(-)-epicatechin is a flavonol found in cacao that is rapidly becoming one of the most popular and sought after ingredients in the sports nutrition industry and is widely regarded as the top rated Myostatin inhibiting compound on the market.
- Increase Lean Muscle
- Increase Strength
- Improve Recovery
What is epicatechin?
Epicatechin is a bioactive compound classed as a flavonol, a plant based phytochemical which is found in a number of foods in trace amounts, including green tea and most famously, dark chocolate.
While differing food sources contain different amounts of epicatechin, dark chocolate contains the most, and the darker the better with pure cocoa containing the highest amounts of all at nearly 3mg per gram.
Epicatechin has been the subject of several studies that have uncovered a host of physiological benefits, including:
- Enhancing muscle growth and strength naturally via a novel pathway
- Increasing nitric oxide production for improved vascularity, blood flow and endurance
- Improving insulin sensitivity, regulating blood sugar levels and stimulating muscle protein synthesis
- Lowering cholesterol levels due to its natural antioxidant properties
- Improving brain and heart health
These far-reaching benefits make epicatechin a worthwhile addition to your supplement arsenal whether you’re looking to build muscle, burn fat or increase your athletic performance, and because it’s non-hormonal, epicatechin can be used by both men and women with no side effects.
How does epicatechin work?
Myostatin inhibition – the secret to amazing muscle gain
Those of you old enough to live through the 90’s era of bodybuilding will remember when myostatin first came to prominence after photographs of some seriously jacked cows were published showing a level of muscularity that was simply shocking.
Myostatin is a type of protein called a myokine, which limits the level of muscle growth. Animals lacking myostatin, either due to a defective gene or because they’ve been treated with compounds that inhibit production, show huge increases in muscularity. In other words, the brakes on muscle growth are removed by the inhibition or absence of myostatin.
Ever since myostatin became famous within the bodybuilding community it has been considered the holy grail of muscle building, with rumours circulating that certain IFBB bodybuilders share a gene defect with these cows (or else have unearthed a drug to inhibit their own myostatin levels).
A number of supplements have been designed to inhibit myostatin production over the past 20 years, but these have all been discarded as busts that do nothing – until now.
The epicatechin/myostatin connection
Research with epicatechin indicates that it increases levels of follistatin, a special type of protein found in the muscles, which binds to and thereby inhibits the actions of myostatin in the body. In a nutshell, more follistatin equals less myostatin, which in turn means more muscle mass.
Epicatechin and follistatin
A study conducted on males of an average age of 40 showed that approximately 170mg of epicatechin per day, dosed at 2mg per kg of bodyweight, resulted in almost a 50% increase in follistatin and a 16.6% decrease in myostatin, alongside a strength increase of 7%. In a second study, researchers provided participants with 50-200mg of epicatechin a day and were amazed to find that their follistatin levels were 250% higher after just 5 days!
Epicatechin and endurance
In a study performed on mice, dosing epicatechin at 1mg/kg of bodyweight resulted in increases in nitric oxide and endurance that persisted even in the absence of exercise. In other words, epicatechin supplementation offers bodybuilders the potential for better muscle pumps and endurance even when they are not training.
This is a particular boon for endurance athletes, not to mention those seeking to preserve their fitness levels during a period when they cannot train.
Epicatechin and health
As bodybuilders we sometimes overlook the importance of health, but without good health it is of course impossible to optimise one’s fitness levels. A Harvard University study from 2007 shows that epicatechin appears to lower the risk of lethal events linked with four common diseases – diabetes, strokes, cardiovascular disease and cancer – by approximately 10%. A different study conducted by the Salk Institute showed that epicatechin not only improved blood but also seemed to enhance memory, with exercise having a further amplifying effect.
Epicatechin and body composition
Finally we turn our attention to a 2012 study, which showed that dark chocolate consumption led to a reduction in body fat even in the presence of a higher calorie intake. The researchers concluded that it was likely to be the high epicatechin content of dark chocolate that helped improve participants’ body composition by promoting fat loss alongside concomitant muscle gain.
Both research and empirical usage suggests that epicatechin should be dosed at 1-2mg/kg of bodyweight. Feedback from users suggests that dosing at the higher end, around 150-200mg or more per day, is optimal for those who want to experience its athletic and muscle building benefits. You’d have to consume a lot of chocolate to get those amounts from the diet so supplementation is recommended.
When to use epicatechin
Epicatechin is both so beneficial and so harmless that it can be used for any length of time and there is no need to restrict usage to a short cycle. We suggest trying it for four weeks at a minimum or taking it on an ongoing basis for best results.
Who can use epicatechin?
Due to its lack of reported side effects, virtually any healthy adult can safely use epicatechin and see significant improvements in body composition. However, women should take extra care when selecting a supplement to make sure the epicatechin isn’t combined with test boosters.
So, to summarise…
- Epicatechin is a bioactive compound famously found in dark chocolate.
- It works by increasing follistatin levels, in turn inhibiting the actions of myostatin in the body to ‘remove the brakes’ on muscle growth.
- It has been shown to enhance muscle growth and strength, increase NO production, maximise endurance and improve general health.
- Because it’s non-hormonal it can be used by both men and women and has no known side effects.
- It has been shown to improve body composition, resulting in a leaner, more toned physique.
- It can be used for as long as you like and should be taken on an ongoing basis for best results.