Green tea’s primary active ingredient epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) enhances fat-burning by inhibiting the breakdown of norepinephrine, the neurohormone that revs up the metabolism. That alone has made it a popular supplement and a common ingredient in fat-burning formulas. Now it appears that green tea has yet another benefit for bodybuilders.

Previous research showing that EGCG’s antioxidant properties could protect the heart and other organs from damage prompted Baylor University (Waco, Texas) researchers to investigate green tea extract’s effects on recovery following a heavy lifting session. They reasoned that if EGCG protects the heart from damage, it might also protect skeletal muscles. They gave young men 1,200 mg of EGCG or a placebo every day for two weeks, then had subjects perform an exhaustive bout of leg extensions for negative reps.

As reported in a 2006 issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, subjects taking EGCG had less muscle soreness in the three days postworkout and exhibited less muscle-cell destruction. Reducing soreness can help you get back in the gym more quickly, while decreasing muscle breakdown can help you recover faster and grow bigger in the long run.

To take advantage of green tea’s benefits, including enhanced fat-burning and muscle recovery, look for green tea extract supplements that are standardized for EGCG, and take enough to provide 1,000-1,200 mg of EGCG per day over 2-4 doses. For example, a supplement that provides 500 mg of green tea extract per dose and is 50% EGCG delivers 250 mg of this fat-burning ingredient. Taking two doses twice a day will give you 2,000 mg of green tea extract and 1,000 mg of EGCG.

Since you typically can’t drink enough green tea to get the amount of EGCG you need, supplementing with the extract is your best option. Besides, research shows that the body absorbs the EGCG from supplements more readily than it does from the tea. And if you’re training hard, you don’t want to wait for the benefits.