We all know the importance of consuming plenty of fluids throughout the day. However, while water has typically been seen as the holy grail of health, a new paper titled Tea for Sport and Fitness: A Scoping Review , has shone a light on the fascinating health and fitness benefits of tea, particularly the part it plays in sports performance and fitness. Yup, good old fashioned tea!
The paper brings together a number of research studies which all point the finger towards tea being a fantastic addition to a person’s day to day diet as well as a hydration hack prior and post working out. In fact, four cups a day  has been noted as the amount needed to elicit the health benefits of tea, which isn’t too hard a feat seeing as a staggering 77% of British adults already consume tea regularly.
Flick the kettle on, as we’re about to delve a little deeper. Dr Tim Bond of the Tea Advisory Panel (TAP) says that the food and drink we consume has a strong influence on how we perform day to day.
“In the UK, Public Health England recommends 6 to 8 hydrating drinks per day, which includes water, lower fat milk and sugar-free drinks such as tea. A staggering 50 to 60% of our body weight is water so we need to keep this topped up regularly. And if you like to work out and keep active, ensuring your hydration levels are topped up is essential, especially when it comes to performance.”
While previously tea’s caffeine content may have led us to believe it was more of a dehydrator, studies have actually shown that tea offers the same hydrating properties to water. This was based on blood tests and urine samples taken from volunteers who drank cups of tea made with tea bags and 20ml of semi-skimmed milk.
Nutritionist and advisor to TAP, Dr Emma Derbyshire explains that: “the average cup of tea contains less than half the level of caffeine than coffee.”
Personal trainer, Chris Ruxton and a fond lover of a cuppa, says: “Staying hydrated helps with all aspects of sports performance. We should aim to maintain “euhydration”; essentially normal hydration balance and tea helps tick the boxes here.”
Exercise can disrupt this water balance, and just a 2% body mass loss as water can hinder our exercise performance so we must stay hydrated throughout the day.
Need more reasons to drink tea? Studies in the paper reveal how tea can in fact improve strength. Men who were given 200ml of mate tea three times a day over 8 days, had improved strength recovery in the 24 hours after exercise, while women in Japan suffering from sarcopenia (muscle wastage) who drank 350ml of tea a day, had improved walking speeds over a 3-month period. This speed was helped by an improvement in muscle mass strength.
Dr Emma Derbyshire adds: “There’s also the weight loss benefits from tea. Several studies have linked the consumption of matcha green tea to weight loss. Just 4 cups of matcha green tea drunk over a 24 hour period resulted in increased fat oxidation when volunteers went on a 30 minute brisk walk, while another study proved how sedentary females who drank 3 cups of green tea a day over 8 weeks lost weight around their middle.”
Sleep is another area boosted by drinking tea, and with sleep essentially ‘the glue holding us together’, it’s important that we do everything in our power to ensure a good night’s slumber. Dr Bond explains that 300ml or more of low-caffeine green tea can actually result in better sleep quality as well as reduced stress levels. ‘Dubbed the ‘silent killer’, stress can also hinder our sleep so it’s important to reduce it when we can.’ Evidently, tea is a drink we all need to get on board with, so pop the kettle on and enjoy a brew today!
 Bond T, Derbyshire E, Jenkins G; (2021) Tea for sport and fitness: a scoping review. Nutrition and Food Technology Journal, in press.