Do late nights, early training, and work or family commitments have you feeling off-kilter? We get it — life happens. The good news? There are health benefits of tea that can help you de-stress and for Spartans, boost performance.
It’s a given: total-body wellness starts with creating a better balance in daily life so you can perform and feel your best. And with a packed schedule, nutrition is key to staying well fueled and energized to conquer to-dos without losing your mind.
But before you go nuts on a diet-overhaul, just consider drinking more tea. Yes, tea. According to Nada Milosavjevic, certified tea specialist, medical advisor to the U.S. Tea Association, MD, author, and host of our Spartan Up Podcast Sunday health series, drinking more of the steeped stuff throughout the day can actually decrease stress levels, promote better sleep, and boost overall wellness. Read on for our Q&A — her expert tips and intel to why learn the many health benefits of tea is so good for you, and your training.
HOW TEA DECREASES STRESS & PROMOTES CALM
Spartan: People are recognizing that total-body health is all about the ability to balance stress, sleep, food, and activity. Stress is the main stickler for most people. So how does adding tea to your diet reduce stress?
Nada Milosavjevic: Tea offers a host of health benefits. In terms of stress reduction, there are several compounds in tea that help the body deal with stress. One of these is L-theanine, an amino acid that has a calming effect on the brain. Few items [including food!] contain L-theanine so tea is a great source for this healthy and supportive compound.
S: How does the act of making and drinking tea help restore a sense of calm?
NM: L-theanine certainly plays a role. But, you’re absolutely right that even the act of preparing, serving, and enjoying tea can be a calming and meditative process. With repetition, this behavior becomes habit. This new habit rewires the brain so that every time you start preparing your tea, it sends a signal to the brain that it’s time to relax. [And winding down gets easier.]
S: How can tea benefit a meditation ritual? What teas do you recommend for meditation?
NM: Meditation [which is different for everyone] should contain aspects that are enjoyable and resonate with each individual. With that in mind, the particulars of that meditative practice are deeply personal. So, choose a tea that you enjoy, whether it be a [caffeinated] tea (white, green, black, etc), or an herbal tea. Any meditative practice is meant to be repeated, grounding, regenerative and healing.
Related: 5 Meditations for Beginners
TEA & YOUR INSIDES: WEIGHT MANAGEMENT & THE GI TRACT
S: When we talk “total-body wellness”, we mean weight management and eating well. So how can tea help to manage weight and oxidize fat in the body? Are there specific teas that you recommend for these focus areas?
NM: Tea (from the Camellia sinensis plant) can support a metabolic process called “thermogenesis.” Basically, this promotes fat metabolism and can help with weight management.
BONUS HEALTH BENEFITS OF TEA: Did you know…?
Polyphenols known as catechins (also from Camellia Sinesis) have additional benefits shown to potentially reduce risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes. Who knew of all these health benefits of tea?!
S: We are beginning to understand the role that our GI system plays on our overall health. How can tea help support a strong microbiome?
NM: Tea contains hundreds of natural compounds, not all of which have been fully evaluated and researched. But, some of the compounds that have been elucidated in black and green tea show that they support healthy microbial networks in the gut. Your gut microbiome plays a role in immunity and is important for digestion and overall good health.
HOW DRINKING MORE TEA BOOSTS RECOVERY
S: In your opinion, how does drinking tea play an active role in recovery to enhance performance during training and racing?
NM: Tea can be restorative post workout. It contains supportive antioxidants that aid in recovery. Also, it’s ultra-hydrating and counters the effects of dehydration. Tea also has a host of different minerals that include: potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium to name a few. Further, tea has an anti-inflammatory effect which can help with muscle recovery and promote healing.
S: So much of our recovery happens when we sleep. How does incorporating tea into your daily life promote better rest?
NM: Tea’s amino acid, L-theanine, helps to calm the brain and can assist with down-regulating the body as you prepare for a good night’s sleep. But, be mindful of the caffeine content in tea. In comparison to many caffeinated beverages, tea does tend to be on the lower end, containing anywhere from 20-60 mg of caffeine. But it depends on the how it is processed. If you are particularly sensitive to caffeine, you should try a decaffeinated version before bedtime, which will still contain the L-theanine and calming benefits.
Namita, Parmar, et al. “Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea): A Review.” Global Journal of Pharmacology, vol. 6, no. 2, 2012, pp. 52–59.