Cyanidin 3-Glucoside (C3G), a natural anthocyanin, has some profound effects on human chemistry and, as a result, body composition. Here's what's commonly known about C3G:
- C3G increases insulin sensitivity.
- C3G causes fat cells to shrink.
- C3G partitions nutrients, driving glucose and nutrients preferentially into muscle, allowing them to grow.
C3G users can actually eat more carbs and, provided they're working out, have the energy provided by those carbs ferried off to fuel and build muscle.
However, there's another, previously unrealized effect of C3G that's of special interest to strength and endurance athletes.
Fat Cells Are Just Another Endocrine Gland
C3G has been shown to activate a chemical called adiponectin, which acts directly on adipocytes, otherwise known as fat cells. These adipocytes actually function as another endocrine organ (like the thyroid, adrenals, or testes) and they play a big part in regulating energy insulin sensitivity (the more insulin sensitive you are, the leaner you are), lipid metabolism, and inflammation.
As such, when C3G causes an increase in secreted levels of adiponectin, fat cells shrink, insulin sensitivity increases, and inflammation decreases.
But adiponectin also has another powerful effect. It increases oxidative capacity in human skeletal muscle, and this is huge. adiponectin directly affects cellular mitochondria, which are the organelles (tiny organs) in the cell responsible for all energy production in the cell. Without mitochondria, you couldn't even move your eyeballs across this screen.
Given their function, it stands to reason that the efficiency of mitochondria and their sheer number have important implications as to how well your body, and more specifically, your muscles, function.
Endurance: Beyond Your Heart And Lungs
Most people think your lungs and cardiovascular system determine your endurance. It's true, they do play a big part, but the oxidative capacity of the mitochondria vastly exceeds that of the cardiovascular system to deliver oxygen.
During exercise, the energy demands on skeletal muscle increase by up to 400 times, while muscle oxygen consumption increases by more than 100 times.
How well those demands are met is largely up to the mitochondria. The most widely accepted theory is that the cardiovascular system provides enough oxygen for short, intense exercise, but it's the mitochondria that keep you chugging along by increasing endurance capacity and resistance to fatigue.
Here, point-by-point, is how C3G facilitates all this:
- C3G increases the secretion of adiopokinectin.
- adiponectin causes more mitochondria to form (mitochondrial biogenesis), which in itself increases the oxidative capacity (endurance) of skeletal muscles.
- adiponectin also induces palmitate oxidation and citrate synthase activity, both of which are intermediates in the production of ATP, which is the energy currency of the cell.
In short, C3G causes the energy production of muscle cells to increase, thereby leading to increases in endurance and energy production whether you're lifting weights or running an endurance race.
If the Russian Olympic team really wanted to increase their odds of winning, they should have considered C3G (sold as Indigo-3G®) which, in addition to helping performance, is perfectly legal.
- Matsukawa, et al, The Type II Diabetes-preventive Effect of Cyanidin-3-glucoside on Adipocytes, Journal of Development in Sustainable Agriculture, 11: 31-35, 2016