Thursday, August 24

A nice cup of tea...

I drink a lot of tea. It's part of my British genetic make-up. It's also about the only physiological thing I have in common with the Kenyans.

I've been drinking tea for 50 years. Well, OK, maybe a few less than that -- I wasn't actually weaned on the stuff. But during those years I've seen tea go from the Englishman's spirit-of-the-Blitz staple to a caffeinated drink that the health police said we shouldn't be drinking, and back to prized status as scientists discovered it is packed with antioxidant that are really, really good for us (especially runners).

One last drawback remeained to be cleared up. As a runner, hydration is very important. And tea, they told us, is a diuretic.

Now I know this is a bit extreme, but I like my tea. So I did a little experiment. I collected and measured my output of urine over two 24-hour periods with and without tea. I compared the quantity coming out with the quantity going in. There was no difference. Conclusion: tea is not a diuretic.

Today I was pleased to discover that scientists at Kings College London agree. "Tea not only rehydrates as well as water does, but it can also protect against heart disease and some cancers", reported BBC news. And lead researcher Dr Carrie Ruxton actually said that the idea that tea was dehydrating was an urban myth.

"Studies on caffeine have found very high doses dehydrate and everyone assumes that caffeine-containing beverages dehydrate", she said. "But even if you had a really, really strong cup of tea or coffee, which is quite hard to make, you would still have a net gain of fluid.

"Drinking tea is actually better for you than drinking water. Water is essentially replacing fluid. Tea replaces fluids and contains antioxidants so its got two things going for it."

* Story from BBC NEWS: Paper: EJ Gardner et al, Black tea – helpful or harmful? A review of the evidence. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2006, advance online publication 19 July.

1 comment:

Ahmee said...

Hi Simon! I just found your blog and think it's really fine, fun and inspiring. You've already inspired me to give tea a bit more respect, and maybe a few more sips. It's time to detox from coffee, again, anyway. Any favorite "brands" of tea? My Mom used to drink it and had a whole ritual for "hotting the pot" and using less than boiling water. What has put me off tea is that, as a child, I had to sit around, bored, in restaurants for another ten hours (well, maybe minutes) while my mother enjoyed "just one more" cup.

About running marathons just to finish: I think that you just don't "get it" about why less athletic runners enjoy running, and not racing, for 26.2 miles. Masochism for its own sake is only part of enjoyment. Planning to run a marathon in five hours provides a sense of adventure, a domain where I can push my own humble limits, and a goal race that allows for many months of sociable training, plus an incentive to stay fit, strength train, eat right, and obsess about something not too disturbing. I know that many slower runners "race" against their PR's, including me. Yet, a PR isn't nearly enticing enough to forgo a beautiful marathon venue or to push through barely tolerable pain (there are limits to my masochism).

I respect your competitive spirit, and your enthusiasm for the hard work and, suffering, that trying to break the mile record takes. It looks like you have a really good chance of doing it. When you get around to aiming at longer distance records, I'm expecting you to become the Ed Whitlock of the fifty-somethings!