If you’ve spent some time in the gym and you’ve searched for information on how to build muscle, there’s a good chance that you’ve come across a natural anabolic substance called epicatechin.
A recent study has shown promising results, and the supplement industry is keeping close tabs on the substance.
But what is epicatechin? How does it work in relation to building muscle? Does it have other benefits? Is it safe?
Today, we’ll go over these questions, and you’ll be armed with the knowledge to make an informed decision for yourself. Let’s go.
What is epicatechin and how does it work?
Epicatechin is a molecule found in dark chocolate. More specifically, it’s a compound from the flavonol family (which are phytochemicals).
This compound is claimed to be a myostatin inhibitor. Myostatin is a protein that acts on muscle cells and inhibits growth. One of the greatest side-effects of myostatin deficiencies is the increased muscle mass and strength.
(I’m sure you’ve come across a picture of one of these incredibly jacked cows. They have such deficiencies.)
On the same train of thought, if epicatechin successfully inhibits myostatin, this would result in us being able to build more muscle and get stronger without having to delve into the dangerous world of anabolic steroids.
The study I mentioned above is this one. In it, the researchers examined the effects of epicatechin when used as a supplement by humans.
In the first part of the study, the in vitro experiment that looked at muscle cells from people of different ages and found a positive correlation between aging and an increase in myostatin.
In the second part of the study, the researchers tested epicatechin on rats. They gave the subjects 1 mg of epicatechin per kilo of body weight, twice per day. They found that young rodents experienced a 15% decrease in myostatin and older rodents had an 18% drop in myostatin.
In the third part of the study, the researchers tested epicatechin on six middle-aged men. The subjects were given 1 mg of epicatechin per kilo of body weight, twice per day. This translated to roughly 150 mg of epicatechin per day.
The researchers found a decrease in plasma myostatin decreased, and follistatin (which is the opposite of myostatin and works on inhibiting its signaling) increased. The researchers also noted an increase in grip strength.
The bad news is, the researchers didn’t report the exact values for myostatin and follistatin and how they changed. Also, because the study was short-term, muscle mass changes weren’t measured.
This study didn’t provide evidence that epicatechin is a muscle-building agent, but it also doesn’t discount it as a potential one. All in all, this study showed some promising results (albeit the small sample size and duration), and it did lay down the groundwork for future studies.
The good news is, you can get the recommended dose of epicatechin by eating 50 grams of pure dark chocolate containing at least 50% cocoa. You can test the efficacy for yourself without having to resort to supplements.
Okay, but are natural anabolics safe to take?
Well, this is a bit broad to answer with a yes or a no, but as far as epicatechin is concerned, not only is it safe to take, but it’s also been shown to have lots of health benefits for us.
For example, in this study, the researchers found that epicatechin is safe to take and has no adverse effects on health. They concluded:
our findings suggest that increases in NO metabolites, mitochondrial enzyme function and plasma follistatin levels may underlie some of the beneficial effects of cocoa products or (−)-EPI as reported in other studies.
Some of the benefits the researchers were talking about include:
- It may help to reduce blood pressure through the increase in nitric oxide levels (study, study).
- It has been shown to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes (study, study, study). Again, thanks to the increase in nitric oxide levels, blood vessels and arteries dilate, improving blood flow.
- It reduces LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol, improves blood glucose levels and reduces inflammation (one, two, three).
- Flavanols such as epicatechin have been shown to improve blood flow to the brain and cognitive function (study, study, study, study).
- It can help us control our weight. Indeed, research has shown that flavanols such as epicatechin can help regulate our appetite, increase the feeling of fullness, and increase fat oxidation (study, study). Who knew that dark chocolate could help us lose weight?And just as a quick side note, it seems to me that regular consumption of dark chocolate can be the perfect addition to the diet if you’re one who’s constantly struggling with hunger and always end up putting too much fat when you’re bulking.It can also be a great addition to a fat loss plan as the appetite control and increased fat oxidation are two major benefits.
The bottom line on epicatechin
Although we don’t have definitive proof that epicatechin serves as a muscle-building agent (yet), we have some promising results. All of the research that has looked at myostatin in relation to epicatechin intake has shown a positive correlation.
Also, the subjects from the study we looked at earlier showed an improvement in grip strength which is a good indicator of muscular strength and possible growth.
And if that’s not enough to get you on board, remember that flavanols provide us with tons of amazing benefits such as improved cognition and mood, improved blood flow, reduced risk of cardiovascular problems, reduced bad cholesterol, and aid in weight control.
Undoubtedly, these molecules have proven themselves to be effective on many different fronts and epicatechin, in one way or another, is a great compound that can help improve your performance in the gym and ultimately help you build more muscle mass and strength.
So grab yourself a piece of dark chocolate and enjoy the benefits. Just pick one that contains at least 50% cocoa.
Oh, and if you don’t like dark chocolate (are you even human?), you can opt in for a supplement. Just make sure that it’s dosed correctly and you’re getting enough epicatechin in each serving.
The future looks bright for epicatechin!