Mate: Why do athletes like this drink so much?
May 18, 2021
Mate is one of the drinks most loved by athletes - both as a sports aid or as a drink to share with those around them.
Football remains the sport with the most yerba consumers. Global stars like Argentinian genius Lionel Messi and French team-mate Griezmann are often spotted with a calabash in hand before games and in the locker room.
But then, why do athletes appreciate yerba mate so much? What are the benefits of mate for sports?
- Mate and sport: a drink for performance
- Mate and athletes
Mate and sport: a drink for performance
French striker Antoine Griezmann is a yerba fanatic. His love for this drink also made it possible to popularize yerba mate in France after the triumph of the French team in the World Cup.
Introduced to the South American drink by his Uruguayan teammate Carlos Bueno, Griezmann is praising yerba mate on all social media. He also gave several of his French teammates a taste of the hot drink – such as Manchester United playmaker Paul Pogba .
In interviews, the FC Barcelona player claims that his concentration , reflexes and sanity are all boosted by consuming the hot drink .
But are these effects scientifically proven? What are the impacts of mate on the performance of the athlete?
Studies on mate and sport
Mate and sport
A recently published study examined the performance and physical activity effects of yerba mate in eleven well-trained male cyclists.*
The cyclists were divided into two groups:
- One group consumed five grams of yerba mate daily for five days and the morning of an exercise trial.
- The other group consumed five grams of a placebo substance.
The study consisted of a test of maximum oxygen consumption (from very easy to quite difficult). Each stage lasted five minutes.
Following this, the cyclists underwent a time trial (about 30 minutes) where they had to perform a predetermined amount of work.
In addition to performance measurements in the time trial, all cyclists underwent blood tests and breath tests to assess any difference in metabolism when given yerba mate.
Neither the cyclists nor the researchers knew who drank yerba mate and when .
Result of studies
Mate Performance Study
The first key finding was that when cyclists drank yerba, scientists saw a highly significant 23% increase in fat burning during the more moderate intensity levels of the test.
At much higher intensities – i.e. during the time trial, when burning carbohydrates was the main source of energy – there were no significant differences in the rate of oxidation carbohydrates.
However, there was a difference in performance ; when the cyclists drank the drink, they completed the time trial in 29.4 minutes, 2.2% faster than when they took the placebo (30.1 minutes).
Further analysis also showed that the South American drink allowed cyclists to increase their power and oxygen consumption levels by seven watts .
Mate for athletes and amateur sportsmen
Mate, popular in the world of football
But then, is mate good for all types of athletes?
Yerba mate is rich in different properties. Indeed, it contains vitamins (A, C, E, B1, B2), magnesium, potassium and phosphorus .
Additionally, the antioxidants are useful dietary supplements, helping with weight management, while the vitamin B and C content is important for maintaining a healthy immune system.
Like previous studies, this one shows that yerba has the ability to enhance fat burning during moderate-intensity exercise for recreational athletes.
What's new here is that it also seems to improve endurance performance also in well-trained endurance athletes - something that has never been observed before.
Additionally, we know from other recent research in animal studies that yerba mate appears to be able to increase the rate of mitochondrial synthesis*.
Mate and athletes
You have surely seen it, mate is one of the favorite drinks of sportsmen, especially footballers. Here are some examples:
Messi and his pre-match mate
Samuel Umtiti and his personalized calabash
Griezmann before a match with the France team
Cavani and his mate, a real tradition
Suarez and his mate calabash in Liverpool
Del Potro in Paris before Rolland Garros
Di Maria, never without her mate!