How would you like to eat your way to a fit physique? Better yet, with everybody’s favorite treat, chocolate? Better yet, maybe eating instead of exercising? Ok, that would be a stretch, but what is not a stretch is the immense and measurable benefits chocolate consumption can have on your body; promoting muscle growth and decreasing body fat.
The effects observed from consumption of chocolate (dark chocolate, mind you, not the sugar laden milk chocolate type), is due to presence of a flavonol compound known as epicatechin. Flavonols belong to the broader group of phyto-chemicals called flavonoids, which you are bound to have heard of. As luck would have it, dark chocolate and cacao are some of the richest sources of naturally occurring epicatechins, giving you another excuse to eat more of this delectable treat!
Why The Fuss?
Well, as if you need more reason to eat chocolate (who wouldn’t want to eat it for no reason at all?), the epicatechin content found in it has been studied for its numerous benefits on health, many of which are backed up by scientific studies. It can take your physique to the next level. How? Let’s explore some of the most compelling arguments to eat more chocolate!
Epicatechin Boosts Muscle Growth
One of the most sought after benefits of Epicatechin is its ability to boost muscle growth. In particular, epicatechin found in chocolate is able to inhibit a protein found in muscle known as myostatin, according to the findings of a study. Myostatin’s primary function is to restrict muscle growth, ensuring hypertrophy does not continue unabated. However, as a bodybuilder or other athlete who is actively seeking to increase muscle mass, diminishing the effect of myostatin is extremely useful.
In addition, myostatin is kept in check by another protein, follistatin, which exerts the opposite effect. Epicatechin was found to simultaneously increase follistatin, and decrease myostatin.
Epicatechin Found In Chocolate May Boost Testosterone Levels
Another study conducted on rats was able to determine that daily low dose catechins consumption was able to increase blood testosterone, via stimulation of the pituitary gland. This, in turn, leads to increased expression of GnRH (gonadotropin releasing hormone) and LH (luteinizing hormone). LH signals to the testes to increase production of testosterone. Be sure to hit the gym with intensity to make the most of this enhanced surge of hormones.
Epicatechin Boosts Blood Flow
By promoting the synthesis of Nitric oxide (NO), epicatechin encourages healthy blood flow. Nitric oxide is known as a vasodilator, and serves to widen blood vessels and improve delivery of blood and nutrients to muscles and organs that need it.
By optimizing blood flow, epicatechin is able to boost muscle growth at the most important times, which will speed up recovery and enhance endurance.
In addition, improved blood flow ensures the leydig cells (located in the testes) receive appropriate nutrition to boost production of the ever important testosterone.
While suppressing your appetite may not be the first thing on your mind when trying to gain muscle, it can in particular be useful for calming cravings and late night hunger pangs. Researchers from the Netherlands found that epicatechin found in chocolate helps boost production of an anti-hunger hormone called leptin, which signals to the brain that you are satisfied. This use can be extremely beneficial since many people have developed a resistance to this hormone, and are constantly forced to eat even if not necessary.
How Should Epicatechin Be Taken?
At this time, the exact amount that needs to be ingested to deliver marked benefit is unknown. However, according to the small study carried out on middle aged persons, a dose of 1mg/kg consumed twice daily was used. Results were there, but study duration was too short to make measurable notes. This translates to a dose of around 150mg per day for most, however, many users of epicatechin as a supplement for muscle growth are already using it at double that dose, 200-300mg per day with good results.
If you want to consume it through chocolate a minimum of 40-50g dark chocolate per day (at least 70% cacao) is enough to start giving results.
The Final Word On Epicatechin
Although epicatechin has now been studied in humans, it is far from being complete. Why? For one, the sample size of humans used in the study is just 6 people. 6 people can in no way represent statistics of billions of people in the world, but nevertheless they did show promise. Secondly, the study lasted just 2 weeks, and yes favorable results were obtained, via an average change of +49.2% (follistatin) to -16.6% (myostatin),however the study duration was far from sufficient to observe muscle growth differences. It is also important to note that these results were observed in middle aged people, who possess higher levels of myostatin and lower follistatin to begin with.
If conclusions can be drawn from the rat study, it might suggest that epicatechin is not as effective in younger subjects, though it still delivers some results.
Give chocolate a shot. You may not experience life changing gains in muscle mass, but at least it won’t do any harm but provide much enjoyment for your taste buds! If consuming that much chocolate doesn’t seem to be your thing, using an effective supplement containing epicatechin may be better suited for you.
About the author: Alex Eriksson is the founder of Anabolic Health, a men’s health blog dedicated to providing honest and research backed advice for optimal male hormonal health. Anabolic Health aspires to become a trusted resource where men can come and learn how to fix their hormonal problems naturally, without pharmaceuticals. You can also find him on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook