A supplement containing theaflavins [structural formula shown below] from black tea protects muscle cells from the effects of intensive exertions, write sports scientists from Rutgers University in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. And yes, the researchers were paid by a manufacturer of supplements that contain black tea extracts.
Theaflavins are not found in green tea, but they are present in black tea. Test tube studies and animal studies suggest that they have an anti-inflammatory effect in the body. This is the reasoning behind the supplements produced by the sponsor of the study, American company WellGen. WellGen’s black tea extract goes by the name of Te Amé.
The researchers gave 18 male students aged 21 a daily dose of 2 WellGen pills for 9 days. The total dose was 880 mg black tea extract, which contained 350 mg theaflavins. [BTE] After a week on the supplements the test subjects had to do ten series of cycling ‘flat out’.
Each series lasted 30 seconds, and the students rested for 2 minutes between the series. Just in case you’re interested, the researchers used the Wingate Anaerobic Cycle Test.
The researchers then repeated the procedure after the test subjects had taken placebo pills for a week. [PLA] The supplement didn’t have much effect on the subjects’ performance during the test.
But when the researchers measured the ratio between reduced and oxidised glutathione in the subjects’ muscles [GSH:GSSG] in the first hour after the test, they noticed that the balance was restored more quickly in the subjects that had taken the supplement.
Detoxifying enzymes use glutathione to neutralise aggressive compounds – free radicals – in muscle cells. The enzymes used reduced glutathione and convert it into oxidised glutathione.
According to the researchers, the supplements speed up post-training recovery. So users can train more and have more progression is their reasoning. The Americans did not examine whether this is actually the case.
One 200 ml cup of black tea contains about 170-200 mg of phenols; the theaflavins only amount to 7-15 mg of these. But before you conclude that you can only benefit from the protective qualities of tea by taking WellGen’s expensive supplements think about this: Brazilian researchers announced 2 years ago that they had discovered anticatabolic effects in bodybuilders who drank just 3 cups of green tea a day. [Nutrition. 2008 May;24(5):433-42.]
The effects of theaflavin-enriched black tea extract on muscle soreness, oxidative stress, inflammation, and endocrine responses to acute anaerobic interval training: a randomized, double-blind, crossover study.
Muscle soreness and decreased performance often follow a bout of high-intensity exercise. By reducing these effects, an athlete can train more frequently and increase long-term performance. The purpose of this study is to examine whether a high-potency, black tea extract (BTE) alters the delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), oxidative stress, inflammation, and cortisol (CORT) responses to high-intensity anaerobic exercise.
College-age males (N = 18) with 1+ yrs of weight training experience completed a double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study. Subjects consumed the BTE (1,760 mg BTE·d-1) or placebo (PLA) for 9 days. Each subject completed two testing sessions (T1 & T2), which occurred on day 7 of the intervention. T1 & T2 consisted of a 30 s Wingate Test plus eight 10 s intervals. Blood samples were obtained before, 0, 30 & 60 min following the interval sessions and were used to analyze the total to oxidized glutathione ratio (GSH:GSSG), 8-isoprostane (8-iso), CORT, and interleukin 6 (IL-6) secretion. DOMS was recorded at 24 & 48 h post-test using a visual analog scale while BTE or PLA continued to be administered. Significance was set at P < 0.05.
Compared to PLA, BTE produced significantly higher average peak power (P = 0.013) and higher average mean power (P = 0.067) across nine WAnT intervals. BTE produced significantly lower DOMS compared to PLA at 24 h post test (P < 0.001) and 48 h post test (P < 0.001). Compared to PLA, BTE had a slightly higher GSH:GSSG ratio at baseline which became significantly higher at 30 and 60 min post test (P < 0.002). AUC analysis revealed BTE to elicit significantly lower GSSG secretion (P = 0.009), significantly higher GSH:GSSG ratio (P = 0.001), and lower CORT secretion (P = 0.078) than PLA. AUC analysis did not reveal a significant difference in total IL-6 response (P = 0.145) between conditions.
Consumption of theaflavin-enriched black tea extract led to improved recovery and a reduction in oxidative stress and DOMS responses to acute anaerobic intervals. An improved rate of recovery can benefit all individuals engaging in high intensity, anaerobic exercise as it facilitates increased frequency of exercise.