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 heart 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.
Theobromine is an alkaloid (an organic compound that contains nitrogen atoms)
Theobromine 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:
The first should be seen as highly beneficial to runners, cyclists, and other endurance athletes.
For the purposes of this article the main benefit of theobromine, especially for endurance athletes is it acts as abronchodilator.
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.Other benefits of theobromine include:
Now to the information you have all been waiting for. How can theobromine enhance endurance performance?
As stated earlier theobromine acts as a bronchodilator when consumed.
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).
The result? You exercise longer and stronger.
In humans, research suggests that the efficacious dose of theobromine to enhance endurance performance is 100 - 400 mg taken 30-45 minutes before exercise
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.
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.
Allgrove et al. (2011) found that cyclists who consumed theobromine 2 hours prior to an exhaustive 1.5-hour cycling test hadF2-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.
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.
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.
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:
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!