It’s no secret I’m a huge fan of matcha green tea! In fact, it’s one of Eat 2 Run’s top 5 superfoods. I had a request for a “how to make” tutorial so I figured why not devote an entire post to WHY matcha is so amazing for us, as well as HOW to prepare it.
PART I: THE WHY
(Already know why matcha is so great? Skip to Part III – The How!)
The first time I tried matcha was 2011 at a Blenz coffee shop. I did so because it was new (to me anyways) and cool, not to mention the whole “studies show green tea is good for us” thing. Plus, the amazing life coach I was working with at the time drank them, and basically I wanted to have her zest for life, so figured that drinking what she drank might help.
At the time the matcha lattes at Blenz were sweetened with some type of syrup (now they are all non-sweetened yet taste fantastic) – so a very sugared up matcha latte was my introduction. I kinda liked it. But in reality was I probably liked was the sugar in it haha. Needless to say, it was enough to get me onto matcha. The taste quickly grew on me. I knew I wanted to cut out coffee, and armed with matcha I was finally able to do so. The beginning of 2012 was when coffee disappeared and matcha (or at least green tea) became a daily occurrence. Four months later I took 25 minutes off my marathon time, finally achieving my first BQ (after 9 years of trying)…
When you purchase a matcha latte at a coffee shop however, you pay for it. Indeed, it’s quite expensive. So I bought some DoMatcha green tea powder and began making lattes at home. At first I added almond milk and honey. One day I got rid of the honey and realized I still really enjoyed it. A few months later I kicked out the almond milk… Still loved it. Now a days, it’s just matcha and water, every single day.
I may have begun drinking matcha because I thought it was cool, but the reasons I drink it everyday now have evolved greatly. Please… Allow me to share:
Matcha contains more antioxidants (mostly in the form of flavonoids called polyphenol catechins) than many other superfoods out there, including goji berries, acai berry, walnuts and pomegranate.
Green tea contains 4 difference catechin polyphenol concentrations including EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), which is present in higher concentrations then the rest. If you’ve heard me speak before, chances are you’ve heard me say epigallocatechin gallate really fast, haha.
These antioxidants (catechin polyphenols) work to:
- reduce inflammation – which thereby helps to speed the recovery process so you don’t feel as sore the day after a tough or long run (if you feel sore at all!)
- build immunity – so you don’t fall victim to the latest cold or flu going around
One cup of matcha contains 70-140mg catechins, about 3 times as much as a cup of regular green tea.*
I used to reach for coffee on a daily basis for energy to start my day, and then again for additional boosts throughout the day, very much to the detriment of my health. Giving it up, more than 4 years ago now, was honestly one of the best dietary moves I made in helping my energy levels to both even out and overall boost them long term, as well as allow my body to heal.
Matcha does contain some caffeine (the same caffeine that coffee contains – a molecule of caffeine has the same chemical composition regardless of which plant source it originates from). However it only contains about 35mg caffeine per serving (which equals ½ tsp matcha powder). This is only a third or less of what coffee contains – and only slightly more than a typical cup of green tea offers. The best part however, is that the polyphenol catechins in the matcha slow the release of caffeine into your system, resulting in a sustained energy that lasts 5-6 hours.
Additionally, matcha contains a (non-protein) amino acid called L-theanine, which enhances the production of dopamine and serotonin, both enhancing your memory and increasing your concentration.
Studies have shown green tea extract to boost exercise endurance (can run longer until fatiguing), some by up to 8-24%. The mechanism behind the performance boost in these studies was found to be irrespective of the caffeine content of green tea (caffeine is a well documented ergogenic aid). It was in fact the polyphenol catechins contained in the tea that significantly increases fat oxidation rates.
Daily intake (average intake of the equivalent of ½ tsp matcha daily) appears to be linked to better results when used over the long term than short term intake. One study showed ingestion of green tea extracts need to be consumed daily for at least 12 weeks or more in order to obtain optimal results. In another study lasting 2 months, researchers found the fat oxidation rates in the exercising subjects that took the green tea extract to be 24% higher during exercise, compared to those taking the placebo.
Aside from the catechins, a second ergogenic aid found in matcha is the caffeine it contains. However you need 3mg caffeine per kg bodyweight (up to 6mg per kg bodyweight) for performance enhancement. So depending on your weight, you’d likely need at least 2 to 3 tsp of matcha powder to use matcha’s caffeine content as an ergogenic aide.
For example, a 150b (68kg) runner would need 200mg-400mg of caffeine for performance enhancement. That equals 2.5-5 tsp matcha powder (or 50-100 cups of regular green tea, ha). Considering 5 tsp matcha may be seen as excessive, I’d recommend sticking with the lower end (3mg per kg) if using caffeine from matcha as your caffeine source.
Personally, I’ll have 1 tsp matcha powder (70mg) every single day as a habit including race day and then on race day I’ll add a triple shot espresso (300mg) an hour before I race, to ensure I’m implementing every possible ergogenic aid.
- Cancer: polyphenol catechins have been shown to short-circuit cancer (article here), may be useful in reducing lymphocytic chronic lymphocytic leukemia (study here), be a promising agent in reducing prostate cancer markers (review found here), and reduce risk of esophageal cancer (meta-analysis here);
- Heart Disease: green tea has been shown to slash heart disease death risk (study here); and lower the risk of developing heart disease (article here);
- Rheumatoid Arthritis: green tea has been found to modulate inflammation and inhibit production of molecules that contribute to inflammation and joint damage (review here)
- Heathy Teeth and Gums: those who drink green tea have been found to have superior periodontal health compared to those that do not (journal article here)
And many more…
In fact, I haven’t used sun screen in years despite the many mid-day summer runs I’ve completed. In my pre-matcha days I would have burned, but I’m pretty sure it’s thanks to my daily matcha along with all the other polyphenol rich foods on my plate each day that I come away only with a nice tan. (Please note I’m not saying go lay under the sun for hours without sunscreen – I’m only sharing with you my own personal experience!)
Topical green tea has also been shown to lessen blotchy skin and any skin discolourations, and protect against skin blemishes.
- 1 serving of matcha has only about 10mg more caffeine per cup than green tea does. In fact, if the green tea is steeped longer than 15 minutes, the green tea caffeine content will be nearly identical. However in general, green tea is steeped 1-3 minutes, meaning it contains about 15-20mg per cup. One study showed that after 30 seconds of steeping 4g of tea, 20% of the caffeine was infused into the water. After 1 minute – 33%, after 3 minutes – 76%, after 5 minutes – 88%, and after 10 minutes – 99% caffeine was in the cup of tea.
- There is no known risk associated with “over-dosing” on matcha (study here) – while I’d suggest only using ½ tsp to 1 tsp or so daily (and up to a Tbsp race morning), it would take a lot of matcha to over-dose.
- There are a few individuals who may not be able to use matcha – and that would be those who are HIGHLY caffeine sensitive. For example, if a cup of green tea drank in the morning causes you to be lying in bed staring at the ceiling all night, you’re definitely better off avoiding all sources of caffeine (I have in fact had clients where this is the case). Or if you find coffee or black/green tea in the afternoon or after dinner keeps you from sleeping well, avoid matcha at those times also and drink it only in the morning.
There’s some concern with green tea and those who are iron-deficient. It’s true that green tea has been shown to inhibit the absorption of iron, but so have many, many other very healthful foods. According to the Iron Disorders Institute the following foods impair iron absorption:
- milk, yogurt cheese, sardines, canned salmon, tofu, broccoli, almonds, figs, trip greens and rhubarb (due to calcium content – calcium consumed in amounts of more than 300mg reduces absorption);
- eggs (due a protein called phosvitin eggs contain);
- spinach, kale, beets, nuts, chocolate, tea, wheat bran, oregano, basil, parsley (due to oxalic acid);
- apples, peppermint tea, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries (due to phenolic acid)
- raw cacao and teas <known to be the strongest inhibitors on this list> (due to polyphenol catechins);
- coffee (due to tannins and chlorogenic acid);
- walnuts, almonds, beans, lentils, peas, cereals and whole grains, soy protein and fibre (due to phytate content – even low levels of phytate have a strong inhibitory effect on iron absorption by up to 50-60%)
Ironically, alcohol, meat, sugar and nicotine all increase iron absorption.
All that to say, I would not limit healthy foods in a case of iron deficiency. The reason WHY behind ones iron-deficiently must be been determined before moving forward with treatment (as recommended by your doctor). Typically, eating healthy foods in a well-balanced manner, eliminating foods one is sensitive to (and thereby causing inflammation in the gut), as well as eliminating all foods that are inflammatory, nutrient-poor and refined will help an individual restore optimal functioning of the bodys systems, especially the digestive system, and return to healthy iron levels (typically along with a doctor prescribed iron supplement until normal iron levels are achieved, which would be ~ 2-6 months). If you believe you are iron-deficient, please see your doctor (i.e. do not self-prescribe supplements).
PART II – THE WHAT
Before we move on to how to prepare matcha, it’s really important to ensure you purchase the right type. Matcha has recently become quite popular and there are many cheap versions available that not only don’t taste good, they also may contain too much lead and/or have a reduced ECGC content.
My personal favourite go-to brand is My Matcha Life. Full discloser, while there are a number of quality brands on the market (including DoMatcha and Eden Foods), My Matcha Life is a local company I’ve partnered with because I believe in the quality of their product so deeply. When choosing a brand of matcha, here are the qualities you want to look for:
- from Japan
- shade grown
- ceremonial grade if using for tea (contains only the spring harvested leaves, no twigs, stems or veins – thereby making for a delicious tasting tea); other grades may be used for lattes or baking
More often than not, matcha from China is machine processed (heat pulverized or ball crushed) and contains high levels of lead and other heavy metals. Japan tends to have superior processing facilities to stone grind grind their matcha, keeping the nutrients, colour and flavour intact. Nor does Japan have a heavy metal issue with their tea. In fact, My Matcha Life has heavy metals and radiation tests processed by an independent lab in Chicago – the results have always come back clean so they know their matcha is safe for everyone to consume.
PART III – THE HOW
Getting a whisk and matcha bowl were one of the best things I did when it came to truly enjoying the experience of making a matcha tea, not to mention how much smoother it was. No little lumps! Seriously, using a fork to “whisk” the matcha in my giant mug just never really worked that well – although it did the job for a good year or so.
First things first, you want the water you use to be 175 degrees F – which means either using a special electronic kettle with temperature options, or turning off your kettle just before it hits boiling, or boiling water and then let it sit to cool before using. Why? If you use boiling water, it ‘burns’ the green tea leaf which negatively effects taste.
Prepare your matcha – place ½ to 1 tsp in a matcha bowl (or any bowl) – you might wish to use up to 3 tsp before a run or race – especially if you’e using it for its caffeine content as an ergogenic aid (I drink both matcha as well as espresso before a race).
Once your water is hot, pour a couple tablespoons into the matcha powder and whisk vigorously with a bamboo whisk (or an electric frother or mini kitchen whisk) back and forth until the matcha is smooth, forms a liquid paste and has no lumps.
Add another ¼ to ½ cup of hot water or so (or you may wish to use almond or coconut milk instead, to lighten the matcha taste as your taste buds adapt), and whisk vigorously again. If you’re using the matcha pre-run or pre-race, you could drink it now as a thicker matcha blend (less fluid going into you before running to prevent porta-potty stops!).
If you’re drinking it as a regular morning tea (or an afternoon pick-me-up), pour the matcha into your favourite mug and fill it up with hot water. If you haven’t used almond or coconut milk already, you could choose to steam some and add it at this point, along with a bit of honey if you need something else to further cut the ‘bitter’ matcha green tea taste.
Last but not least… If you really do not care to drink matcha at all, you can still get it into you for its many benefits by adding the matcha green tea powder into your smoothies – gotta love those shakes for being ‘dumping grounds’ for all things healthful for us 😉
To deliciously healthy food and stronger faster running… Cheers,
Sarah J Cuff, RHN
*denotes a correction to my original post