Why Footballers Love Yerba Maté
The World Cup is on, so prepare to see lots of players drinking Yerba Maté tea! It has become a favourite for many athletes nowadays, but why do they love it so much?
The traditional tea of Southern South America, Maté (pronounced “matt-ay”) is brewed from the leaves and stem of the Ilex paraguariensis tree. Friends gather to drink Maté from a gourd, the shell of a hollowed-out fruit, and pass it around the group to create a sense of connection.
Footballers such as Lionel Messi and Neymar have played a part in making Maté more popular in the western world thanks to their habit of drinking it on the sidelines. It has even made its way into the England team with players such as Dele Alli and Eric Dier now big fans of Maté after being introduced by their South American teammates and manager.
Here are just some of Yerba Maté’s benefits:
Full of vitamins and minerals
Unlike other teas, the leaves and stem of Yerba Maté are exposed to flames immediately after harvesting; a process known as sapeco.
This helps to quickly lessen the moisture and seal in the 196 active compounds, including vitamins (A, B, C, and E) and minerals (magnesium, iron, calcium, riboflavin, niacin), which are essential to helping the body strengthen bones, heal wounds and convert food into energy - all very important to athletes! The leaves then undergo a second drying step but remain green due to the flame-drying action.
Antioxidants are molecules which are required by the body for good health, as they help prevent oxidative stress to cells. Yerba Maté has higher polyphenol and antioxidant counts than both green and black teas, making it a perfect alternative to your standard morning cuppa!
This is perhaps the biggest factor in the footballers’ love affair with maté. Although it contains less caffeine than coffee or black tea, it is still a very potent source of caffeine and results in a much more steady energy boost, without the peaks and troughs that often come with other sources of caffeine.
This is ideal for footballers, who have to maintain high energy levels for at least 90 minutes when playing a match. It’s no use having a pick-me up before the game only to be flagging before half time!
Helps maintain a healthy body weight
Research has looked into the effects of Yerba Maté on weight, and the results have been promising. A 2014 study by Nutrition & Digestion study concluded that Yerba Maté can increase the exercise effectiveness for weight loss and sports performance, whilst another suggested that it can be an effective way to help fight obesity. No wonder footballers love it so much!
After the sapeco and drying, the green maté is finely cut. Its taste is often described as green, grassy and herbaceous, with a slightly smoky flavour, and not unlike green tea. Why not give it a go?