If you are looking for a magical weight-loss food, beverage, or supplement, keep looking! One doesn’t exist. However, there is evidence that certain types of tea may give your metabolism a subtle boost. Sipping them is also a good alternative to drinking sugary beverages, like soft drinks, that have no health benefits and contribute to weight gain.
Although you can buy detox and weight-loss teas, you don’t always know what’s in them and they may contain ingredients that will have little or no effect. Some may contain natural diuretics that help you shed excess water weight but have little impact on metabolism. Let’s look at some types of tea that may have modest calorie-burning and metabolism-boosting benefits.
Green tea contains caffeine and catechins, antioxidants that may have other health benefits too. Some research suggests these components may modestly boost resting metabolic rate and lead to greater calorie burn. How do they work? These components ramp up your sympathetic nervous system, which leads to increased energy expenditure and greater calorie burn. One study found green tea may enhance metabolic rate and oxidation of fat without leading to muscle breakdown.
Another study published in the Journal of Nutrition found exercisers who did 180 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week and drank cups of green tea daily lost more belly fat than those who did the same exercise routine without drinking green tea. For the most benefits, brew green tea at home since studies show most bottled green tea has low levels of catechins.
Oolong tea also comes from the Camellia sinensis plant, the same plant that black and green tea comes from. Oolong tea is less oxidized than black tea and has slightly fewer catechins. Because it’s less oxidized, it contains more catechins than black tea but somewhat less caffeine.
One small study found that men who drank oolong tea for three days increased their resting metabolic rate by 2.9% relative to men who drank water. This would be equivalent to burning an extra 280 calories per day on average. While these results are encouraging, it’s not clear whether the same benefits apply to women and whether people become tolerant of the metabolism-boosting benefits of oolong tea if they drink it every day.
Yerba mate originates from trees that grow in the rain forest in South America. Tea from this plant contains caffeine and xanthines, compounds that have an activating effect on the nervous system. It’s the stimulant effect that may explain its potential metabolism-boosting benefits. Plus, yerba mate contains chlorogenic acid, a compound in coffee that reduces the formation of new fat cells based on mouse studies.
Does science back its weight loss and fat loss benefits? A study published in BMC Complementary Medicine found that compounds in yerba mate boosted resting metabolic rate for more than four hours after drinking it. It also reduced body fat, body fat percentage, and waist circumference. In the study, subjects who drank yerba mate experienced no adverse side effects.
Puerh tea originates from the Yunnan Province of China and is a type of fermented black tea. Like green tea and oolong tea, it contains antioxidants and has potential health perks. For example, some studies suggest that it lowers blood sugar and blood triglycerides. Therefore, it may have benefits for cardiovascular health. Other research suggests it may modestly boost metabolism and help with weight control.
In one study of 70 men, those who took puerh extract for three months lost more weight than those who took a placebo. It’s not clear how Puerh tea boosted weight loss, whether it’s due to a bump up in metabolism or related to some other effect. But since it has other potential health benefits, there are few downsides to drinking it.
Like green tea and oolong tea, white tea comes from the Camellia sentences plant but is the least processed of all. As such, it has the highest level of catechins but less caffeine than green or black tea. Some studies also suggest it offers anti-bacterial and anti-viral benefits and has more anti-viral power than green tea.
What about its effect on metabolism? A meta-analysis, a review of studies, showed that drinking white tea regularly could boost resting metabolic rate by up to 5%. Although this isn’t a dramatic boost, it could burn an extra 100 calories per day.
The Bottom Line
You shouldn’t count on any tea to cause dramatic weight loss. The metabolism-boosting effects of tea are modest. Unless you’re staying physically active and eating a nutrient-rich diet low in sugar and refined carbohydrates, you probably won’t lose weight through drinking tea alone. However, sipping tea may give you a slight edge. Avoid adding sugar and brew your own at home, since bottled tea may not have the same catechin content as the tea you brew at home. And, you can always give private label weight loss supplements a try to help improve your results.