Epicatechin Improves Endurance and Lowers Myostatin
TL:DR per title.
What is it?
Epicatechin is an antioxidant found in woody (heh) plants. It’s an isomer of catechin, the other isomers having some medicinal interest as well (green tea and apoptosis is an interesting read). In turn, catechin is a flavan-3-ol, a type of natural phenol and antioxidant. It is a plant secondary metabolite. It belongs to the group of flavan-3-ols, part of the chemical family of flavonoids. Catechins seem to be of significant interest to the researchers, judging by the volume of articles and research present/ongoing.
Technically, Epicatechin is (–)–Epicatechin (here on (-)-Epi), with the negatives denoting that this is one of the stereocenters in an ‘R’ configuration... cool.
14 month old male mice were sorted into; 1. control, 2.(-)-Epi only, 3. control with exercise, and 4. (-)-Epi with exercise. n=34. Doses were at 1mg/kg twice daily.
At 8 weeks, the control exercise group (69% further) slightly outperformed the (-)-Epi only group (46% further), but the (-)-Epi with exercise group was able to run significantly further than all other groups (84%) when compared to control. The latter also had a higher capacity for exercise and higher protein markers.
One older group (~62 years old) of 6, and another of equal size that was younger (~28.5 years old). 7 days of treatments of (-)-Epi via capsule at approximately 1mg/kg/day (caps were in 25mg increments, so some inaccuracy in dosing). After 7 days, hand strength had increased 7% and there was a statistically significant raise in follistatin/myostatin ratio (49.2%).
It might be surprising to some that a compound that improves cardiovascular endurance would also increase strength, but recall that myostatin is at least in part lowered by cardio. Myostatin effectively places a limit to muscle growth, so lowering it is ultimately beneficial to strength training.
Method of Action
In a separate and uninteresting study, (-)-Epi was found to increase capillarity, and this gain seems to attenuate detraining on muscle i.e. keep your muscle for longer during periods of rest, as well as being the main way it offers the cardio benefits that it does. The increase in capillaries supports increases in the delivery of oxygen to muscle.
Where to find it
Fruit with skins, such as blackberries, apples, cherries, pears, red grapes and wine. And green tea - interesting study on green tea and cancer. Cocoa is perhaps the richest source at 158.30mg of (-)-Epi per 100g of cocoa (it should be said that this doesn’t mean eat chocolate - pairing it with milk as an ingredient or otherwise seems to lower its effectiveness).
It can be found in its (-)- form on Amazon at 300mg per serving. A cup of green tea contains only about 12 mg per serving, though it also possess other catechins (green tea is a post in and of itself). If you are interested in consuming (-)-Epi at doses high enough to be noticeably effective, consume 100mg+ of cocoa or use a supplement.
The low doses are interesting: study 1 has a human equivalent dose of just 13.5mg, while study 2 is around 100mg. To me, this implies that even a modest change in diet (or relatively small amounts of supplementation) can result in reductions in myostatin and improve cardio performance.