Let’s face it. Running and other cardiovascular exercise is hard. Especially as you start a new routine or are coming back after an extended break. Your hearts races, your legs burn, and fatigue sets in quickly. However, I would guess the biggest complaint amongst those doing cardio or other endurance based activities is sometimes it is just plain hard to breath. You all know the feeling. The searing pain that arises when your lungs yearn for more oxygen.
While conditioning over time will alleviate some of the pains mentioned above, there is one supplement that may benefit beginners and veteran endurance athletes alike when it comes to breathing easier while also providing a multitude of other benefits. This supplement is theobromine. In this article, we will discuss what theobromine is, the benefits of theobromine, how to use theobromine, the research on theobromine, and if theobromine is safe.
Fast Facts On Theobromine
- Theobromine is a compound found in cacao plants.
- Theobromine is a potent a bronchodilator (opens up airways in the body).
- Theobromine supplementation may provide cardiovascular and cognitive benefits via improved blood flow.
- Theobromine should be dosed at 100-400mg and taken 30 minutes prior to endurance exercise.
- As a whole theobromine is safe in humans but is poisonous to animals, which metabolize theobromine more slowly.
What Is Theobromine?
Theobromine is an alkaloid (an organic compound that contains nitrogen atoms) that is commonly found in cocoa, chocolate (especially dark chocolate), tea plants, yerba mate, and kola nuts. It is from these sources that theobromine is extracted from when found is supplemental form.
When ingested theobromine acts as a mild stimulant and is somewhat similar to caffeine; which can also be found in cacao. The primary functions of theobromine in the body are enhanced respiration and improved circulation. The first should be seen as highly beneficial to runners, cyclists, and other endurance athletes.
Theobromine Benefits/What Does Theobromine Do
For the purposes of this article the main benefit of theobromine, especially for endurance athletes is it acts as a bronchodilator. This means when ingested, theobromine helps “open up” airways to help you breathe easier and get more oxygen to working muscles. This also means theobromine can produce small, but significant, increases in VO2 Max.
Beyond the respiratory benefits of the theobromine, it can also:
- Block adenosine receptors. This leads to less fatigue and pain felt during exercise.
- Increases the activity of cAMP. This compound reduces inflammation, widens blood vessels, and increases stimulation.
- Lower blood pressure due to the widening of blood vessels.
- Improve cognitive function.
- Increase blood flow. This allows more oxygen to be delivered to working muscles.
- Improve cholesterol by lowering LDL.
- Help you sleep.
Theobromine For Endurance Performance
Now to the information you have all been waiting for. How can theobromine enhance endurance performance? As stated earlier theobromine acts a bronchodilator when consumed. In fact, theobromine has been used in asthmatic populations to help those individuals breath easier.
As a bronchodilator, theobromine helps “open up” airways (i.e. lungs and other vessels). This allows endurance athletes to take in more air with each breath which leads to greater oxygen delivery to working muscles. This also means theobromine can improve VO2 max and improve exercise economy; making hard exercise seem easier.
Theobromine also improves endurance performance by acting as a vasodilator (widens blood vessels). Blood carries oxygen in red blood cells via hemoglobin and delivers it to exercising muscle. More blood due to the vasodilatory effects of theobromine leads to more oxygen that can be utilized. The result? You exercise longer and stronger.
What Is The Proper Dose And Timing Of Theobromine?
In humans, research suggests that the efficacious dose of theobromine to enhance endurance performance is 100 - 400 mg taken 30-45 minutes before exercise
Research On Theobromine
Theobromine Improves 3km Time Trial Performance In Runners
A 2016 study conducted by Hu et al. discovered subjects who consumed theobromine before a 3k time trial were able to improve their performance by ~60 seconds compared to the placebo group. Researchers speculated that an increase in VO2 max was responsible.
Theobromine Enhances VO2 Max In Well Trained Runners
Another 2016 study conducted by Mintesnot et. al discovered that well-trained runners (male and female) who consumed theobromine 30 minutes before a treadmill test, improved VO2 max by 2-3%. While the result was small is was found to be significant (P 0.05). The researchers also discovered that theobromine improved reaction time.
Theobromine Reduces Oxidative Stress And Increases Free Fatty Acid Mobilization In Trained Cyclists
Allgrove et al. (2011) found that cyclists who consumed theobromine 2 hours prior to an exhaustive 1.5-hour cycling test had F2-isoprostanes levels that were significantly lower at exhaustion and after 1 hour of recovery with theobromine. Oxidized LDLs were significantly lower with theobromine both before and after exercise and at exhaustion. Theobromine was also associated with ~21% greater rises in free fatty acids during exercise.
Is Theobromine Safe/Theobromine Poisoning
As a whole theobromine poisoning is non-existent in humans with no research demonstrating any deaths. At doses of 0.8 - 1.5 grams per day, equivalent to 50 - 100 grams of cocoa, side effects may include headaches, sweating, and trembling. Limited effects on mode have been observed in individuals who consumed 250 mg per day.
Why Theobromine Is Bad For Dogs
While theobromine appears to be safe in human populations, it can be fatal for animals like dogs and cats. This is due to theobromine being more slowly metabolized in these domestic pets. Research has demonstrated that as little as 50 grams of milk chocolate is enough to kill a small dog with 400 grams being fatal to larger dogs. The main cause of death is heart failure due to chocolate/theobromine consumption.
How Much Theobromine In Dark Chocolate And Other Natural Sources
According to the nutrient database provided by the United States Department of Agriculture, the amount of theobromine per 100 grams of chocolate/cacao products is:
- 2634mg in cocoa powder that is unsweetened.
- 1297mg found in unsweetened baking chocolate.
- 802mg found in dark chocolate that is 70% cocoa.
- 40mg found in chocolate containing candy bars.
The Bottom Line On Theobromine?
Without a doubt, theobromine has several ergogenic effects that can benefit endurance performance and overall health. Of utmost importance to the cardiovascular crowd, theobromine can make breathing easier, improve VO2 max, and enhance blood flow to working muscles. This is why we have included theobromine in our PerformElite X pre-workout!
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