The benefits of dark chocolate for athletes
A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that dark chocolate may have a positive effect on athletic performance. Dark chocolate’s exercise benefits are likely the result of a substance called epicatechin – a type of flavonol found in the cacao bean that also increases nitric oxide production in the body.
The research team behind the study came up with its hypothesis after discovering that dark chocolate has characteristics similar to beet juice, which is now widely used by athletes (editor’s note: we can’t help but plug Beta Red here).
"Both dark chocolate and beetroot juice are known to increase nitric oxide, which is the major mechanism we believe is behind these results," said Rishikesh Kankesh Patel, who led the study. "We found that people could effectively exercise for longer after eating dark chocolate – something that's not been established before in this way."
The study was conducted with nine male cyclists. After undergoing initial fitness tests to establish a baseline for comparison, the participants were then split into two groups. The first group was asked to replace one of its normal daily snacks with 40 grams of a dark chocolate known to be rich in flavanols for two weeks, while the other participants substituted 40 grams of white chocolate for one of their daily snacks as a control.
The effects of the athletes' daily chocolate consumption were then measured in a series of cycling exercise tests. The cyclists' heart rates and oxygen consumption levels were measured during moderate exercise and in time trials. After a seven-day interval, the groups then switched chocolate types and the two-week trial and subsequent exercise tests were repeated.
The study found that after eating dark chocolate the riders used less oxygen when cycling at a moderate pace and also covered more distance in a two-minute flat-out time trial.
While we might be tempted to use this study to justify our next late-night chocolate binge, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, the sample size of this study was small and more research still needs to be done. Second, the amount of flavanols contained in dark chocolate varies widely between different brands of bars. Lastly, chocolate bars still contain significant amounts of sugar and fat.
But, sprinkling cocoa powder or nibs into your morning oatmeal or smoothie, or consuming one of Enduro Bites’ dark chocolate flavored bars before or during your daily workouts, might just give you that extra edge. And, if nothing else, the dark chocolate will also help your cardiovascular health, as significant amounts of research shows.
Want to learn more about dark chocolate’s exercise benefits? Check out these links ...
Dark chocolate supplementation reduces the oxygen cost of moderate intensity cycling - Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition
Chocolate Can Boost Your Workout. Really. – The New York Times
Eating dark chocolate every day could help boost athletic performance – Kingston University
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