Epicatechin is a worthwhile addition to your supplement arsenal whether you’re looking to build muscle, burn fat or increase your athletic performance. It increases natural nitric oxide production, muscle protein synthesis, insulin sensitivity and brain/heart health. Epicatechin is a plant-derived non-hormonal product, so it can be used by both men and women without suppressive effects.
For inexperienced athletes not willing to compromise their hormonal health, this compound stacks well with 5a hydroxy laxogenin.
Mechanism of action – myostatin inhibition
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. Belgian blue cows are one such example. In layman’s terms, the brakes on muscle growth are removed by the inhibition or absence of myostatin.
Ever since myostatin became famous within the bodybuilding community inhibition had 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. YK-11 is perhaps the most prominent example, known as the most powerful of the SARMs.
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 bloodwork 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.