What is Matcha?
Matcha is a high quality, finely ground green tea, notable for its characteristic bright green colour. It is consumed as a beverage and also used as a natural colouring and flavouring agent in food and drinks. Green tea has recently exploded in popularity in the western world because of its significant health enhancing properties, and an increasing number of people are realising the specific benefits of matcha.
Where does Matcha come from?
Matcha is native to Japan, where it plays an important part in traditional tea ceremonies. Believe it or not, the vast majority of the tea varieties that we enjoy come from the same plant, a small flowering shrub called Camellia sinensis. The major differences lie in the way the leaves are grown, picked, and processed. Matcha is a type of green tea that differs from other green teas by the fact it is grown away from sunlight. This causes the plant to grow slowly, and the leaves to accumulate more chlorophyll and amino acids, in particular L-theanine. This process is responsible for the vibrant colour and extra health benefits of Matcha. Leaves are then picked, heated to stop the oxidative processes that produce black tea, dried and powdered.
There are few people who aren't familiar with the benefits of green tea. Matcha is prized because it is thought to be an even richer source of the nutrieints that make green tea a superfood.
Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is often referred to as the main active ingredient in green tea. Research has shown that this powerful antioxidant is present in Matcha at a whopping 137 times the concentration of a standard commercially available green tea, and at least three times the concentration cited in any other scientific literature on green tea (Weiss & Anderton 2003). EGCG has been of great interest to the scientific community, and it has trialled for its effectiveness in treating a huge number of diseases which including cancer, HIV, diabetes and heart disease. (Al-Dukalli et al 2009).
ECGC has also been implicated in weight loss, and green tea has been the subject of thousands of studies. There is evidence to support that regular consumption of green tea can reduce body fat by increasing thermogenesis, or the burning of energy for heat (Rains et al 2011), and increases of almost 20% have been noted (Venables et al 2008) with the consumption of large amounts of green tea extract. As a highly concentrated source of EGCG, Matcha is a more efficient way to consume this fat burning antioxidant than conventional green tea.
Matcha is also rich in theanine, a polyphenol related to caffeine, which is said to reduce stress (Kimura et al 2007), and improve mood and cognition (Park et al 2011).
To read more about Green Tea, check out our main article here.
Chlorophyll gives matcha its deep hue, and this tea is a rich source of the plant pigment. Many people believe that chlorophyll has detoxifying powers.
This tea also contains vitamins A, B complex, C, E and a selection of vital minerals.
Matcha Benefits for Bodybuilders
Matcha is something that would have a lot of benefit for most people, but it holds particular benefits for people like bodybuilders who place their bodies under stress. Stress produced by intense exercise causes oxidative damage. Antioxidant-rich matcha can prevent this from occurring by mopping up free radicals.
People who are cutting could not get much better than this tea. Not only does the EGCG in Matcha stimulate the metabolism to speed up fat burning, but theanine has the potential to keep you calm, energised, and on top of your mental game.
Matcha Side Effects, Safety & Negatives
There are few side effects associated with Matcha, and other green teas, the most frequent of these being stomach upset when the tea is consumed in large quantities. People who are very sensitive to caffeine need to remember that green tea still contains this stimulant, albeit in smaller quantities than black tea and coffee. There is also the possibility that EGCG may interfere with some prescription medications, including some anti-cancer drugs (Chow et al 2003).
The detoxifying effects of chlorophyll are often cited as a benefit of Matcha – in reality, there is no scientific proof that chlorophyll exerts any benefit in the human body.
Many of the other health claims attributed to Matcha and green teas have been tested, and positive results have been observed. However, looking at the total data, the results are encouraging but equivocal. That said, in the absence of conditions that contraindicate its use, it would be almost unheard of for a medical professional to object to or discourage the intake of moderate amounts of Matcha if this is otherwise enjoyable and the patient is not relying on it to produce health benefits.
Matcha Recommended Dosage & Ingredient Timing
Most of the research into green tea catechins like EGCG has used high concentrations of this extract, or large amounts of tea. Matcha is a very concentrated source of green tea, which theoretically means you need to consume less. One cup a day (1g or ½ tsp dry powder) is generally recommended to maintain good health. The pick-me-up effects generally last for around six hours.
Green tea extract has been a staple in fat burners for a long time now, and concentrated green tea supplements are now starting to hit the market.
Matcha is the natural way to enjoy concentrated green tea, and it is added to greens, antioxidant and superfood supplements in its native form.
Matcha stacks well with other ingredients that boost metabolism and cognition, like L-carnitine and caffeine. It is best to separate your protein from your matcha, because there has been some research indicating that protein may inhibit absorption of EGCG (Egert et al 2013).
Al-Dukaili et al (2009), Effects of green tea consumption on blood pressure, total cholesterol, body weight and fat in healthy volunteers. Endocrine Abstracts, 20: 470
Chow et al (2003), Pharmacokinetics and Safety of Green Tea Polyphenols after Multiple-Dose Administration of Epigallocatechin Gallate and Polyphenon E in Healthy Individuals. Clin Cancer Res, 9: 3312-3319
Egert S, Tereszczuk J, Wein S, Müller MJ, Frank J, Rimbach G, Wolffram S. Simultaneous ingestion of dietary proteins reduces the bioavailability of galloylated catechins from green tea in humans. Eur J Nutr. 2013 Feb;52(1):281-8.
Kimura, Kenta; Ozeki, Makoto; Juneja, Lekh Raj; Ohira, Hideki (2007). "L-Theanine reduces psychological and physiological stress responses". Biological Psychology 74 (1): 39–45.
Park, Sang-Ki; Jung, In-Chul; Lee, Won Kyung; Lee, Young Sun; Park, Hyoung Kook; Go, Hyo Jin; Kim, Kiseong; Lim, Nam Kyoo et al. (2011). "A Combination of Green Tea Extract andl-Theanine Improves Memory and Attention in Subjects with Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Study". Journal of Medicinal Food 14 (4): 334–43.
Rains TM, Agarwal S, Maki KC. Antiobesity effects of green tea catechins: a mechanistic review. J Nutr Biochem. 2011 Jan;22(1):1-7
Venables et al (2008), Green tea extract ingestion, fat oxidation, and glucose tolerance in healthy humans. Am J Clinc Nutr. 87: 778-784
Weiss DJ, Anderton CR. Determination of catechins in matcha green tea by micellar electrokinetic chromatography. J Chromatogr A. 2003 Sep 5;1011(1-2):173-80.