Avoiding the ease of the Starbucks Drive-thru is a lot simpler than you might think. Here are some easy tea hacks to help you with a healthier alternative that’s been a poorly-kept secret for thousands of years:
Steep it fresh. Not all teas are created equal. The USDA Database for the Flavonoid Content of Selected Foods tells us that EGCg values for 8 oz of freshly-brewed green teas range five to twenty times higher than the measured EGCg value in store-bought bottled green teas. This is due to antioxidant degradation over time, even if the bottled teas were made using real tea leaves. To maximize your benefits, use quality whole leaf tea—it won’t break the bank at $0.10-$0.50 per serving. Make it as light or strong, cold or hot as you want. That choice should be driven by what your body responds to best. Be sure to dial it in during training, not on race day. All whole leaf teas you steep fresh are rich in the active ingredients. Just watch your caffeine intake, as 64 oz of black tea will get you up into the range of over 300 mg of caffeine, (the equivalent of three cups of coffee) right at the limit of what The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says is safe for most people to consume daily. Pro tip: If this sounds like taking on a second career, try cold brewing. It’s easy, forgiving and you can make it on-the-go or in the fridge overnight. Use 1 Tablespoon of tea leaves per 32 oz of cool filtered water. Cold brewed tea can actually be better for you as it yields similar antioxidant levels than teas brewed hot and may provide even more in the case of green teas.
Jumpstart your day with tea, as this is the best time of day for your body to absorb its benefits. Even if you need to grab a coffee an hour later, you’re rousing your cells and getting your metabolism started with tea polyphenols, which you can’t get anywhere else. Timing is everything. The polyphenol antioxidants in tea are best absorbed when drinking it on an empty stomach. Pro tip: If you’re not training first thing in the morning, start your day off with a catechin-rich and restorative green tea. But if you’re up and at ‘em, turn to a Pu’erh tea to take advantage of its pre-race digestive mojo. 
Drink your greens. Green tea is a perfect way to rev up your metabolism and focus your mind before getting into your workout. Steep your favorite green tea (warm or cold-brewed) 30-45 minutes before you get going. Pro tip: To get in the Catechin fast-lane, try matcha, which is pure ground green tea powder. When you drink Matcha, you’re actually ingesting the whole tea leaf, which ups your antioxidant intake just like that. You can prep it in a matter of seconds. Add a good boost of lemon to increase the electrolyte capacity, vitamin C, and bump up hydration.
Sip throughout the day. In the morning, fill your tumbler with fresh tea leaves and water to cold brew on-the-go. Choose a low-caff white or green tea, and within 10 minutes this becomes your new “enriched” water. Spreading out antioxidants in your bloodstream throughout the day, will help your body metabolize energy from fat and mop up exercise-induced free radicals that could otherwise cause inflammation and muscle soreness. Pro tip: There are many Steepware® tumblers to make fresh cold brew tea easy and convenient for athletes. Simply adding more water to your tumbler throughout the day maximizes your tea extractions at no added cost.
Fresh brewed tea is arguably the cheapest and healthiest fitness hack for athletes looking for natural hydration options. Don’t be afraid to try new things and discover what works best for your body, whatever your goal or adventure.
Maria Uspenski is the founder of The Tea Spot, whose mission is to advance healthier living through the everyday enjoyment of whole leaf tea. The Boulder, Colorado based company donates ten percent of all sales in-kind to cancer and community wellness. Their message is simple and powerful – tea in its freshest form is sustainable, and renders exceptional flavor and unmatched health benefits. Uspenski is the author of “Cancer Hates Tea”, published by Page Street Books in 2016, and was recognized as the “Top Tea Health Advocate” at the 2017 World Tea Expo. She has been featured in the Huffington Post, and on television, radio and podcast interviews for her success as a social entrepreneur and certified tea and fitness nutrition expert.
 Sheng-Kuo Hsieh, et al. Antibacterial and laxative activities of strictinin isolated from Pu’er tea (Camellia sinensis). Journal of Food and Drug Analysis 24 (2016) 722e729