Endurance athletes who are unable to train for a few weeks can help maintain the condition they’ve built up by taking supplements containing (-)-epicatechin, a flavonoid that occurs naturally in cacao. Molecular scientists at Wayne State University discovered this when they did trials on mice.
Endurance athletes who are unable to train for a few weeks can help maintain the condition they’ve built up by taking supplements containing (-)-epicatechin [structural formula shown here], a flavonoid that occurs naturally in cacao. Molecular scientists at Wayne State University discovered this when they did trials on mice.
The compound that the researchers gave to their mice is turning out to be a genuine endurance drug, if the animal and human studies are anything to go by. According to recent studies publications, (-)-epicatechin imitates the effects of endurance training and it makes endurance training more effective.
In 2012 the researchers at Wayne State University published the results of an animal study in which they first got a group of mice to train daily on a treadmill for five weeks, and let a control group [Control] do nothing.
At the end of the five weeks all animals did nothing for 14 days. Half of the mice that had trained were given 1 mg (-)-epicatechin per kg bodyweight [DT-(-)-Epi] in the morning and in the evening every day. The other half were given water only [DT-14-W].
At the end of the 14-day detraining period, the mice that had been given (-)-epicatechin had retained much of the condition they had built up previously. When the researchers got the animals to run to the point of exhaustion, the mice that had been given (-)-epicatechin were faster, were able to keep running for longer and therefore also covered a greater distance.
When the researchers examined the mice’s muscles, they saw that the (-)-epicatechin supplementation had prevented the changes that had occurred in the muscle fibres as a result of training, such as an increase in the density of the capillary network, from disappearing during the fortnight of inactivity. The researchers discovered that the cacao phenol kept the growth factor VEGF active.
Training boosted the activity of the oxidative phosphorylation complexes in the mitochondria of the muscle cells. This effect was also better retained when the mice were given (-)-epicatechin. The effect was particularly noticeable for cytochrome-c oxidase or oxidative phosphorylation complex IV.
(-)-Epicatechin maintains endurance training adaptation in mice after 14 days of detraining.
The purpose of this study was to determine whether (-)-epicatechin (mainly found in cocoa) could attenuate detraining effects in the hindlimb muscles of mice. Thirty-two male mice were randomized into 4 groups: control, trained, trained with 14 d of detraining and vehicle (DT-14-W), and trained with 14 d of detraining and (-)-epicatechin [DT-14-(-)-Epi]. DT-14-(-)-Epi received (-)-epicatechin (1.0 mg/kg 2 ×/d), whereas water was given to the DT-14-W group. The latter 3 groups performed 5 wk of endurance training 5 ×/wk. Hindlimb muscles were harvested, and Western blots, as well as enzyme analyses, were performed. Training significantly increased capillary-to-fiber ratio (? 78.8%), cytochrome-c oxidase (? 35%), and activity (? 144%) compared to controls. These adaptations returned to control levels for the DT-14-W group, whereas the DT-14-(-)-Epi group was able to maintain capillary-to-fiber ratio (? 44%), CcO protein expression (? 45%), and activity (? 108%) above control levels. In addition, the increase in capillarity was related to decreased protein expression of thrombospondin-1, an antiangiogenic regulator. Furthermore, there were no significant differences in endurance capacity between the trained and DT-14-(-)-Epi groups. 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.
PMID: 22179525 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE] PMCID: PMC3316901