In the present day, a new 'wonder' product, ingredient or supplement seems to crop up every week, promising exceptional health and performance benefits. This can be bewildering for many, exciting for some, or - for the cynical amongst us - will fall on closed ears. In this article, we will highlight some of the benefits of drinking green tea, particularly for athletes.
Green tea has certainly stood the test of time regarding its reputation as a superior product for enhancing health and benefiting athletic performance. Significantly, it is not an expensive product - while it has been appropriated by many manufacturers as an addition to physical fitness nutritional products and supplements, green tea is broadly accessible to the consumer and standard tea bags cost very little. This is highly important when we consider impartiality and the weight of scientific claims that support the ample benefits of it.
Green tea has been a part of life in Asia for thousands of year, but it has only received mainstream uptake in the Western world over the past 20 years. Initially hailed by the well-being and nutritional community for its supreme health supporting properties (due predominantly to its potent antioxidant quota), the sports and fitness community was soon to adopt green tea for its perceived benefits to athletic performance and fitness goals.
So how can green tea benefit the average athlete? And to what extent are the claims of its benefits rooted in science?
In terms of debunking myths, it is important to note that certain performance-boosting qualities of green tea are not exclusive. For example, it is the caffeine content which has the potential to support athletic performance. Caffeine is a popular training aid, adding additional energy and boosting the circulation. However caffeine, of course, is found in many other beverages and sports supplements. Therefore, with regards to enhancing athletic performance, studies have found that green tea is not exclusive in boosting short-term athletic performance (e.g enhancing exertion and speed) as these benefits are due to the caffeine content rather than components found solely in the tea.
What separates green tea from other sources of caffeine, however, are its additional ample health benefits. Not only does green tea provide a potentially performance-enhancing caffeine boost, but it also provides the additional benefits of a potent antioxidant quota.
Green tea's exceptionally high antioxidant quota is due to the presence of a high density of catechins, a potent type of polyphenol, and is particularly rich in the catechin ECEG which has been found to have 25-100 times higher the antioxidant quality of vitamins C and E.
In health terms, green tea is far superior for athletes than other sources of caffeine due to the ample provision of antioxidants, and in its natural state, it is free from the added sugar, chemical preservatives, and E numbers often present in other sources of caffeinated products.
Furthermore, green tea possesses an athletic-performance boosting quality that is irrespective of its caffeine content, and exclusive to the tea itself. Studies in Japan have suggested that the use of green tea may have the power to improve athletic endurance. In 2006 the Kao Corporation discovered that it enhanced the efficiency of muscular energy assimilation. The supplementation of green tea extract saw a marked improvement in the muscle's ability to utilise body fat for energy. As such, endurance runners, sporting athletes, swimmers, and those who partake in cross-training could all potentially benefit from the addition of green tea to their daily routine or nutrition plan.
Green tea also possesses further metabolism-boosting qualities. Indeed, its metabolism-boosting and fat burning properties have been broadly publicised. Whilst the increase in metabolism is provided mostly by the caffeine content of green tea, the additional fat-burning properties are qualities exclusive to green tea. A study by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that green tea stimulates the body's thermogenic fat-burning mechanism. It is the catechins present in the tea that are behind this impressive quality, and in the 3-month trial, subjects were found to have a marked reduction in subcutaneous body fat and waist circumference after ingesting 690mg of green tea-derived catechins.
Another metabolic feature of green tea is to be approached with caution. Despite its plentiful benefits, athletes need to monitor their caffeine consumption depending upon their personal tolerance level. Furthermore, green tea possesses potent diuretic qualities. Whilst this may be an unequivocal blessing for some athletes, such as bodybuilders, who wish to heighten the appearance of muscle definition and appear as lean as possible, other athletes need to ensure that their body remains sufficiently hydrated - both in terms of fluid and vital electrolytes.
In conclusion, green tea is indeed a superior source of health and athletic-performance boosting qualities that stands up scientifically to the impressive claims. Particularly when considering the natural production of free-radicals by strenuous exercise, athletes would be wise to incorporate green tea into their daily diet in order to negate this effect and boost overall health. The further benefits of supporting both short-term performance and endurance - as well as the positive metabolic and fat-burning qualities - make it an excellent, cost-efficient nutritional product, easily accessible to all.