What is Theobromine?
Theobromine (also known as theobromide and xantheose) is a naturally occurring alkaloid that is a close chemical relative of caffeine. In the world of bodybuilding, it could help to improve workout intensity as well as being a natural diuretic. It also has many medicinal properties that can be used for a variety of purposes. These include being a heart stimulant, diuretic, aphrodisiac, and treatment for asthma.
Where Does Theobromine Come From?
Theobromine can be found in cocoa, and hence a range of chocolate type products. The darker the chocolate, the higher the concentration of theobromine. Other plants such as tea and guarana also contain lower levels of theobromine.
The effects of theobromine are well documented, but under-researched. Regardless, theobromine is not only used in sports nutrition, but also in frontline medicine.
Theobromine Benefits for Bodybuilding
In some respects, theobromine has similar effects to that of caffeine. However, it does not stimulate the nervous system to the same degree. Instead, it is effective in being able to dilate blood vessels (Dock et al, 1926). Consequently, it has been used by doctors to treat diseases such as hypertension (high blood pressure) (van den Bogaard et al, 2010). Some studies have found that cocoa has an effect on increasing nitric oxide (NO) synthesis within the body. Some authors tend to attribute this to the flavanol components of the cocoa. However, others experts have stressed that this may actually be an effect of theobromine (Kelly, 2005).This means that theobromine may be effective in the increase of NO and hence give better pump if ingested pre workout.
Theobromine Benefits for Cutting
There are herbal and natural diuretics out there such as dandelion that are effective natural alternatives to pharmaceutical diuretics. These can be used for a short periods in order to reduce residual water under the skin to give more muscle definition. Because theobromine has a diuretic effect (Mumford et al, 1994), it could also be used for this purpose.
Theobromine Benefits for Mood
As any chocolate lover will tell you, chocolate makes them feel great. This isn't just because it's a tasty treat, but it is actually due to the presence of theobromine and caffeine. These compounds are both responsible for producing feelings of wellness within people (Smit et al, 2004).
Theobromine Safety and Side Effects
Theobromine occurs in fairly high concentrations in chocolate. A 50 g piece of dark chocolate could contain on average 378 mg theobromine. This is obviously a safe amount of chocolate that could be eaten without any dangerous side effects. Doses of over 1000 mg have been used safely in clinical trials without harm (Smit et al, 2004). Symptoms to look out for some people may be mild stomach upsets.
Theobromine is a smooth muscle relaxant, and an excess could be harmful. However the safety of theobromine is quite difficult to establish in humans, because this compound is far less potent in humans than it is in animals. Often toxicological studies rely on animal testing, but in this case, results of animal testing are completely inapplicable. However, with this information at hand, it is extremely important to keep theobromine and products that contain theobromine away from your pets. This is especially true for dog owners, as these furry friends seem to love chocolate, yet relatively small amounts of dark chocolate could be fatal. Be extra careful around Easter!
Theobromine Recommended Doses and Ingredient Timing
It has been reported that the effects of theobromine are discernible at concentrations anywhere between 100 to 560 mg (Mumford et al, 1994). Theobromine could be taken half to an hour pre workout, or as directed by your healthcare professional or the manufacturer.
Thanks to the potential of theobromine to increase workout intensity, it can be found in some pre workout supplements. Because theobromine also has diuretic properties, it can also be found in some fat burners. Finally, theobromine can also be found in lower concentrations when cocoa is used as a flavouring agent in protein based products such as blended proteins, weight gainers, and more.
If you are considering using theobromine to improve your work out intensity, it stacks well with other stimulants such as caffeine. These are actually combinations that are quite popular. As a weight loss aid, theobromine can be stacked with a range of fat burning ingredients such as green tea extract, raspberry ketones, and capsaicin.
Dock et al (1926), The use of theobromine for pain of arteriosclerotic origin. California and Western Medicine, 26: 636-637
Kelly (2005), Effects of theobromine should be considered in future studies. Am J Clin Nutr, 82: 486-487
Mumford et al (1994), Discriminative stimulus and subjective effects of theobromine and caffeine in humans. Psychopharmacology, 115: 1-8.
Smit et al (2004), Methylxanthines are the psycho-pharmacologically active constituents of chocolate. Psychopharmacology, 176:412–9.
van den Bogaard et al (2010), Effects on Peripheral and Central Blood Pressure of Cocoa With Natural or High-Dose Theobromine. Hypertension, 56: 839-846