Today’s post on finding the right tea to help shed the extra pounds seems very fitting as it’s both National Hot Tea Month and National Shape Up Month.
January is a time for New Year’s Resolutions, for getting back in shape after the holidays, for turning over a new leaf, for recommitting to health and fitness goals, for cleaning up the diet after a season of indulgent eating, and for staying warm curled up with a nice hot cup of tea.
And when you’re thinking about drinking tea to aid weight loss, you have to consider all of those things… a solid nutrition plan (we won’t call it a diet), physical activity, and other healthy habits… not just sitting on the couch drinking tea, waiting and hoping.
When you’re ready to take a comprehensive approach to lose some of the jiggle including eating better and becoming active, you’ll find tea much more effective at helping you achieve that goal.
But, which tea should can you trust? A run-of-the-mill green tea? The highly caffeinated powdered matcha green tea? Pu-erh with it’s active enzymes? A laxative herb to flush the bowels? Or an herbal tisane to help control blood sugar? Some combination? A blend?
The research into green tea shows it may have some effect on contributing to weight loss, due to the combination of caffeine and tea catechins, such as EGCG. Admittedly, the most compelling evidence suggests green tea before exercise is more effective.
Recently, matcha–powdered Japanese green tea–has become the tea darling of the health and weight loss worlds. Because with matcha you consume the entire leaf, matcha is thought to be 10 times more potent than steeped green tea and have up to 137 times more EGCG. (A cursory search on PubMed doesn’t reveal any compelling studies on matcha impacting body weight or fat loss, though.)
If you like green tea, can afford matcha, and are not sensitive to caffeine, green tea would definitely be a beneficial addition to a healthy lifestyle.
Pu-erh tea has been a long-time favorite of Chinese girls to help them manage or lose weight and it’s often served after dinner to support digestion.
Unlike other teas, pu-erh tea goes through a fermentation process (before it’s finally dried), and that process helps to activate certain enzymes. Research suggests the unique characteristics of pu-erh tea can aid digestion of fats and oily foods, help convert stored fat into energy, improve bio markers such as cholesterol, and as a result, suppress body weight.
Pu-erh, like green tea, contains both caffeine and EGCG and so, too, might be more effective with exercise.
One study found pu-erh just as beneficial whether consumed before meals or after; therefore, if you encounter a pu-erh tea you enjoy, go ahead and drink it any time of day.
Oftentimes herbs are sold in tea bags and marketed as a weight loss tea. But anytime you encounter this, you have to ask, what herb is this? What will it do? Is it safe for me?
The most common herbal weight loss “teas” (more accurately herbal infusions) are based on laxatives or stimulants.
You’ll oftentimes find senna as a prime ingredient–it is a harsh, habit-forming laxative. Take caution whenever you see this. Drinking it more than for occasional constipation can lead to dependence on it to have a bowel movement, severe cramps, dehydration, and/or dangerous loss of electrolytes. Though a quick bowel movement may make you feel less bloated or heavy in your lower abdomen, it is not actual body weight that’s been lost–it’s just wastes and water. Your body fat is still the same. (And body fat loss is the real goal, isn’t it?)
Other herbal tisanes may include herbs high in cafffeine-like stimulants such as yerba mate or guaraná. The premise behind these is that if you have more energy (from stimulants) you’ll move more, thus burning more calories. Moving more, especially if you don’t get enough exercise can be moderately helpful for weight loss. But you need to consider whether the stimulants are inhibiting good sleep (also essential for weight loss) or causing hormonal problems (which might inhibit weight loss).
One less common approach to weight loss herbal infusions that may prove safer and still somewhat effective is to look for herbs that control blood sugar. For example, infusions of bitter melon, sage, bilberry, or cinnamon can all help moderate blood sugar spikes. Avoiding high blood sugar can mean less body fat storage as the excess sugar is used for energy or cleared from the body.
Take caution whenever you find a herbal weight loss “tea”–read the ingredients and do some research first. Avoid laxatives, take stimulants only to the extent you can handle them, and if you’re unsure, opt for adding cinnamon or sage leaf to a cup of hot water.
Increasingly, blends are the most common form of weight loss tea available.
You may find some that are a blend of three teas such as green, oolong, and pu-erh. Others may combine tea and herbal laxatives. Still others may combine tea and other stimulant herbs with or without laxatives.
Or, such as in the case of BeLight, our own weight control tea, you might find a tea with a number of herbs you’re unfamiliar with. You can always do the research on your own, or ask the retailer for more information on the herbs. (Info on BeLight’s ingredients is here.)
With blends, the same rules as above apply–avoid harsh laxatives, take caution with too many stimulants, and use exercise and a smart eating plan to complement your tea drinking.
Tea is certainly an excellent addition to a healthy diet and lifestyle, but don’t expect tea to do all the work for you.
Drink smart. Eat clean. Sleep deeply. Exercise regularly.
Health matters. An unhealthy body is less likely to shed weight than a healthy body. Fundamentals first.