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Guayusa: the new “it” tea for athletes

82HdISwi-UL-275x300-By Caela Fenton

In athletics, we have seen a shift towards looking for the ‘cleanest’ energy forms in terms of food. Many triathletes are attempting to cut down on added sugar and processed goods, opting instead for whole foods. Pre-workout drinks are often tricky in this regard. People often opt for coffee before runs and the health industry seems to have a love/hate relationship with the java energy booster. If only there was a ‘clean’ pre-run (or let’s face it, pre-work or pre-class) drink that would be acceptable to the green-smoothie wielding idealist in the back of our heads.

Enter guayusa (gwhy-you-sa), the traditional Amazonian drink that seems set to explode onto the high-performance scene. Guayusa grows almost exclusively in the area of the Amazon where the Andes reach the rainforest. The Amazonian tribe of the Kichwa are the traditional farmers of the leaf. The Kichwa people have traditional stories of how the tea ‘taught people to dream’ and of how it was consumed before nighttime hunting trips in order to heighten one’s senses in the dark.

So why should you try sipping on guayusa? Besides having the equivalent amount of caffeine to a cup of coffee (approximately 90mg), guayusa has double the antioxidant boost (polyphenols, flavonoids, and saponins) of green tea. Antioxidants search out and neutralize free radicals in the body. Scientists theorize that the cellular damage caused by free radicals contributes to the aging process and the development of serious health problems, including cancer and heart disease. Polyphenols have been shown to reduce bodily inflammation and saponins stimulate the immune system.

An energy and immunity boost combined with free radical and inflammation reduction? Sounds like a triathlete’s dream.

Guayusa tea also contains 15 amino acids (protein building blocks), including leucine, which is essential for muscle building and reparation. Leucine is not synthesized by our bodies, therefore we must get it from outside sources It also contains L-theanine, an amino acid that has been shown to promote feelings of calmness. Now you might be wondering—‘hey, I thought this was a kickstarter energy boost with caffeine, not a tranquilizing tea!’—but guayusa manages both, creating a stimulated calm.

The company, Runa, is bringing guayusa into the mainstream with non-gmo, 100 per centcertified organic status and fair trade operations. The name Runa means “fully alive” in Kichwa. Channing Tatum, a member of the Kichwa tribe, is an investor in the company. The popular tea chain, David’s Tea, also carries the leaf.

Think this is just a new health gimmick? Check outNational Geographic’s video on the Kichwa guayusa farmers and then see whether you find yourself trying the tea.