There are compounds in green tea extract that provide a whole raft of benefits, including immune boosting functions, protection against cancer and cardio vascular disease, and more.  But today, I’d like to tell you about a few other benefits of green that haven’t gotten as much traffic but are probably way more exciting to you as an athlete. Specifically, I want to tell you about it’s potent effects on bone density, endurance, and metabolism.
There’s lots of active beneficial agents in green tea, but we’re going to mostly zero in on one called EGCG. That stands for "epigallocatechin gallate." (If you ever need to actually SAY that to someone, here's a handy pronunciation guide: EP-ih GALL-ow CAT-eh-kin GAL-ate. There. Now you can share it with your friends.)
So now, onto all the good it does for you.
Green Tea Improves Your Bone Density
Optimizing your bone density has (at least) two really obvious benefits for athletes and martial artists. I probably don't even need to say them, but, what the hell:
- The stronger your bones, the harder your impact.
- The stronger your bones, the fewer bone injuries you're going to get.
And stronger bones do something else for you too. Something critical, and also obvious once you think about it. To appreciate this aspect of your bones, it might help you to imagine the strongest, fastest, most muscular guy in the world. Now take away his bones. What's all that muscle going to do for him now? Nothing. He's an amorphous, immobile pile of goo.
Why? His bones, like yours, are the levers that allow his muscles to do work; any kind of work: Punching, kicking, throwing, running, jumping, climbing, heaving, hurling, you name it.
Now, imagine you put his bones back, but they’re weak compared to his muscles. That’s also bad news: the weakest link breaks the whole chain. If your bones are your weakest link, and if you increase the strength and speed of your neuromuscular system, you'd be speeding headlong towards a bone injury.
Now, the good news is, your body's not stupid, and good training increases your bone density right along with improvements to your muscles and nerves. Unless you’ve got a problem with bone metabolism, that is.
54 million Americans are affected by low bone mass and osteoporosis, and the numbers are climbing. The National Osteoporosis Foundation predicts over 60 million by 2020. The NOF also reported that, according to surveys, a lot of those very people don’t think they have any bone metabolism problems.
Have you ever watched the tide slowly wash sand away from a sand castle? Ever find yourself wondering how many grains of sand can disappear before the whole thing comes crumbling down? It’s hard to say, and osteoporosis can creep up on you the same way.
So, whether you have low bone density issues or not, why not stack the deck in your favor? Why not take every advantage you can get? This is especially true if you have a history of bone injuries, or if you know that you're susceptible to having low bone mass issues. Studies the world over have come back showing that habitual tea drinkers have higher bone density. ,,,,, As a result, they also report a lower risk of fractures. ,
“How does Green Tea Help My Bones?”
Free radicals in our environment are bombarding us every day through the toxins in our air, water, and food. Your body has a built in system to fight off these free radicals, but it can be overwhelmed. When there’s more free radicals than what your body can handle, whatever tissues they touch start to break down--muscle, bone, arteries and veins, everything is susceptible.
This breakdown is called oxidative stress, and the antioxidants in green tea can boost your body’s antioxidant defense. Oxidative stress is a key factor in bone loss as you age, , but if you’re overexposed to free radicals, it can even cause problems if you're young and not considered high risk for osteoporosis. .
Because of EGCG's ability to combat oxidative stress and act as an anti-inflammatory agent, green tea has successfully stimulated bone regrowth for people with bone loss, whether the bone loss was due to oxidative stress, chronic inflammation, or even heavy metal poisoning.
Green Tea Also Improves Your Endurance
So, maybe you don't have any problems with your bones. How’s your endurance?
A recent British study found that the EGCG in green tea also improved athletic endurance. When a group of cyclists took green tea, they were able to go 11% further than those who didn’t.
How did it work? The study reported that their fat oxidation rates increased by 25%, while the placebo group showed no changes in fat metabolism at all.
That’s significant: fat is the fuel of endurance. If you can’t access your ability to metabolize fat, you’re output will choke in a matter of minutes. There’s not enough sugar (glycogen) in your muscles and liver to move you for long enough. But people have enough fat to be able to jog for literally days. If you’re not able to keep going, your metabolic shortcoming is an inability to oxidize fat effectively.
And this is probably a good time to tell you about green tea’s effects on fat.
Green Tea Stokes Your Metabolism and Burns Fat
Plum Dragon Herbs is not in the business of selling weight loss snake oil, so we’re not going to spend a ton of time on this benefit, but let’s face it: as an athlete, fat only gets in your way and slows you down. Extra weight hampers your agility and makes it more difficult to shift directions while in motion. Given the same muscular output, a fat leg kicks slower than a lean leg.
So how does green tea affect fat stores? Through a very potent thermogenic reaction. Remember the now-banned substance called ephedrine (ma huang), which was once the fat burning wonder of the fitness world? Well, the EGCG in green tea performs better than that! ,, Yes, better, believe it or not.
Why isn’t green tea banned, then? Because EGCG doesn’t trigger the adrenal response that got ephedrine banned. Instead, it activates a related-but-heart-safe pathway that won’t give you the jitters.
But we’re not out of the woods yet: if you mobilize fat, but you don’t oxidize it, all that mobilized fat comes right back around and turns back into stored fat. So, once it’s in your bloodstream, you’ve got to burn it up.
Remember how green tea increased fat oxidation by 25% in those cyclists? Green tea's EGCG makes this happen at rest, too: in a study of obese men, EGCG increased both fat mobilization and fat oxidation.. Amazingly, it maintains stored fat as a primary fuel source even when on a high-fat diet, which is something that normally puts the brakes on the usage of stored fat as fuel.
So, if you have any fat you need to burn off, definitely make Green Tea part of your arsenal.
“I Heard There Were Conflicting Results About Green Tea”
While the majority of human studies involving green tea have come back positive, a number of the human studies have produced conflicting results. Why? Because some of them didn't account for what they call confounding variables.
Let’s say you wanted to see what EGCG in green tea did for metabolism, but you left the caffeine in. That would screw up the data, because caffeine has significant effects on metabolism, too. You wouldn't know whether the effects were from EGCG or from caffeine.
Or, let’s say you want to see how green tea affects people’s bones, but you don’t check and see whether your test subjects are physically active, or heavy drinkers or smokers. Those factors will produce wonky data and results you can’t trust, because they significantly impact your bones as well. The moral of the story is that it can be very hard to isolate single variables in human studies, because people make a big stink about living in lab conditions for months, and they don’t like to be told they have to eat a certain way, exercise, and quit smoking and drinking.
Rats, however, tend to fare a lot better. (It’s a lot easier to find rats who don’t sneak shots of jack and packs of Newport.) And in those studies, the results are much more consistently positive.
“How Much Do I Need?”
It can take 6-7 mugs of green tea a day to start to hit the effective doses. But remember -- just because you brew your tea hot doesn't mean you have to drink it hot. You can always chill it afterwards. Drinking iced green tea instead is an easy way to help you gulp down a whole lot more of it, especially on hot days or after hard workouts. You can also brew it a little thicker without it getting too bitter.
Keep in mind that EGCG breaks down in a couple of hours inside the body, so if you want to keep the stimulation up for all your waking hours, you have to drink it fairly regularly.
If that seems like a lot, or it you're not a tea drinker, you might consider a quality supplement standardized for EGCG and have it with each meal.
Well, that does it, folks. As you know, Plum Dragon carries a supply of high grade green tea, so if you’d like to cash in on any of these benefits, be sure click here to get yourself some!
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