planet are intertwined. A few of my favorite movies that illustrate my views are Food Inc, Fuel, Sharkwater, and the TV show "Big Ideas for a Small Planet." I also donate to the Sea Shepherd organization because I feel that if we believe in an idea we should do something about it.
That’s why I started writing The Body Blog, a site with simple and easy to use information to be healthy and go green. My goal for the site is to be conversational in my writing about health and nutrition. I also talk about how we can combine being healthy with going green through buying from companies that take an active role in reducing their carbon footprint providing healthy food.
That idea spawned a new endeavor, the World Health Club, an online store where I sell the products I use in my everyday life to get healthy, stay healthy and maximize my athletic performance. I've recorded informational videos about each product to educate the customer. I put my money where my mouth is and have spent my life savings to inventory these products I believe in so much. Not only do we have the lowest prices on the internet, BUT I also coordinate shipments to reduce CO2 emissions on shipping and we re-use boxes and packing materials to send out orders to our customers.
Somewhere between a brownie, a fudgy square, and an 'oh my god' exclamation, lies this fantastic cacao dessert. More good news—even though these No-Bake Fudge Brownies are made with only fruits, nuts, and raw cacao, this treat is nutritionally on par with an energy bar or trail mix! This healthy and delicious superfood recipe and hundreds more are beautifully presented in Superfood Cuisine, the new book by chef Julie Morris.
1/4 Cup Navitas Naturals Cacao Powder
1/2 Cup Navitas Naturals Sweetened Cacao Nibs
½ cup pitted medjool dates
½ cup raw walnut pieces
pinch sea salt
Place dates, walnuts, cacao powder and salt in a food processor and pulse until a dough has formed. Roll brownie dough in cacao nibs and press into a 1 inch thick layer. Cut into bite-size squares. Alternately, roll into balls like a truffle. Top with extra sweetened cacao nibs, if desired.
Cacao is a raw form of chocolate that is one of the world’s best sources of powerful antioxidants, and is the richest food source of magnesium. Cacao also provides a vast array of essential minerals and nutrients including: Iron; Potassium; proteins; beta-carotene; and alkaloids.