As a competitive runner, I am always looking for that ‘extra edge’ to take my performance to the next level. Having been a runner for a number of years, I have learnt that the solution is not necessarily training harder or running more, but sometimes more to do with what I do when I am not running or working out, such as what I fuel these workouts with.
This year has been quite transformational for me from a nutritional perspective. In January I have embarked on a journey to completely revamp my eating habits and be more strategic about what I put into my mouth. I have written about my experiences and the early benefits I started to see after making these changes in my blog post called Coming Clean. From a physical perspective, I have not only become leaner but my sports performance has started to improve as well, with my energy levels staying more stable and feeling less shattered after tougher sessions.
I credit quite a big part of my success to adding superfoods into my diet. Having just recovered from two serious injuries at the beginning of this year, I started training on heavily reduced mileage, however, my most current race results are very close to my personal best times which I set prior to these injuries when I was training much more but not eating so well. I therefore decided to launch a new series on my blog to regularly feature one superfood which really worked for me, with sports nutrition in the forefront of my mind.
To start with, I teamed up with teapigs to start a #matchachallenge whereby I committed to consuming matcha tea every day for a period of two weeks to see what difference it makes (if any).
So what is this hype about matcha tea?
In case you haven’t heard about matcha tea, it is often hailed as the ‘superhero’ of all teas. The tea leaves are ground into an emerald green coloured fine powder which are packed with flavonoids (which have an antioxidant effect and play a role in fighting free radicals), and other nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. It is known to give a slow release of energy, helping you to stay alert and focussed and boost your metabolism.
It originates from Japan where it has been part of the traditional tea ceremony for around 900 years. It is now creating a lot of buzz in other parts of the world, too, thanks to its various health benefits – it is said to possesses antioxidant levels 6.2 times that of goji berries, 7 times that of dark chocolate, 17 times that of wild blueberries and 60.5 times that of spinach. Hallelujah!
Why did I choose the teapigs brand?
Of course, there are lots of different matcha tea powders out there, however, not all of them are of equal quality and there are various different grades (similar to Manuka honey).
I settled for using the teapigs brand because I know that their matcha comes from reliable sources using the highest quality organic tea leaves from an area of Japan where the highest quality tea leaves are grown. They go through a careful harvesting and production process to preserve the quality of flavour and nutrition content.
How to consume matcha tea?
Matcha tea can be drunk as a regular cup of tea or used as an ingredient in various dishes and hot or cold drinks. (More about this later!)
Experience suggests that matcha mixes much better with plant based milk, if you are looking to make a latte or a smoothie out of it – I can personally recommend rice milk (which is naturally sweet), almond milk and coconut milk.
Given that it comes in a powdered form, I also suggest that you get a whisk (electric or manual) to make sure you can smoothly blend it into the liquid, not leaving any lumps.
My verdict – from the perspective of a competitive athlete
- Taste: I have to admit I am not a big fan of green tea in general as I do not like the bitter taste it leaves in my mouth, however I have found that the teapigs matcha tea has a surprisingly pleasant taste – a very subtle earthy, grassy flavour with a hint of sweetness in it. Interestingly, I found that the green tea flavour intensified when I made a latte out of it, mixing it into hot rice milk.
- Immediate Effects: Straight after drinking it, I felt much more alert and refreshed. Definitely worked much better than my regular cup of coffee to wake me up in the morning. But be mindful that matcha does contain caffeine, but only about half the level of a black cup of coffee so this is an ideal substitute for coffee if you would like to reduce the amount of caffeine you consume. Another bonus point is that even though I found it to be as reinvigorating as coffee, it certainly did not cause me to have the ‘nervous energy’ side-effect.
- Longer term effects: Only drinking it for two weeks, I think it is still early days to comment on this. However, it definitely helped me stay mentally alert and sharp when I drank it before a training session, and boosted my recovery due to its calming effects after a harder training session. I have found my energy levels quite stable during the day and my training during these two weeks – possibly because matcha tea is also high in dietary fibre which is known to stabilize blood sugar levels.
- General use/versatility: I have found matcha tea to be an extremely versatile ingredient to add to hot drinks such as latters, but also smoothies, cold drinks, desserts and can even be mixed into porridge – mainly due to the fact that it comes in a powder version rather than in teabags. I also enjoyed drinking it in its purest form, as a regular cup of tea.
- Value for money: In terms of price, teapigs matcha tea is certainly not the cheapest one you will find on the market. However, when it comes to matcha tea, you certainly get what you pay for and the teapigs products are premium grade, so it is a no-brainer for me which product to go for. Besides, you only need one shot of matcha tea a day because its nutritional content is said to equal to drinking 10 cups of regular green tea, so it will last you for quite long!
And finally, don’t forget to check out my matcha recipes to find some inspiration on my Twitter @Trainstrongblog and on Facebook www.facebook.com/trainstrongtolivestrong.
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are my own and are based on my personal experience. I was not paid for the content of this post by teapigs. They were very kind enough to send me a free 14 day #matchachallenge kit, though