Green tea has a slightly anabolic effect on strength athletes
Strength training stimulates the build up of muscle tissue and the burning of body fat. Both effects are boosted if you combine your strength training with a couple of cups of green tea every day. Nutritionists at the Universidade de Sao Paulo in Brazil draw this remarkable conclusion in a study that will soon appear in the Journal of Medicinal Food.
This web magazine has written before on the pseudo anabolic effect of green tea. Bodybuilders who drink three cups of green tea a day lose less muscle fibre than bodybuilders who don’t do this. [Nutrition. 2008 May;24(5):433-42.] In 2009 we wrote about a sponsored study carried out at the University of Oklahoma, in which a training schedule resulted in more muscle mass and less fat mass as a result of a sports drink that contained green tea. And a couple of weeks ago we described a Japanese study in which elderly people built up more muscle power through strength training when they drank green tea.
Part of the anabolic effect of green tea may be because of a temporary rise in the testosterone level, which happens because the phenols in green tea inhibit the enzymes that remove testosterone from the bloodstream, but other mechanisms probably play a role too. The Brazilians suggest in their article that green tea may possibly boost the concentration of adrenalin, and thus improve the quality of training.
The Brazilian researchers did an experiment with 36 women aged between 20 and 40. The women were overweight and had BMIs ranging from 25 to 35. First the researchers got all subjects to lose weight by going on a diet consisting of 1200 kcal per day for four weeks. After that the real experiment started, and lasted for 8 weeks.
The researchers divided the women into four groups. Group 1 drank powdered green tea made by the Brazilian Sanavita, every day at 10:00 and 16:00. [sanavita.com.br] The subjects took 10 g powder from a container like the one below and mixed this with water. Each cup of tea contained 2.1 mg zinc, 13.5 mg vitamin C, 20 mg caffeine and 160 mg phenols.
Sanavita’s Cha Verde
The phenol quantity is on the low side: if you make green tea yourself it’ll contain more phenols.
The subjects in group 2 were given a placebo, which was identical to the powder described above, except that it contained no polyphenols.
Group 3 also drank green tea twice a day but did weight training as well. These women went to a gym three times a week where they trained their main muscle groups, doing bench press, back pull-down, leg press, lateral raises, triceps pushdown, biceps curls, leg curls, gluteus kickback, seated calf raises and sit ups. The women went for sets of 10 reps and rested for one minute between sets.
Group 4 also did weight training, but drank a placebo instead of green tea.
The Brazilians looked for effects on the cholesterol level in the women’s blood, but found nothing. What they did discover was that the concentration of triglycerides in the blood of group 3 had declined significantly by 37.6 mg per decilitre.
Supplementation with green tea caused a considerable reduction in the fat mass of the green tea + strength training group. This interaction has been demonstrated previously. [Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Mar;87(3):778-84.]
In the inactive groups the resting metabolic rate [RMR] decreased throughout the experiment; in the active group the RMR rose. In the green tea + strength training group energy expenditure increased by 561 kcal per day; in the placebo + strength training group it went up by 503 kcal per day. This was above all because lean body mass increased in the active groups, the researchers suggest. This increase was most noticeable in the green tea + strength training group.
The combination of strength training and green tea also resulted in a bigger increase in maximal strength. The strength-training group increased its strength by 60 kg for the leg press, by 4.8 kg for the bench press and by 9 kg for the lat pull-down. For the green tea + strength training group the figures were 83.3, 5.5 and 12.6 kg.
J Med Food. 2012 Nov 9. [Epub ahead of print].