Morning Caffeine 101: Is Matcha Better Than Coffee?
Most people depend on some form of caffeine in the morning and/or afternoon. But which is the most effective and best for your body? As is always the case in personalized nutrition, that is very dependent on your, your microbiome, genes preferences and more. But here is a breakdown of all the essentials you need to know about research on both matcha and coffee.
Matcha is a green tea powder. Unlike when you drink green tea and the ground leaves seep in water in a tea bag, with matcha you are actually drinking the ground up tea leaves. Matcha comes in a powder form and can be mixed with hot water. Like coffee, the antioxidant and polyphenol content in matcha is very high, which leads to a number of health benefits.
Most of the benefits of matcha are thought to exist because of the combination of the polyphenol EGCG, the amino acid L-theanine and the caffeine content. This combination may be associated with improved mood, cognition and less jittery alertness. 80% of the polyphenols are derived from catechins and 60% of those catechins are from the EGCG. This is a very anti-inflammatory compound that is found in all green tea but is especially high in matcha. EGCG has also been shown to decrease fatigue and oxidative damage.
L-theanine is the amino acid that contributes to slow, consistent caffeine release, leading to more calm and sustained energy levels. Other benefits include improved mood, attention, alertness, and decreases in mental fatigue and anxiety.
While matcha contains more caffeine than your typical green tea bag, the caffeine content is still much lower than coffee. One small (or tall) 12 fl oz matcha latte at Starbucks contains 55mg of caffeine. This is substantially less than the 235mg that you’ll find in a 12 fl oz medium roast coffee at Starbucks. As a side note: this does not mean that drinking a matcha latte at Starbucks is a good idea–it is still very high in sugar. If you are a slower caffeine metabolizer, then your body may respond better to matcha than coffee.
When purchasing matcha, it’s always best to buy organic ceremonial matcha powder. I use the Mighty Leaf brand. Pour ½ to 1 tsp (or even 2 tsp) of matcha into a bowl and mix with about 2-3 fl oz of hot water. Then whisk with a bamboo matcha whisk. After whisking, add more hot water or steamed almond milk for a warm beverage. You can also add ice cubes and cold almond milk for a cold matcha drink and 2-3 drops of stevia (optional).
I stopped drinking coffee a few years ago and noticed much more stable energy levels and better sleep at night. Now, I rotate between green tea and a cold matcha drink first thing in the morning.
Coffee is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world. While there is a lot of debate over whether it’s beneficial for health or not, the consensus seems to be in favor of many health benefits. Research has shown that drinking coffee is associated with lower risk of all-cause mortality, death related to heart disease and total cancer. Studies also show that it helps decrease risk of type 2 diabetes, prostate cancer, gallstones, gout, and chronic liver disease. The only documented health risks of coffee have been seen in pregnant women who drink too much coffee and in women who may have an increased risk of fractures.
Other arguable concerns may be associated with coffee’s ability to interfere with high quality sleep at night and the jolt in adrenaline and cortisol, which can make you feel more stimulated and motivated, followed by a crash not long after. For some people, drinking coffee can lead to fluctuating energy throughout the entire day.
On an individualized level, the benefits will depend on your genes. While some people feel productive and energized after drinking coffee, others feel jittery and excessively stimulated, followed by peaks and dips in energy a few hours later. Your response to coffee largely depends on the gene that is responsible for the metabolism of caffeine: CYP1A2. People are either fast or slow caffeine metabolizers. It’s the difference between those that drink a cup of coffee and fall asleep immediately after and those who drink coffee at 10am and then cannot sleep later that night. It directly influences how long it takes to clear caffeine from your system. Fast caffeine metabolizers are more likely to benefit from the polyphenols in coffee and are less likely to experience any side effects associated with caffeine since it’s cleared fast enough for it to not be a problem. Those that have a gene mutation to CYP1A2 that makes them a slow metabolizer are less likely to experience the benefits documented in the research.
If you want to find out whether coffee sits well with you, you may want to pay attention to your reaction within 30 minutes to 20 hours after consumption. You may also benefit from doing a DNA test to tell you for sure whether you carry a genetic expression. Lastly, I am a big advocate of coffee vacations where you give yourself 2-6 weeks of not drinking it so that you are more aware of how it affects you in general.
If you are a coffee drinker, always try to buy organic coffee. I would recommend avoiding your typical cream and sugar. In place of those, I recommend NutPods Original or French Vanilla or Califia Farms Dairy-free Better Half Unsweetened Coconut Cream & Almond Milk. You can also try adding a splash of plain, unsweetened almond or coconut milk. If you need a sweetener, I would suggest using organic liquid stevia. Read more about alternative sugars here. I also recommend bulletproof coffee to some people, which is coffee blended with MCT oil and grass-fed butter. If you are not following a high-fat/ketogenic diet then you would not want to add more than 1 tbsp of MCT oil and 1 Tbsp of grass-fed butter. The reason that this tends to work for people is because it makes them feel fuller for longer in the morning and also more alert.
Comment on my recent Instagram post and tell me whether you start your day with matcha, coffee or other!