The vast majority of us drink some sort of caffeinated beverage. In fact, 90% of people in the world use caffeine in one form or another. 80% of American adults consume caffeine every day – the average adult has an intake of 200 mg per day, the amount in two 5-ounce cups of coffee or four sodas. Coffee and tea are two of the most popular caffeinated beverages in the world. Each offer an array of health benefits but which one is truly better for you?
It takes about 10 minutes for your body to feel caffeine’s effects. Caffeine makes your body release hormones that keep you active and awake, boosting your heart rate and blood pressure. On average, coffee contains double the amount of caffeine as tea. One 8 oz. cup of tea averages anywhere from 14 to 61 mg of caffeine while there is at least 95 grams of caffeine in an 8 oz. cup of coffee.
What is Better: Coffee
A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that among older adults, those who drank coffee (caffeinated or decaf) had a lower risk of dying from diabetes, heart disease, respiratory disease, and other medical complications than non-coffee drinkers. Men who drank 2 to 3 cups a day had a 10 percent chance of outliving those who drank no coffee, while women had a 13 percent advantage. Many of us look at coffee just as a vehicle to get caffeine into our body, but we forget that the coffee bean itself has tons of different compounds and antioxidants. Coffee contains a good amount of vitamins and minerals. It is also the biggest source of antioxidants in the modern diet. While both coffee and tea are high in antioxidants that help neutralize harmful free radicals in our bodies, there are more antioxidants in a cup of coffee than in a cup of tea.
Tea also contains many health benefits, especially green tea. Green tea doesn’t oxidize (which is how black and oolong teas are made), so it contains more health-boosting antioxidants called catechins—especially the cancer fighter epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). EGCG is an antioxidant that recharges the white blood cells that prevent viruses from reactivating.
What is Better: Both
The caffeine content found in coffee and tea gives you that much needed energy boost so you can have a more vigorous workout, resulting in more calories burned. In addition, consuming caffeine jumpstarts the process of lipolysis, which is when your body releases free fatty acids into the bloodstream. This occurs when your body is breaking down your fat stores to convert it into energy. In other words, caffeine can increase your metabolism and help you burn more fat. Caffeine has also been shown to slightly reduce appetite. However, drinking green tea daily could trim about an inch off your waistline in 12 weeks, according to a recent American Journal of Clinical Nutrition review. That’s because EGCG and caffeine in green tea can help shrink fat cells and makes muscle cells more active.
What is Better: Tea
While tea may be better for weight loss and burning fat, coffee is the winner when it comes to packing on lean muscle due to its higher caffeine content. Caffeine can stimulate your muscles and help you push through more reps. Researchers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln reported that weight-trained men who drank coffee one hour before working out raised the number of repetitions they could complete on the bench press. In another study, they also reported that taking caffeine before a workout session allowed them to lift 5 more pounds than normal on the bench press.
What is Better: Coffee
Coffee is more known to give you energy while tea has been linked to calming your nerves, which is due to the L-theanine found in tea. L-theanine is an amino acid responsible for increasing alpha brain wave activity, which promotes relaxation and decreased anxiety. In fact, according to a recent study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, tea drinkers experienced a decreased heart rate simply by smelling their tea.
What is Better: Tea
As you can see, both coffee and tea offer a range of health benefits and provide different types of better benefits from one another. While I don’t recommend drinking coffee and tea at all times of the day due to its caffeine content, a few cups a day is perfectly fine and may offer some real good health benefits. You should have no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine a day to really reap the true benefits of these beverages. If you are sensitive to caffeine intake then stick with decaff. You can still get many of those same health benefits from decaffeinated beverages. So enjoy your beverage and remember to take your coffee breaks or meditative tea breaks every so often; humans have been doing it for thousands of years.