Epicatechin is one of the most exciting, powerful, and anabolic antioxidants known to the bodybuilding and fitness community. This guide aims to provide you with a thorough understanding of epicatechin, the science behind it, and the best epicatechin supplements you should be looking into.
Hands down. No competition.
Epicatechin, also known as “EPICAT“, was originally developed in an effort to:
Evaluate the treatment of progressive muscle loss and impaired skeletal muscle function in Becker Muscular Dystrophy (BMD) patients.
In this article, we take a science-based approach that aims to highlight:
- What is Epicatechin
- Epicatechin Benefits
- Epicatechin Dosage
- Best Epicatechin Supplements – What To Look For
- Best Epicatechin Supplement Guide – Top 3
This article serves as the most well-rounded definitive guide to epicatechin, and the best epicatechin supplements.
What is Epicatechin?
Epicatechin is one several bioactive compounds known as a flavonol, which has been shown to have a unique ability to improve overall health and performance.
Despite having multiple flavanols found in coca extract, only epicatechin has been shown to be “in a league of its own” above the rest due to its health and performance boosting properties.
Known to the scientific community as (-)- epicatechin, or “minus epicatechin“, its most predominant natural source comes from cocoa extract in the range of 1.5-2.5 mg per gram.
For you chocolate lovers out there:
You’ll find higher, and more pure, concentrations of flavanols (like epicatechin) in the darker (and less processed) chocolate.
Aside from cocoa extract, which is the most common and easily obtained source, epicatechin can also be ingested through common healthy foods like:
- Apples (6.1 mg/100 g)
- Blackberries (4.7 mg/100 g)
- Black grapes (8.7 mg/100 g)
- Brewed green tea (2.1 mg/100 g)
- Brewed black tea (8.3 mg/100 g)
- Cherries (7.0 mg/100 g)
- Fava beans (7.8 mg/100 g)
- Pears (3.8 mg/100 g)
- Raspberries (4.1 mg/100 g)
- Red table wine (3.3 mg/100 g)
Just to provide some context, chocolate sources contain the following amounts of epicatechin:
- Cocoa (26.2 mg/100 g)
- Dark chocolate (41.5 mg/100 g)
- Milk chocolate (6.3 mg/100 g)
*All amounts are based on 100 grams of the specified food.
When supplementing in proper dosages (see below), epicatechin has been shown to:
- Increase muscle growth and strength
- Improve muscle endurance
- Inhibit myostatin
- Increase blood flow and nitric oxide
- Improve insulin sensitivity
- Lower cholesterol; and
- Improve blood pressure
Epicatechin for Muscle Growth and Strength
As described above, acts as a regulator for muscle growth.
Essentially, this prevents your muscles from growing too large, too quickly.
Known as a substance that works as a myostatin inhibitor, follistatin helps to prevent myostatin levels from rising too high.
This, in essence, allows for a more controlled rate of muscle growth.
Below, is an excerpt on research highly relevant to the relationship between myostatin and follistatin, entitled, “Inhibition of Myostatin with Emphasis on Follistatin as Therapy for Muscle Disease”:
Strategies to increase muscle size and strength through inhibition of the myostatin pathway show promise for clinical application. Inhibition of the myostatin pathway represents an alternative strategy to improve functional outcomes. Preclinical data that support this approach clearly demonstrate the potential for blocking the myostatin pathway. Follistatin has emerged as a powerful antagonist of myostatin that can increase muscle mass and strength.
This data shows that all of the hoopla surrounding the concept of myostatin inhibiting supplements to be grounded with scientific research, which we love to see.
Epicatechin Study #1
One of the more exciting pilot studies conducted on the relationship between myostatin and follistatin shows significant promise for the application of epicatechin supplementation:
The study, “Effects of (-) epicatechin on Molecular Modulators of Skeletal Muscle Growth and Differentiation” was performed in human subjects (n=6, average age 41± 5 years, and weight 77.4 ± 7.7 kg).
The goal was to assess the effects of epicatechin treatment on muscle strength and plasma levels of myostatin and follistatin. The 6 human subjects were treated for 7 days with a dosage of 1mg/kg/day.
The results were nothing short of exciting:
Within 7 days, follistatin levels increased by 49.2%, while myostatin levels decreased by 16.6%. Additionally, the subjects experienced a 7% increase in grip strength.
Unfortunately, there were no control (placebo) groups during the study, so the scientific community takes this research with a grain of salt.
It’s a shame this original study wasn’t executed with all the necessary variables, but we’re pleased to see a 2nd study as well.
Epicatechin Study #2
According to research from the “Pharmacokinetic, Partial Pharmacodynamic and Initial Safety Analysis of (-)- epicatechin in Health Volunteers” study:
Epicatechin was safe to use, with no observed adverse effects, and our findings suggest that increases in NO [nitric oxide] metabolites, mitochondrial enzyme function and plasma follistatin levels may underlie some of the beneficial effects of cocoa products or (-)- epicatechin as reported in other studies.
This study targeted an initial safety analysis in 17 healthy humans. The dosages ranged from 50 to 200mg per day (either taken in 1 large dose, or in 2 equal dosages).
Clearly, the fact that there were zero documented epicatechin side effects is great, but what’s also worth noting is that:
The average follistatin levels on day 5 of the study were 2.5 times higher than on day 1 of the study.
This is great news for the epicatechin supplement debate, as it serves as further research and data that supports the application for epicatechin as a premier muscle-building supplement.
For those of you who wish to maintain an all-natural approach to bodybuilding, epicatechin is one of the most exciting physique-enhancing agents we’ve seen in quite some time.
Epicatechin for Muscle Endurance
Aside from the ability to increase muscle strength and size, epicatechin has also been shown to improve muscular endurance.
Epicatechin Study #3
The Journal of Physiology found that:
Epicatechin enhances fatigue resistance and oxidative capacity in mouse muscle.
Specifically, it found that:
The combination of epicatechin and exercise resulted in further increases in oxidative phosphorylation-complex proteins, mitofilin, porin and capillarity than epicatechin alone.
These findings indicate that epicatechin alone or in combination with exercise induces an integrated response that includes structural and metabolic changes in skeletal and cardiac muscles resulting in greater endurance capacity.
It concludes by saying…
These results, therefore, warrant the further evaluation of the underlying mechanism of action of epicatechin and its potential clinical application as an exercise mimetic.
Epicatechin Study #4
A 4th study, and the 2nd related to epicatechin’s ability improve muscular endurance, states:
Our data suggest that epicatechin may be a suitable compound to maintain exercise-induced improved capillarity and mitochondrial capacity, even when exercise regimens are discontinued.
These studies suggest that epicatechin is highly effective at not only improving muscular endurance, but maintaining those levels of endurance even after epicatechin supplementation discontinues.
Epicatechin has been proven to help you pump out more reps, workout longer, and maintain your gains even when you’re on a break from training.
At this point, we’re optimistically cautious, as some of these studies were performed on mice, instead of humans.
However, the results, and real user reviews are a testament to epicatechin’s effectiveness.
Epicatechin for Blood Glucose Regulation
Insulin, as you may know, is one of the single most crucial muscle-building and fat-burning hormones in your body.
In the body, insulin is responsible for transporting glucose from our bloodstream to our muscle cells.
Once insulin hits the muscle cells, it helps to promote protein synthesis, which is the process that allows our muscles to growth.
On the other hand, too much insulin can be detrimental to your body, as well as your physique.
When insulin levels are too high (often attributed to excess carbohydrate intake), muscle cells become desensitized, or tolerant, and no longer transport glucose from the bloodstream into the muscle cells.
Excess insulin can result in high blood sugar, which then contributes to the accumulation of harmful and unwanted fat. This can then promote the development of type II diabetes, and a number of other cardiovascular health conditions.
Epicatechin Study #5
According to a study conducted by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, they found that:
Ingesting 100 grams of dark chocolate “resulted in a decrease in blood pressure and improved insulin sensitivity in healthy persons.”
This research shows us that epicatechin provides our muscle cells with a more efficient means of processing glucose.
This allows you to recover at a faster rate, build muscle quicker and more efficiently, and limit unwanted body fat following intense workouts.
It’s important to note that epicatechin, as an active ingredient, hasn’t been proven for some of these benefits, specifically, but parallel research shows us that the results are real.
Epicatechin for Brain and Heart Health
Beyond the anabolic muscle-building benefits, epicatechin supplementation has also been associated with a number of brain and heart health benefits.
Namely, for it’s ability to increase blood flow and stimulate nitric oxide production.
Epicatechin Study #6
According to another epicatechin study, results found that participants who ingested 100 grams of dark chocolate (with 88 mg flavanols) for a two week period experienced:
Dark chocolate decreased blood pressure and serum LCL cholesterol, improved flow-mediated dilation, and ameliorated insulin sensitivity in hypertensives. These results suggest that, while balancing total calorie intake, flavanols from cocoa products may provide some cardiovascular benefit if included as part of a health diet…”
Epicatechin Study #7
According to a group of scientists at The University of California, Davis, who conducted a multifaceted study involving the Kuna indians of Panama, who are notorious for their cardiovascular health:
- Individuals who drank flavanol-rich cocoa had higher levels of nitric oxide in the blood than those who drank low-flavanol cocoa beverage.
- Higher levels of epicatechin were accompanied by improved blood flow
The study concludes by saying:
Considered together, these findings point to epicatechin as one of the compounds found in cocoa that has beneficial impacts on cardiovascular health.
Epicatechin Study #8
A study by the Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology found that:
A pilot study evaluated the relationship between cerebral blood flow and a single acute dose (450 mg flavanols) of flavanol-rich cocoa and shows that flavanol-rich cocoa can increase the cerebral blood flow to gray matter, suggesting the potential of cocoa flavanols for treatment of vascular impairment, including dementia and strokes, and thus for maintaining cardiovascular health.
Despite only being a “pilot” study, there are definite benefits for brain health, as it related to epicatechin supplementation.
With a number of studies done on the efficacy of cocoa and flavanol-derived foods, the majority of which consist of epicatechin, the results are pretty astounding.
Epicatechin Supplement Dosage
For general health purposes, based on the studies above, the recommended epicatechin dosage is:
- 30-40 grams of dark chocolate
It’s important to note that dark chocolate that has not been processed with alkali and is at least 85% cocoa is the best for general epicatechin dark chocolate consumption.
For muscle-building and physique-enhancing purposes, based on the studies above, the recommended epicatechin dosage is:
- ~200 mg of epicatechin, daily
At this dosage, epicatechin can be taken all at once, or divided into 2 servings.
With this high of a dosage of epicatechin, for the sake of muscle-building benefits, you would need to consume a lot of dark chocolate.
Lucky for you, we’ve done the research, and compiled a list of the best epicatechin supplements that we’ve found on the market.
Best Epicatechin Supplements – What To Look For
Epicatechin, being new to the bodybuilding industry, often creates a sense of apprehension for first time buyers.
This section of our definitive guide will help to guide you through your research and buying process, in order to help you to identify the best epicatechin supplements.
For years, the muscle-building supplement category (testosterone, prohormones, SARMs), and most others, have been notorious for their proprietary blends.
Here at Supplement Demand, we are major proponents of 100% formula transparency.
You, as the consumer, deserve to know how much of each ingredient you’re putting into your body.
Formula transparency is our highest concern.
It’s public knowledge that a large number of common active ingredients have various purity levels.
It’s important to know the purity levels of the epicatechin you’re getting with your products, as it plays a vital role in its effectiveness, and ability to help you reach the results it’s intended to provide.
If the epicatechin purity isn’t listed by the company, it’s worth it to send them an email to inquire about it!
With varying purity levels, it’s almost important to note the exact dosage of epicatechin that you’re taking, per serving.
This could result in a difference of 200mg of 50% epicatechin, versus 150mg of 98% epicatechin.
Unfortunately, a majority of the brands participating in the epicatechin industry do not offer formula transparency, making it incredibly hard to know the remaining 2 variables that we look for.
There is one, however, who follows all 3 of our epicatechin “best practices”.
Best Epicatechin Supplements
Here are the best Epicatechin (EPICAT) supplements based on our staffs personal experience, ranked #1 to #3.
#1: Epicatechin by Anabolic Iron
Their bring a fresh and unique approach transparent approach to muscle-building supplements that we haven’t seen before.
Not only with their epicatechin supplement, but also with their laxogenin and testosterone supplements.
They provide 125mg of 95% grade epicatechin, as well as 400mg of Green Tea Extract in every serving.
This alone, should steer your interest towards Anabolic Iron.
After finding a number of reviews on Anabolic Iron, we ventured to place an order of our own, to test their shipping, customer service, and the effectiveness of their epicatechin.
The results were impressive.
After the first few workouts, Anabolic Iron’s epicatechin provided, what felt like, prohormone-like endurance, pump, and vascularity.
Needless to say, we’re seriously impressed with this stuff. It’s about time somebody launched a premium epicatechin product.
We’re looking forward to trying out their laxogenin, testosterone, and seeing what else these guys launch in 2016!
- 100% Formula Transparency
- 125mg Epicatechin
- 400mg Green Tea Extract
- Two other great products: Laxogenin & Testosterone
#2: EP1C Unleashed by Olympus Labs
Olympus Labs, one of the leaders in the muscle-building supplement space, offers one of the best epicatechin supplements that we’ve seen so far.
- Increase strength & power output
- Increase endurance & stamina
- Increase muscle growth; and
- Provide fat oxidation
EP1C Unleashed, had it not been for their proprietary blend, would have been a higher consideration on our list.
Olympus Labs also offers a large number of supplements designed to build a perfect stack to meet your physique-enhancing goals.
Overall, we like Olympus Labs’ product offering, but with the use of proprietary blends, there’s just no telling how much epicatechin you’re getting for the premium price.
#3: EPICAT by Blackstone Labs
With industry veterans PJ Braun and Aaron Singerman at the helm, Blackstone Labs has long been a leader in the prohormone supplement industry.
Backed by all the same research, EPICAT comes in a proprietary blend that offers 1,000 mg divided between their “EpiCat Blend”, which includes Green Tea (leaf) Extract, Epicatechins, and Ribe Fiber.
From their website, it’s unclear as to what purity epicatechin they’re using.
With a number of other powerful supplements, their EPICAT offers a large number of stack opportunities, whether you’re looking to bulk, cut, or recomp.
Best Epicatechin Supplements Round Up
With all things considered… research, customer reviews, and hard facts – we highly recommend Anabolic Iron as the best epicatechin supplement – no competition.
And, if you’ve managed to read through our entire definitive guide on epicatechin, we applaud you.
Do yourself a favor and give epicatechin a shot, you’ll be glad you did!