You stare at your shapely self in the mirror. Shapely, some shape, not particularly the one you want. A sudden burst of enthusiasm overpowers you (and a super-fit lady in figure-hugging attire doing yoga pops into your head—appealing to both sexes).
Desperate times call for desperate measures. You hit a quick search for quick weight loss tips (that’s how you’re probably reading this). And voila! Green tea it is! Or so you think.
Let’s pause and rewind a little before you scramble to the supermarket to buy green tea sachets in bulk (for the wrong reasons).
What have you already heard?
Trending blogs and misinformed (or backdated) so-called health enthusiasts have initiated an amplified touting of how green tea can slice off all your extra fat. (You will soon learn the truth.) You have also probably heard that green tea is low in caffeine and high in antioxidants, both beneficial for health.
On the flip side, you may have had a colleague or relative (with an all-knowing look) advise you against drinking green tea as it gave them an upset stomach.
What’s true and what’s not?
Green tea has been proved to reduce body fat percentage and inhibit accumulation of new fat in the body. It also speeds up metabolism. Being less processed than other varieties of tea (black and oolong), it retains most its beneficial components. These include:
1. Catechins: These polyphenols (don’t get intimidated yet) are strong antioxidants that interfere with the intestinal absorption of lipids (nothing but fats) and the synthesis of lipids, thus, preventing fat accumulation. (Read as: Less fat in the body.)
This effect can be largely attributed to EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), the primary catechin, that also has anti-inflammatory properties.
2. Caffeine: Yes, caffeine. But in lower concentrations than coffee. Caffeine increases the body’s metabolic rate and thermogenesis. Simply put, your body uses fat to produce heat. Again, less fat is a plus for weight loss strivers.
This brings us to the stomach upset bit. Caffeine stimulates the contraction and relaxation of colon muscles (more than normal), hence, a stomach upset (diarrhea). This is more of a problem in individuals who have an innately low tolerance for caffeine, but can be avoided.
Antioxidants? Good. Caffeine? Good. Then why all the debate?
Most of the scientific evidence used to support the claims of green tea in weight loss are conducted on lab rats (the literal kind) using green tea extract, a very concentrated form of green tea. So, the question really is does it work on humans? Up until now, clinical trials studying the effects of green tea show no significant visible weight loss in test subjects.
What’s the takeaway?
The extent to which green tea helps you lose weight is very modest, practically negligible. You can’t substitute diet and high intensity exercise with a few cups of green tea, especially not by adding a dollop of honey or cream or milk to it. Instead, channelize your tea-drinking enthusiasm to a focused, well-planned fitness routine.
This, however, doesn’t mean you can’t and shouldn’t exploit the host of other health benefits of green tea that actually work.
Even though your green tea breaks are still well justified…
- Individuals under medication, pregnant women, and those suffering from caffeine sensitivity and other conditions (diabetes, glaucoma, hypertension, liver damage, osteoporosis, etc.) need to consult a doctor before blindly adopting the green tea fad.
- Don’t drink it on an empty stomach.
- Have it along with or in-between meals to avoid diarrhea.
- Stick to 3-4 cups a day — it has just the right dose of recommended EGCG, i.e. 270 mg/day. Definitely not more than 6.
Drinking more than 3 cups means pushing excess caffeine into your system, more than the safe 300 mg per day. Diarrhea, heartburn, anxiety, disturbance or lack of sleep, and irritability are the usual caffeine tag alongs.