By now you've probably heard that regularly drinking tea can lead to a number of health benefits including a reduced risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer; but, did you know studies indicate tea can help boost athletic performance as well? Check out some of the sweet performance benefits of tea, then be sure to add a cup of tea to your daily health regimen.
Tea's benefits: The basics
The magic of tea comes in the form of strong antioxidants known as polyphenols that help prevent damage caused by free radicals. Every day your body experiences cellular turnover as old cells break down and new cells are generated to take their place. Your daily activity - what you eat, drink and do - all contribute to oxidative stress that plays a part in cellular turnover. Sometimes during the process, cells are damaged and end up with an unpaired electron in their outer shell. These cells are termed free radicals, and in an effort to become stable, they end up "stealing" electrons from other, healthy cells, causing more damage in the process.
That's where antioxidants come in. Antioxidants are combatants to free radicals. They help stabilize cells with unpaired electrons by providing a donated electron and stopping the destructive chain reaction. You can find antioxidants in a number of fruits and vegetables, but the polyphenols found in tea are particularly powerful. In fact, the University of Maryland Medical Center indicates that green tea may have the highest concentration of polyphenols because its leaves have not been through a fermentation process.
Tea and fitness
While exercising regularly is just about one of the best things you can do for your health, the stress you place on your body during exercise does cause an increase in cell turnover which can also increase destructive free radical activity. Drinking tea after your workout may help reduce this activity and improve athletic performance. Check out these study-based statistics:
- Reduce strength training-induced free radical damage. A study performed at the Federal University of Santa Catarina's Center of Physical Education, Physiotherapy and Sports found that individuals who drank green tea daily for a week before performing a bout of strength training had a 27 percent higher level of blood polyphenol levels before and after exercise. Also, the subjects who drank the green tea had 37 percent higher levels of the glutathione protein, which is known for its ability to help prevent free radical damage. While more studies are needed, this indicates that regular green tea consumption can help reduce free radical damage caused by strength training-induced oxidative stress.
- Improve endurance. A study performed at the Biological Science Laboratories of Kao Corp., Tochigi, Japan, found that consuming the equivalent of four cups of green tea a day resulted in an increase of 8 to 24% swimming time-to-exhaustion. Basically, subjects who took the green tea extract instead of a placebo were able to swim for longer periods of time before they became exhausted.
- Enhance body composition. Chances are you're already fit and healthy, but if you're looking to improve your body composition before your next big event, tea just may help. According to a study performed at the University of Geneva, Switzerland, it appears that the combination of caffeine and catechin polyphenols present in green tea boost metabolism above and beyond the level achieved when consuming caffeine alone.
Choosing a tea
While green tea gets the most buzz, you shouldn't overlook other varieties. Whether you're sipping green, black or oolong, you're going to be consuming the polyphenols that help make tea so special. Taste test a few options and stick to your favorite flavor. Just remember, brewed tea appears to have more antioxidants than bottled tea, so avoid the temptation to grab a bottle from your grocery store freezer. Not only will your health benefit from taking the time to brew up a cup, it's more environmentally friendly to avoid drinking from disposable plastic bottles.
Keep it healthy
For some, tea is an acquired taste that requires milk, sugar and flavored syrups to be palatable. While adding "extras" to your tea may make it taste better, it won't make it healthier. According to a study published in the European Heart Journal in 2007, adding milk to your tea actually eliminates its heart health benefits because the casein in milk interacts with the catechins in tea, reducing their beneficial effects. There are so many varieties of tea that you're bound to find one you can drink without the added flavor.
What to expect
- Green tea: A mild, popular flavor with a scent that smells a little like a hay field
- Black tea: A strong, bold flavor; scent will vary based on the spices added
- Oolong tea: Flavors vary widely depending on how long the leaves are oxidized - some are mild and flowery, while others are deeper and more earthy
Brand highlight: Choice Organic Teas
Full disclosure: We were sent a few boxes of Choice Organic Teas, but we were under no obligation whatsoever to write about them. We're adding them here because we legitimately like what the brand is doing and love the teas they're selling.
Notable company highlights
There are lots of brands you can choose from when browsing your grocery store tea section, but given the fact that tea is cultivated primarily in Asia, you should want to be sure that the workers cultivating your tea are being treated well. Choice Organic Teas was the first tea company in the U.S. to offer Fair Trade Certified tea. That means you don't have to worry about the working conditions of anyone cultivating the tea leaves.
Also, the company is focused on environmentally friendly business practices, purchasing renewable energy certificates (RECs) from wind power to offset 100% of the electricity used at their organic-certified manufacturing facility.
Laura's must-try flavors
I love the new Masala Chai Black Tea featuring strong masala spices. It may sound crazy, but sometimes I'll just sit back and smell the box. The tea tastes delicious by itself, but I like to steep the tea bags with a slice of orange in the cup to add a little bit of all-natural sweetener.
If you're more a green tea fan, Choice Organic offers a number of caffeinated and decaffeinated options. My favorite so far is the Premium Korean Green, but the Oothu Garden Green is also quite good. A slice of lemon adds a little extra "zing" to the cup.
Header Image Credit: Wax115, http://www.sxc.hu/photo/210849/?forcedownload=1