Can green tea really be used as a weight loss supplement? Let’s take a look at its possibility as a lipolytic (fat burning) agent.

A bit of family history on green tea
Green, black, and oolong teas are produced from the leaves of the Theacea family, which includes the plant, Camellia sinensis. But, the manufacturing of green tea does not involve oxidation of the tea leaves, unlike oolong and black tea.
After steaming the fresh leaves at high temperatures, a very important constituent called polyphenols, or more commonly referred to as catechins, remains intact. The predominant catechins in green tea include epicatechin, epicatechin-3-gallate, epigallocatechin, and epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). And these catechins make up almost half of the solids of the dried leaves.

How do catechins help our bodies?
The published data on green tea catechins have demonstrated antioxidant, anticarcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, thermogenic and even antimicrobial properties in numerous human and animal studies.
The synergistic interaction between caffeine, also present in the green tea, and catechin polyphenols appears to prolong sympathetic stimulation of thermogenesis.

What is thermogenesis?
This is what is often cited as the “metabolism boost” from green tea. This metabolism boost is still somewhat simplistic. Basically, metabolism is the sum of thousands of hormonal and cellular processes in the body.
However, sympathetic stimulation of the nervous system remains central to many weight loss formula ingredients (e.g. synephrine, ephedrine, L-tyrosine, etc.) In a human trial, 3 doses of 90mg of EGCG resulted in 266 more calories utilized in the green tea group compared to a placebo.
If you want to drink green tea, instead of buying the extracts in pills, then you would need approximately 3 cups of tea a day. The phenolic content of green tea infusion is approximately 50-100mg of polyphenols per cup.

When’s the best time to drink or take green tea?
First make sure you maintain a diet balanced in macronutrients, such as protein, carbs and fats. Then take your green tea either as an extract in pill form or simply drink a cup of the tea (infused for 3-5 minutes) one hour before you work out. It’s okay to have a few cups throughout the day, but be sure to stop by 5 pm otherwise you may not be able to fall asleep.

How safe is green tea?
Generally, green tea is safe and non-toxic with regular consumption. However, keep in mind that there are a mixture of different stimulants in green tea (Caffeine 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine, Theophylline 1,3-dimethylxanthine and traces of Theobromine 3,7-dimethylxanthine, which is mostly the stimulant in cocoa) that can affect you.

Calming or stimulating?
Although there may be some anecdotal evidence that the theanine (considered calming) in green tea counters the stimulant properties of the caffeine, some individuals may still find a stimulating effect. Some can sleep after green tea consumption and others are revved up – do what works for you.

What to do next
Before you start any weight loss program, consult with a healthcare provider to help direct you safely. Make sure you’re combining exercise (weights and cardio) and proper nutrition with your regimen.

George Tardik B.Sc.(hon), RHN, RNCP, (ND cand.) has been practicing nutrition for 10 years. He is a fourth year intern at the Canadian College of Naturopathic medicine’s RSNC clinic. He’s been featured on CBC’s Newsworld, Marketplace and Sports Journal. George specializes in metabolism, weight-loss, diabetes and sports nutrition. He practices out of Nature’s Source. For booking appointments, please call 416.242.8500.