Should you drink green tea after or before a meal? Or would it be best to drink the green tea on an empty stomach and then not eat for a while? We clarify when is the best time for a cup of green tea – especially if you want to enjoy the health benefits of green tea.
Green Tea – The best time to take it
Green tea has many healing properties. The active ingredients in green tea can even be taken in the form of green tea extract for therapeutic purposes. But when is the best time to take the capsules? And when and how is it best to drink green tea so that the active ingredients actually work?
The most well-known active ingredient in green tea is epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a plant substance from the catechins group. EGCG is considered
- highly antioxidant
- cancer blocking
- blood sugar-regulating
- decongestant on the joints (for arthritis)
- healing for fibroids and endometriosis (EGCG is part of any holistic concept here, as the substance curbs the growths and can shrink fibroids)
- activating memory, as EGCG stimulates the formation of new nerve cells in the brain
It is best to take EGCG on an empty stomach and only with water
Of course, anyone who drinks green tea or takes green tea extract also wants to enjoy these positive EGCG effects. A 2015 study looked at how best to consume EGCG to get the most benefits. They tested taking EGCG capsules with a light breakfast, with strawberry sorbet, or just with water. Most EGCG could be absorbed if the capsules were only taken with water, i.e. without a meal.
Antioxidant capacity was 2.7 times greater when taken with water alone than when taken with a light breakfast and 3.9 times greater than when taken with the strawberry sorbet. Meals thus inhibit the absorption of EGCG, so it is best taken without any meal.
A study with similar results was published in May 2020. Here, too, it was shown that when taken alone with water, there was a significantly higher intake of the green tea substance than when taken with breakfast.
Therefore, drink green tea up to half an hour before a meal and no earlier than 1.5 to 2 hours after a meal. The same applies to capsules with green tea extract.
Do not drink green tea with meals
However, meals not only prevent the absorption and effect of the active ingredients in green tea. Conversely, the active ingredients in green tea also inhibit the absorption of vital minerals when drinking green tea with a meal.
As early as 2016, we reported that green tea inhibits the absorption of iron when consumed with food. Because EGCG binds the iron molecules neither one nor the other can work and both are passively excreted with the stool. Further studies confirm this.
Green tea is therefore not a suitable drink with meals for people who are prone to iron deficiency or even anemia.
EGCG can also bind copper, chromium, and cadmium. So, green tea and green tea extract can also be used for detoxification, as long as you keep an eye on your mineral supply and do not take both at the same time as mineral supplements.
Prepare green tea with soft water
Always take supplements such as calcium and magnesium with water. So don’t swallow them with green tea. Also, do not take your green tea extract capsules together with calcium or magnesium capsules.
Also, prepare your green tea with soft water. Because the calcium (lime) in it can inhibit the absorption of EGCG.
Vitamin C and omega-3 fatty acids increase the bioavailability
EGCG capsules should therefore not be taken together with calcium, magnesium, iron, and other minerals, not even with milk or plant drinks fortified with calcium. However, you can take them very well with vitamin C and omega-3 fatty acids. Because both increase the bioavailability of the EGCG.
It is therefore also good for your health to drink green tea with a shot of freshly squeezed lemon juice.
To regulate blood sugar: Drink green tea in the afternoon
However, if you want to use green tea specifically for blood sugar regulation, according to a 2019 study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry – it should be drunk during the afternoon or evening meal (5 p.m.). The green tea with the 5 p.m. meal was able to lower postprandial blood glucose levels, which was not the case with the 9 a.m. meal. Postprandial comes from Latin and means after (post) the meal (prandium).
In this study, 350 ml of green tea was drunk with the evening meal. It contained a total of 615 mg catechins (of which 135 mg EGCG) and 85 mg caffeine. It was a regular green tea, which generally contains between 40 and 100 mg of EGCG per 100 ml of tea. Lower EGCG levels are found in decaffeinated green teas (between 20 and 45 mg EGCG per 100 mL) (4).
Of course, you think about your mineral levels when you drink green tea regularly with meals.
To improve sleep: drink decaffeinated green tea
Anyone who is sensitive to caffeine, drinks a lot of green tea and therefore has trouble sleeping should switch to green tea with less caffeine. Green tea with less caffeine (5.5 mg per 150 ml) can improve the quality of sleep and even the level compared to green tea with normal caffeine content (18 mg per 150 ml) at 5 cups (à 150 ml) per day throughout the day some stress markers lower.
However, keep in mind that, in general, any drink you drink within two hours of bedtime can disrupt your sleep, if only because it will wake you up during the night and make you need to go to the bathroom. However, caffeinated drinks (and alcoholic ones) are more diuretic than drinks that contain neither alcohol nor caffeine.
To reduce stress: Pour lukewarm green tea
It is probably the amino acid L-theanine contained in green tea that can reduce stress or stress markers. It has an overall relaxing effect and improves brain functions at the same time. Because L-theanine can not only lower the levels of stress hormones but also calm an overactive brain.
If you want to drink green tea in the evening to promote sleep or to reduce stress, then only pour the tea with lukewarm water. Because the hotter the water, the more caffeine dissolves in the tea. Although the solubility of EGCG also decreases as the water temperature drops, the solubility of L-theanine remains the same at high temperatures.
Green tea extract can be taken in the evening
EGCG – the main active ingredient in green tea extract – has a relaxing rather than a stimulating effect. It even seems to counteract caffeine’s stimulant and circulatory properties (increases blood pressure and heart rate) and, like theanine, reduces levels of the stress hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline.
Therefore, if you want to take EGCG in the form of green tea extract capsules, then this is also possible in the early evening, especially if the capsules are decaffeinated.
Caffeine-containing green tea extract capsules are not suitable for people who are sensitive to caffeine in the evening.
It is best to inquire directly with the respective manufacturer about the residual caffeine content of their capsules if this is not specified.
Despite the studies that attribute a relaxing and calming effect to EGCG, some people report that EGCG has a stimulating effect on them. In this case, of course, the extract should not be taken in the evening.