There is a rumor circulating the interwebs that pu-erh tea should only be drunk following meals and because of this, people often ask, “for weight loss, should I drink pu-erh tea before or after meals?”
Gotta love the internet–one person publishes something, and everyone else knowing very little about the topic simply copy that idea and perpetuate bad or partial information.
This seems to be exactly what happened with this notion of when to drink pu-erh (pu’er) tea. The article that everyone gets their information from reads like this:
“The best time to drink a cup of Pu-erh tea for weight loss goals is one hour after a meal, so that the Pu-erh tea can remove excess grease and help your body eliminate unwanted and leftover, hard-to-digest fats. However if you drink Pu-erh half an hour or so before you eat a meal it will cause the opposite effect and can cause you to gain weight instead because when you drink Pu-erh tea before a mean it clears up the fat deposits in your body and any residue in the stomach so that it actually increases your appetite, causing you to eat more.”
It is much easier to simply agree with and copy what someone else has written than to go out and do your own research. But I have done some research, so let me share what I found.
I like Google Scholar search for medical and nutrition journal articles.
One of the first articles that comes up for pu-erh tea and fat loss is from the Nutrition Research Journal. The scientists setup a “12-week double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled group comparison study” in which “all subjects ingested barley tea with or without (333 mg) [of pu-erh tea extract] before each of the 3 daily meals” (emphasis added).
The results of the study showed that those who drank the tea with pu-erh tea extract reduced their “mean waist circumference, BMI, and visceral fat values and [the researchers concluded pu-erh tea] might be useful for weight control and prevention of obesity development (or metabolic syndrome) in humans.”
The subjects drank pu-erh tea before meals and still experienced fat loss.
Since the evidence clearly refutes the web quote, it made me think back to my time in China and see if this notion of not drinking pu-erh tea before meals was commonplace there, too. In China, people often suggested drinking pu-erh tea after meals, but that was for the digestive support. In asking about drinking pu-erh tea for weight loss, there was no question of when, it was simply a matter of doing it–whenever it was convenient for you.
Just in case I was remembering wrong, I went searching (in Chinese) to find evidence or advice for when or how pu-erh tea had been traditionally used for weight loss in China. A Chinese government website advised against drinking tea immediately (i.e. not within an hour) after eating any protein because pu-erh may inhibit iron absorption, and because the tannic acid may also slow the digestion of protein. But, if you wait 2 hours after eating, the article states, pu-erh can speed up the rate of gastric emptying, meaning the fat does not have much time to be absorbed, thus helping to lower lipids. A separate article advises drinking pu-erh tea with every meal for fat loss, including before, during, and after lunch, and especially when feeling hungry.
What this tells me, is that there is no single right answer to when or even how often to drink pu-erh tea. What is notable, is the suggestion to drink pu-erh whenever hunger arises. While not discussed in the research study above, that pu-erh suppresses appetite may be one such pathway by which the subjects drinking pu-erh tea lowered their BMI. Corroborating this idea is the fact that many BeLight tea drinkers find Belight helps mitigate their appetite (despite not containing solely pu-erh tea).
In conclusion, drinking pu-erh tea before meals will (most likely) not prevent weight loss, and may even enhance it. As for drinking pu-erh tea after meals, if you’re worried about iron absorption or are eating a protein-rich meal, it may be better to bit longer, about 2 hours post-eating before having a cup. That being said, though, consuming pu-erh post-meal may still support digestion and weight loss. But perhaps one of the best way to use pu-erh tea for weight loss is by enjoying a cup anytime hunger sneaks up, and opting for tea instead of a snack.