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Breaking through Performance Plateaus with Epicatechin

Epicatechin is classed as a flavanol, derived from plants and food sources. Cacao products, green tea, red wine, berries and apples are rich sources of epicatechin. Research has observed the use of epicatechin for enhanced exercise performance, increased muscle mass and treatment for sarcopenia.

Epicatechin has been likened to two compounds, GW1516 and AICAR, which demonstrate enhanced exercise capacity, however toxic side effects have been linked with use. Both GW1516 and AICR are listed in schedule 10, where they are prohibited for distribution and use.

Endurance and Angiogenesis

Research suggests a positive association between epicatechin use and improved aerobic capacity, for the enhancement of endurance performance. Oxygen delivery to the muscles is coordinated by a range of mechanisms, with capillaries being a major part. Capillaries are the smallest blood vessel in the vascular system, where they provide an interface between the muscular and circulatory system.

The muscle-capillarity ratio plays an integral part in exercise capacity. One study found the use of epicatechin, in combination with exercise, induced angiogenesis (development of new blood vessels) and increased capillary-fibre ratio by 64%, over 15 days of treatment. This outcome explains the increased oxygen delivery to working muscles, resulting in enhanced endurance capacity. The cessation of exercise regimens while continuing epicatechin use continued to observe positive effects on capillarity and mitochondrial capacity.

Another mechanism potential of epicatechin is the elevated level of nitric oxide (NO), for increased oxygen deliver to working muscles for enhanced endurance capacity.

Muscle Mass and Strength

Myostatin, a protein found in skeletal muscles, is responsible for inhibition of muscle growth. Currently, no known compounds have been observed to present myostatin inhibitory effects to break through the muscle growth plateau. However, an alternative approach involves increasing follistatin which inhibits the activity of myostatin by interfering with receptor binding. Following the supplementation of epicatechin, increased circulating follistatin, and decreased myostatin was observed, suggesting positive modulation for muscle growth. The same study found increased levels of grip strength, which demonstrates a positive association with muscle strength. Effects have also been observed on the mitochondrial content, structure and function, resulting in the increased performance capacity in subjects using epicatechin.

Sarcopenia Treatment

The use of epicatechins present promising use for the treatment of sarcopenia (age-related loss of skeletal muscle and strength). The current prevention and treatment protocol for sarcopenia currently comprise of addressing vitamin deficiencies and/or physical activity in the form of resistance training, which can be often difficult to implement in the aging population.

Cardiovascular Protection

Long term myocardial protection has been observed with the use of epicatechin. These cardioprotective properties have demonstrated the increase in oxidative capacity and energy stores with epicatechin use.

Epicatechin Use

Based on various research outcomes, 50mg of epicatechin, twice per day is the suggested dose. Epicatechin can be supplemented orally in the form of powder, or food sources rich in the flavanol (green tea, cacao beverages). Ingestion of epicatechin over extended periods of time has been proven safe for human consumption, with no adverse effects.

Gutierrez-Salmean G, Ciaraldi TP, Nogueira L, et al. Effects of (-)-epicatechin on molecular modulators of skeletal muscle growth and differentiation. J Nutr Biochem. 2014;25(1):91-94. Available from: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2013.09.007

Nogueira L, Ramirez-Sanchez I, Perkins GA, et al. (-)-Epicatechin enhances fatigue resistance and oxidative capacity in mouse muscle. J Physiol. 2011;589(Pt 18):4615-4631. Available from: 10.1113/jphysiol.2011.209924

Hüttemann M, Lee I, Malek MH. (-)-Epicatechin maintains endurance training adaptation in mice after 14 days of detraining. FASEB J. 2012;26(4):1413-1422. Available from: 10.1096/fj.11-196154

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