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Athletes & Tea


Athletes drinking tea as a sports drink is not a new concept. Tea and wellness go hand in hand.  The health benefits that tea offers have been used, valued and well documented for centuries.

For unknown reasons, athletes have not and are not seen as a primary tea drinking community.  Even the few tea products specifically marketed as tea for athletes are in fact mostly herbal and caffeine free, therefore, missing the exact chemicals and enzymes that have been shown scientifically to offer health benefits.  Part of the lack of tea products for athletes is that the central emphasis in wellness teas is that they are either a low caffeine green tea or caffeine free herbals.  Athletic experts see and understand tea for what it is, a valuable element in enhancing five main areas of athletics:  Energy, Hydration, Endurance, Concentration and Recovery.

                                                                 ENERGY
 

Tea is a synergistic combination of catechins (antioxidants) and caffeine.  This combination has been shown to help boost metabolism and speed up the conversion of nutrients to the energy you need at the start of physical activity.  Think of it as a wake up jolt to your body that encourages it to use your stored fat as a fast source of fuel.  Pure tea has been endorsed by many studies and Expert Sports Medicine and Coaching Professionals. These Sports Experts view caffeine as a plus factor.  Caffeine, studied in isolated form, has been found to be one of the most tried and true performance enhancing substances of all time.  Caffeine can give you that extra drive and push needed during an athletic performance.  The overwhelming, scientific evidence shows caffeine levels in tea as safe for almost everyone. 

Tea is a fantastic energizer and certainly safer than energy drinks that will just give you a fast and short lived jolt of energy, mostly from too much sugar.  Catechins are the rich collection of compounds that are most associated with the health benefits of green tea.  Green tea is best known for its consistent ability to aid in fat loss.  It is a wonder nutrient that is extremely effective at accelerating recovery and fighting stress.  

Greater strength, muscle gains, less inflammation and improved oxygen use is what makes green tea particularly useful for strength and endurance.  It also may improve the concentration of adrenaline in the blood, allowing for more intense training. 

Scientists think green tea enhances strength and performance because it eliminates oxidative stress and helps to get rid of waste products from the body.  It also may enhance testosterone from the blood.  The implication is that using green tea as a sports drink improves both body composition and enhanced performance because muscle fuel stores will be preserved as the body burns fat during physical activity and exercise.  The evidence for green tea's effect is far higher than for many supplements specifically marketed as fat burners, that often contain esoteric ingredients like conjugated linoleic acid, fucoxanthin and kelp.

                                                                                                                                            HYDRATION

For many years, tea was seen as a diuretic that increased dehydration.  Study after study has shown that to be a myth.  Tea essentially has the same hydrating properties as water.  Hydration is vital in sports and heavy exercising.  Dehydration will impede performance and cause cramping and fatigue.  Training can cause loss of high amounts of body fluids through respiration and sweating.  

Tea offers the benefits of coffee or sports drinks but without all the pitfals.  Many Coaches note tea's value in helping younger athletes.  They see it as a fantastic way to stay hydrated and is great for those athletes who do not enjoy filling up with flavorless water.  Tea is lower in sugar and caffeine than energy drinks, which allows it to provide the benefits and avoid the side effects of a discouraging, delayed crash.  The hydrating effect of tea lasts longer and does not just hydrate you, it also helps to keep you that way.

Drinking 4-6 cups of tea a day is as good for keeping you hydrated as a liter of water.  Major league sports features players of the highest level, so athletes will often turn to a sports drink like gatorade or coffee to get the extra boost needed to train harder or keep their level of play at the highest possible level, however,  tea is a far more superior way for athletes to get a boost as well as perform at their highest level. 

                                 ENDURANCE                              

Endurance is fundamental to athletes.  It refers to the mental alertness and physical capabilities in pushing the limits of performance.  Mainly as a result of its caffeine content, black tea has various performance enhancing benefits.  As systematic reviews show, caffeine intake can improve strength and muscular endurance.  By helping muscles use fat as fuel, rather than the glycogen in the muscles themselves, the caffeine in tea can help an athlete's endurance because exhaustion typically occurs when glycogen is depleted.

Tea's antioxidants are primarily known to fight the free radicals that damage the cells in your body.  Damage from free radicals has been linked to cancer, cardiovascular disease and neurological degeneration.  Studies show that drinking black tea can also reduce your risk of developing cancer, diabetes and stroke while improving your digestion, asthma symptoms, bone density and oral health.  Researchers credit teas beneficial health properties to its antioxidants, polyphenols and phytochemicals.

All athletes deal with stress and anxiety on a daily basis, this is a fact.  Their nerves are rattled, they all want to win.  Feeling a little anxious at times is normal, and even healthy.  This is your body's natural response during stressful situations.  Anxiety stabilizes your breathing and heart rate while also regulating the blood flow to your brain.  Black tea works wonders on recovering from the damage done from stress and anxiety.  It has been proven to lower cortisol (the stress hormone) in the body due to black tea's amino acid called L-Theanine, which induces a calming sensation over the body.  Alongside helping in the process of regulating stress levels, black tea also lowers the amount of blood platelet activation in the body which decreases the chance of developing a blood clot or having a heart attack. 

Various studies conducted in Japan showed that athletes using green tea have enhanced muscular energy assimilation than the non-users. 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 is said to provide high amounts of strength during high intensity workouts by its unique fat metabolizing characteristics. This fatty acid metabolism provides energy during the workouts. This is particularly important for marathon runners.

One important thing to note is that whatever benefits green tea brings to a non-athlete, the effects are almost doubled or tripled in athletes who are into resistance training. This may be due to the high absorption rate of nutrients in the body of athletes compared to non-athletes.  Drinking green tea provides a tremendous amount of benefits during an athletic performance, drink it throughout the day and see the change.

                                                                                                             CONCENTRATION

Reaction time and alertness is something which is highly important in sports. Green tea has a combination of caffeine and unique phytonutrients which are responsible for the providing mental stimulation. A positive thing is that green tea acts as stimulant in alerting the body without over-stimulating to the point of anxiety.  Green tea has low amounts of caffeine, which in combination with high antioxidant and phytonutrient is said to reduce fatigue, increase adrenaline and trigger fat metabolism. 

Caffeine easily gets into the brain and affects many kinds of neurons (brain cells) in a positive way.  Studies continue to show that caffeine can increase mental focus and concentration.  Caffeine is really “nature’s stimulant”.  While moderate caffeine intake can boost your ability to concentrate and improves mental alertness, it doesn’t make you smarter and has no effect on learning.  Dose is important.

While body and brain receptors respond to caffeine, the more you use, the more your body gets used to this signal and stops responding the same way.  The response is much less. This is called attenuation.  Same dose of caffeine, less effect.  With this knowledge, the best way to have optimal effect of caffeine is to limit consumption to about 300 mg per day and consume it ONCE a day at the time you want to be most alert and to gain the maximal effect. Too much caffeine is a health negative with symptoms that can include anxiety, sleep disturbances, digestive problems, muscle twitching and heart palpitations. 

                                                         RECOVERY

Tea can help to ease aches and pains post exercise.  A reliable study concluded that regular consumption of black tea reduces oxidative stress and delayed muscle soreness from anaerobic exercise which in turn, speeds up recovery.  Many of the spices in black tea chai can enhance the benefit:  Cinnamon is a natural pain reliever and ginger is known to support your body's anti-inflammatory response.

L-Theanine is an amino acid which lowers inflammation, heightens mental alertness post exercise and can fight off illness by increasing white blood cell count, thereby, strengthening your defenses.  By lowering inflammation, you will allow your body to flush out unwanted toxins that build up from exercise and stress and enhance your recovery significantly.

Many studies have demonstrated that intense or prolonged exercise generates considerable amounts of oxidants within the human body.  These oxidants can produce oxidative stress, (damage to fats, proteins, nucleic acids and muscle cells).  Oxidative stress has naturally been linked with fatigue and over training.  It's been suggested that the human body’s natural oxidant defense system is not powerful enough to prevent the oxidative stress associated with rugged exercise, therefore, athletes need to accelerate their intake of rich antioxidants. TEA ranks above all others in terms of antioxidant potency.  It is no wonder that the best endurance athletes in the world, the Kenyan runners, sip tea all throughout the day.   

If you're not fueling your body properly or you're not taking the time necessary to rest, you may impact your body's natural recovery processes.  Wellness dictates that as Athletes, you should drink large quantities of water each day.  According to the International Sports Medicine Institute, an Athlete should drink 1/3 more water than the average person.  This not only keeps you healthy physically, but mentally also.  Tea is a great way of staying hydrated without ingesting unnatural substances and gaining essential nutrition in the process. 

Any flavour of tea would be AWESOME as your next iced sports & recovery drink!  Green or Black Tea should be a part of every Athlete's exercise or training program.