All over the world social media feeds are being filled with images of athletes and celebrities sipping increasingly popular yerba mate tea. From high profile footballers such as Edinson Cavani (Manchester United), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Paul Pogba (Juventus), British football stars: Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Kieran Trippier, Danny Rose; also the captain of the South Korean national team Heung-Min Son, Croatia's Dejan Lovren, Belgium's Axel Witsel and Argentinian star Lionel Messi through to high profile actors such as Zoe Saldaña, Viggo Mortensen, Metallica's leading man James Hetfield and Pope Francis, there is a definite trend towards this alternative to coffee. Once you factor in the health benefits it’s clear that yerba mate is a craze that deserves some attention.
Photos: Dejan Lovren, Edison Cavani, Heung-Min Son (top), Lionel Messi, Alex Witsel, Antoine Griezmann (mid row), James Hetfield, Zoe Saldaña and Pope Francis (bottom). Photo credits: google.com
So what is this new drink taking the world of athletes by storm?
Yerba Mate is a tea made from the South American plant Ilex Paraguayensis and has been popular in South America from the first known civilisations in the area.
Dried leaves are placed in a gourd, also known as a calabash or mate. Hot water is then poured over the leaves and it is mixed with a special straw known as a bombilla which is then used to sip the bitter brew. Many different flavours and varieties are available and whilst usually served hot, yerba mate can also be enjoyed cold. As well as loose leaf tea, yerba mate is also available in tea bags, nespresso capsules and even soft drinks.
Why is yerba mate beneficial to athletes?
Yerba mate has been shown to have many properties that promote increased health and performance such as:
· Increased Energy and Focus
As well as caffeine, yerba mate also contains stimulants theophylline and theobromine. The three are said to work with caffeine to give you a burst of energy and focus. Yerba mate contains less acids than coffee so some drinkers find it a gentler alternative for their stomachs.
· Increased Fat burning
Yerba mate aids weight loss. The journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise reported that cyclists on a trial drinking yerba mate burned more fat than those drinking a placebo. These findings are backed up with studies on non-trained persons also showing enhanced fat burning during moderately intensive exercise.
· Increased Performance and Endurance
The same trial mentioned above also reported an improved time trial results for those cyclists consuming yerba mate. More studies are needed but the research also suggested enhanced endurance performance in the athletes in the study.
· Reduced Inflammation
Yerba mate is a powerhouse of antioxidants which have been linked to reducing inflammation in the body. Inflammation has been linked to many health complications such as heart disease, some cancers and dementia.
· Improved Recovery
A study in the British Journal of Nutrition suggests that an abundance of phytochemicals in yerba mate contributes to an increased rate of strength recovery from eccentric exercise.
· Improved Cholesterol
In a 40 day investigation participants who consumed yerba mate every day were found to have lowered their bad cholesterol by approximately 8% and raised their good cholesterol by more than 4%.
Where can you buy yerba mate in New Zealand?
Not all yerba mate is sourced equal. Purchase your yerba mate from a trusted retailer such as Tienda Pachamama. They have the largest selection of yerba mate in New Zealand, with over 100 brands and varieties, delivering directly to your door anywhere in the country.
If you are wanting the traditional experience, you will also need to purchase a gourd and bombilla. To try before you buy, pop in to Experience Yerba Mate Café in Auckland, located at 179 A Archers Rd. Click HERE for more information.
Tienda Pachamama and Experience Yerba Mate Café are members of Ruta de la Yerba Mate.
Enjoy tasting different yerba mate teas, blends and drinks at Experience Yerba Mate Cafe located in Tienda Pachamama Latino Store.