November is here, which means the end of fall foliage season and the beginning of holiday festivities, and lots of great food and drink. While these welcome indulgences are around the corner, it’s good to think of ways to keep a healthy balance in your life through regular exercise. And, if you’re feeling too sluggish to get on the treadmill, there’s tool you can add into your arsenal that is an all-around aid in your workout routine: green tea. What’s so great about this ancient brew? This wonderful plant is full of healthy nutrients, antioxidants, and amino acids to help you pre- and post-workout.
Before your workout, green tea can boost your energy in ways that are similar to coffee but more gentle on your system. Green tea contains some caffeine – about 40mg per cup – so it can give you nice boost without overloading you on caffeine and giving you the jitters. Why else don’t you get the jitters with green tea? L-theanine. This little-known substance has a lot of untapped potential! L-theanine is an amino acid found naturally in only a few sources. One of these sources is tea. It actually acts synergistically with caffeine in a way that promotes relaxation without causing drowsiness. 1 What a combination!
Green tea also helps improve your exercise performance and recovering afterwards. One researcher has found that the long-term intake of “green tea extract … together with habitual exercise, is beneficial in improving endurance capacity.” 2 Another important feature of green tea is the anti-inflammatory effect. This can help you post workout with muscle recovery and decrease stress on the body which can promote healing. These benefits can be accessed in hot or cold forms of green tea. And, of course, drinking tea will help to keep you hydrated.
Green tea also has a halo effect beyond the needs of the body before, during and after exercise.
A recent study found a strong correlation between the catechins (an anti-oxidant) in green tea and weight loss, especially loss of abdominal fat. 3 Catechins also help fight free-radicals. 4 This can support your immune system and certainly help during cold and flu season. This control of free radicals in your system can also contribute to staving off bigger problems, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
So many surprising super powers are hidden in this wonderful tea plant. For instance, green tea can help inhibit cavity forming bacteria in the mouth. So, as an added benefit it can keep your breath fresh during those long workouts. And green tea can also have a great impact on your overall mood and demeanor. One study has found that the combination of caffeine and our old friend L-theanine probably “are beneficial for improving performance on cognitively demanding tasks.” In addition, that combination appears “to improve, significantly, aspects of memory and attention to a greater extent than caffeine alone.” 5
As I’ve suggested in a previous blog in March of last year, integrating green tea as an occasional alternative or a substitute to coffee as an energy boost has many positive health benefits. Coffee is certainly one of the more popular, if not the most popular, drinks in America. 6 It’s such a deeply ingrained habit it may be hard to change for many people. But if it’s energy and healthiness you’re looking for – plus great taste that is easy to make – green tea is an attractive option whose short-term benefits can improve your work-out while also having long-term impacts that can significantly help your health and your mood.