Following our recent article on the mystery ingredient laxogenin, today we turn our attention to epicatechin, another ingredient that is widely overlooked, yet which shows a lot of potential for helping users achieve a better physique. To help you navigate, we've included a table of contents linking to each section:
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.
There are some supplements that feature epicatechin as their key ingredient and some that include it within a blend of natural anabolics. Three of our most popular epicatechin supplements include Hydrapharm Adamantine, Black Lion Research Follidrone and MAN Sports Delta XT.
Adamantine is a bestselling natural muscle builder made up of epicatechin, laxogenin, creatine nitrate and vitamin D3. This innovative ingredient stack naturally triggers anabolism through various pathways to enhance strength, mass, recovery, performance and endurance.
Review from Alan Peterson, one of our customers:
“Gotta give this product its due. As someone who has never taken prohormones I reckon this is the best natural muscle builder I have used and I have used them all - test boosters, arachidonic acid, mass pro synthagen etc.
Kicks in quick and get the pumps as expected from the nitrate but for me the best thing is the other 2 ingredients. I respond really well to laxogenin and epicatechin and this is the only product I can think of which includes both.
Fast recovery, great strength gains, and steady muscle gains of 2kg in a 6 week cycle. That does not sound great when you compare to PH's but I also increased my squat 5RM by 20kg, my bench went up by 5kg after being stuck for several months.
I was debating going on PH's as I must be close to my genetic limits but having gotten this I think I will try it again, maybe stacking it with something complementary like x factor. I reckon alternating this with something that works via a different pathway like test boosters is a great way to build muscle steadily over time.”
Visit the product page for more information and reviews on Adamantine.
Rather than being blended with other ingredients, epicatechin is the key ingredient in this product, perfect if you want to experience its unique benefits in isolation. This also means that Follidrone can be used by both men and women, and is ideal for those who want to make noticeable changes to their body composition without any side effects.
We have yet to receive any reviews for this product on our website, but the feedback we have heard from individual customers so far has been excellent, with reports of remarkable improvements in strength, endurance, pumps, focus and muscle fullness. Reviews elsewhere on the web, such as on the Anabolic Minds forum, are also overwhelmingly positive, for example:
“Dosage- 10-10 Simple dosing and no need to take so many pills throughout the day. 30-45 min pre workout is all you need. Started at 2 pills pre workout and went 4 pills the last 3 days and didn't feel any difference. Sometimes more isn't better. Might be worth going 4 pills if ran more than 4 weeks but I didn't get to experiment that long.
Strength- 10 out of 10 This was determined on muscle endurance and pushing more weight in terms of more reps and sets.
Endurance- 12 out of 10 This was the number 1 effect and lasted all 4 weeks. Effects came immediately.
Pumps- 8-10 Pumps were insane. Came around week 2. Pump seem to last a hour or so post workout too.
Mood enhance- 0-10 Didn't really get any mood change.
Aggression- 6-10 I won't call it aggression but I did always want to go harder and I believe it's because of the enhanced endurance which made me want to go harder and longer.
Stamina- 10-10 Stamina was great.
Muscle fullness- 10-10 Muscles looked full after week 1.
Focus-8-10 Focus was on point. Again all positive effects might be contributed to the excellent endurance effects this gives. Mind to muscle focus was in tact.
DOMS- 8-10. I give it a 8 here. Didn't get any DOMS week 1 but week 2 and 3 were extreme. Always came around the 2 or 3rd workout and lasted all week. On my last week (4) I didn't get any DOMS. My assumption is it diminishes after week 3 if ran longer than 4 weeks.
Overall-10-10 Great all around supplement. Gave everything you would hope for in a supp. Not one complaint. Very effective from day one and only got better. This got me very lean while gaining 2lbs.
Final thought- Very effective in any situation. I see this being great during and after a cycle. I wouldn't run this any shorter than 6 weeks at least. I feel this has much more to offer and would be a waste to run it for only 4 weeks. Great to stack with anything. I loved every minute of this run. My next run will be 8-12 weeks.”
If you have tried Black Lion Research Follidrone and would like to share your experiences, please feel free to do so on the Follidrone product page, and you’ll be awarded 100 loyalty points for your efforts.
Delta XT combines epicatechin with ZMA (zinc, magnesium and vitamin B6), fenugreek and maca to deliver multiple benefits to those looking to achieve a leaner, more defined physique. These ingredients have been shown to optimise testosterone and estrogen levels, promote a better quality of rest and sleep, improve mood and libido and enhance muscle protein synthesis.
The popularity of Delta XT is on the rise as more and more people learn of the multiple benefits behind its innovative ingredient list. Although we do not yet have any reviews on our website, anecdotal feedback is very promising, with users reporting significant muscle and strength gains, better and deeper sleep, and heightened sexual desire and performance.
We’d love to know your thoughts on Delta XT so if you’ve tried it please help others by leaving a review on the product page, and we’ll reward you with 100 loyalty points to use towards new supplements, exclusive access to VIP events, personal diet and training programmes and more.
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.
Watch this space for more mystery sports nutrition ingredients
In this series of articles we want to focus our attention on some of the innovative ingredients out there that have been shown to deliver significant improvements in performance or body composition. The difference here is that we will be covering ingredients that are less well known so don't expect a lengthy article on whey protein or BCAAs!
Keep your eyes peeled for the next article in the series, which will feature epicatechin, another ingredient that has been getting a lot of interest in the industry lately but about which little is known in mainstream circles.
Did you enjoy this article? Was there anything in particular that resonated with you (or riled you)? Do you have any further information that we've missed? Please let us know via our Facebook page. Alternatively, if you would like to try one of the products mentioned above and/or browse our exclusive range of sports supplements, you can do so here.