An extract of green tea may just make you leaner and bigger

By Jim Stoppani, PhD

March 17, 2009


St. Patrick's Day may have come and gone (although your headache may yet linger) but we'd like to suggest you consider keeping a green mindset, as a way of reaching your bodybuilding goals.

Green tea, and its active component epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), are both well known for their fat-burning effects. Those looking to drop bodyfat before a contest or just wanting to lean out often will rely on green-tea supplements. Now, research shows that green tea may be just as beneficial during a mass-building phase as it is during a cutting phase.

Green tea is derived from the Camellia sinensis plant, which also gives us black tea and oolong tea. The difference between the three teas is in the type of processing each undergoes. Unlike the others, green tea gets steamed before the leaves are dried, which preserves the natural green color and prevents the breakdown of its active components, resulting in a higher concentration of certain polyphenols, such as EGCG.

Bodybuilders started increasing their green-tea consumption in the late 1990s after a team of French and Swiss researchers published data on its metabolic effects. That study found that a supplement, standardized for caffeine and EGCG, increased calories burned over caffeine-only supplements. Even better, the caffeine/EGCG combo caused subjects to burn a higher percentage of calories from fat. Levels of the fat-burning neurotransmitter norepinephrine were increased by 40% in this study, which was due to EGCG's ability to inhibit enzymes that would normally break down norepinephrine. Several further studies have been published confirming the metabolic effect of green tea on fat burning, making it a staple for guys looking to get ripped.

THE STUDY Researchers from Baylor University (Waco, Texas) decided to investigate whether green tea could improve recovery from heavy lifting. Initial lab studies had revealed that EGCG could protect the heart and other organs from damage through its antioxidant effects, leading the Baylor team to speculate that it may be beneficial for muscle, as well. The scientists gave college-aged males 1,200 milligrams of EGCG or placebo every day for two weeks. They then had the subjects perform an exhausting bout of negatives on a leg-extension machine at the end of the two-week trial.

THE RESULTS The group receiving the EGCG supplement had less muscle soreness when measured one, two and three days after exercise. There was also evidence that EGCG reduced apoptosis markers, which means there was less muscle cell destruction. Reducing soreness can help you get back in the gym quicker, and decreasing apoptosis can preserve hard-earned muscle, enabling you to pack on more mass in the long run.

DOSAGE Look for green-tea extract supplements that are standardized for EGCG. Take 1,000-1,200 mg of EGCG per day in two to four divided doses. For example, a supplement that provides 500 mg of green-tea extract per dose and is 50% EGCG delivers 250 mg of EGCG. Taking two doses twice a day provides 2,000 mg of green-tea extract and 1,000 mg of EGCG. Drinking green tea is always a smart thing to do, but don't substitute the beverage for the green-tea extract supplements, as research shows the EGCG from the supplement form is absorbed by the body more readily than that from the tea.

Reference: C. Kerksick et al., "Changes in muscle damage markers, soreness, and strength after a 14-day prophylactic period of antioxidant supplementation followed by eccentric exercise," Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 20(4):e21, 2006.