Yerba Maté (Illex Paraguariensis) Ingestion Augments Fat Oxidation and Energy Expenditure During Exercise at Various Submaximal Intensities

Ahmad Alkhatib


Nutr Metab. 2014;11(42) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Background Ingesting Yerba Maté (YM) has become widely popular for health promotion, obesity prevention and body weight reduction, primarily due its thermogenic effectiveness. However, the YM effects on fat metabolism during exercise, when fat metabolism is already increased several fold, are unknown. The present study investigated whether acute YM ingestion augments fat metabolism parameters of fatty acid oxidation (FAO) and energy expenditure derived from FAO (EEFAO) during exercise with several intensities.

Methods Fourteen healthy males and females were randomised in a repeated measures crossover experimental design. All participants ingested either 1000 mg of YM or placebo capsules (PLC) 60 min before performing two incremental exercise ergometry tests. Power output was initiated at and increased by 0.5−1 of body weight every 3 min stage, until reaching peak oxygen uptake ( ?dctmLink chronic_id='0901c791807f0407' object_id='0901c791807f0407' edit_widget_type=graphic??dctmEditor selectedObject='0901c791807f0407'?). Expired gases and stoichiometric indirect calorimetry were used to analyse FAO and EEFAO. Capillary blood samples were collected and analysed for blood lactate concentration (BLC) at rest and at each submaximal and maximal power output.

Results YM significantly increased FAO and EEFAO by 24% in all submaximal exercise intensities below 70% of ?dctmLink chronic_id='0901c791807f0407' object_id='0901c791807f0407' edit_widget_type=graphic??dctmEditor selectedObject='0901c791807f0407'? (p < 0.001, ANOVA main effects) with post hoc tests showing a higher FAO and EEFAO (p < 0.05) at the lower exercise intensities (e.g. 0.26 ± 0.09 vs. 0.35 ± 0.10 and 0.25 ± 0.12 vs. 0.33 ± 0.11 g.min−1 at 40 and 50% of ?dctmLink chronic_id='0901c791807f0407' object_id='0901c791807f0407' edit_widget_type=graphic??dctmEditor selectedObject='0901c791807f0407'? respectively). These changes were combined with a trend towards a decrease in BLC (P = 0.066), and without a significant difference in ?dctmLink chronic_id='0901c791807f0407' object_id='0901c791807f0407' edit_widget_type=graphic??dctmEditor selectedObject='0901c791807f0407'?, peak power, peak RER, or peak BLC.

Conclusions Acute YM ingestion augments the exercise dependent increase in FAO and EEFAO at submaximal exercise intensities without negatively affecting maximal exercise performance, suggesting a potential role for YM ingestion to increase the exercise effectiveness for weight loss and sports performance.


Yerba Maté (YM), the dried leaves and branches of the plant Illex Paraguariensis, is currently consumed by over 1 million people worldwide, traditionally by many South American countries, and more recently in North America and Europe in the form of YM tea beverage made from the aqueous extracts of the dried leaves and stem. The active ingredients of YM include polyphenols and caffeoyl derivatives (caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, 3, 4-Dicaffeoylquinic acid, 4, 5-Dicaffeoylquinic acid and 3,5-Dicaffeoylquinic acid), phytosterols and saponins.[1,2] These active ingredients have been suggested to explain several biomedical properties associated with YM ingestion including anti-oxidant, vasodilatory, lipid lowering properties, anti-mutagenic and anti-glycation effects.[3] These properties have often accompanied weight and fat loss and increased energy metabolism as recently demonstrated in mice studies.[4–7]

The reported effects in humans are limited to one study that showed an increase in resting metabolic rate and reduced respiratory quotient after prolonged resting periods of 1–4 hrs, induced by acute YM ingestion.[8] However, those resting effects may be further augmented during exercise, especially considering that energy metabolism is already stimulated as a result of increasing exercise intensity. It is established that fatty acid oxidation (FAO) predominantly contributes to energy expenditure (EE) at low and moderate exercise intensities and that carbohydrate oxidation (CHO) predominates at higher exercise intensities above anaerobic threshold.[9,10] It has been shown that achieving higher absolute FAO and higher EE derived from FAO (EEFAO) at a given exercise intensity or power output, particularly those associated with aerobic exercise training in the low and moderate intensity domains, is associated with improved metabolic health and enhanced endurance exercise performance outcomes.[11–15] Therefore, given the suggested thermogenic effectiveness of YM at rest,[8] it remains unknown whether and how YM ingestion affects FAO and its contribution to EE during exercise.

This study aims to investigate the acute effects of YM ingestion on FAO and EE derived from FAO (EEFAO) during exercise of varied intensities. It is hypothesised that YM ingestion increases FAO and enhances EEFAO during exercise.