by, Carolyn Berry, BSc., RD, CDE
Registered Dietitian & Certified Diabetes Educator
With today’s focus on health and natural foods, many runners are turning away from traditional pre-workout powders and drinks that are highly processed and instead looking to natural alternatives. Matcha green tea is rising in popularity and is increasingly becoming the focus of scientific studies for its proposed role in protection against cancer, boosting energy, endurance and immunity, reducing inflammation, and many others.
Matcha is a fine green powder that is the product of steamed, dried and ground green tea leaves. Matcha has been around since the 12th century in Japan, but has only become popular in North America in the past few years.
Antioxidants: Cancer Protecting & Immune Boosting
Antioxidants help prevent or stop cell damage caused by oxidants, and can also help boost immunity. Oxidants are free radicals that are found in the environment, and also occur naturally in your body. Your body creates oxidants to help fend off viruses and microbes, but if you have too many, they can cause serious damage and contribute to certain cancers and heart disease. Many foods contain antioxidants, including green tea leaves. But what makes matcha so special, is that the antioxidant content is much higher. Matcha is a potent source of antioxidants called catechins. Studies have shown that matcha contains three times more of the catechins than tea steeped from green tea leaves. In fact, it takes about ten cups of steeped green tea leaves to match the potency of a cup of matcha green tea.
Boosting Energy & Endurance
Matcha has about three times more caffeine than steeped green tea leaves. 1 tsp of matcha powder contains about 70 mg of caffeine, 1 cup of steeped green tea has about 30 mg of caffeine, and 1 cup of brewed coffee contains 100 mg of caffeine. Matcha provides a natural source of sustained energy due to the unique way it delivers caffeine into your system, unlike coffee which has a faster release and can cause a quick energy spike, energy slump and even the “jitters.” With matcha, the natural tea caffeine is absorbed and released slowly by the body over a period of 6-8 hours. This can be desirable for distance runners who need constant and sustained energy.
Matcha is very versatile and can be used not only to make tea, and lattes, but can also be incorporated into smoothies, baked goods, grain salads, pancakes, oatmeal, granola, guacamole and other dips, energy bites, and many more! So try adding matcha powder to your pre-run smoothie or oatmeal for a slow-release energy boost with less risk of the negative gastrointestinal effects that can be associated with drinking coffee for some individuals.
Recipe: Matcha Green Tea Smoothie
• 1 cup 1% milk (or milk of your choice)
• ½ cup plain greek yogurt
• 1 tsp matcha green tea powder
• ½ tsp vanilla extract
• 1 tsp cinnamon
• 1 tsp ground flaxseeds
• 1 handful spinach leaves
• 1 frozen banana (ripe, peeled, chopped and frozen)
Place all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.