As a consistent and extremely fit gym member, the thought of indulging in chocolate may be insulting to your efforts. However, you should stop and consider the research on dark chocolate and cocoa powder. You would be pleasantly surprised by the nutritional value and fitness-boosting potential these items hold. Many athletes turn to beetroot juice and its high nitrate content to enhance their performance, but chocolate has the same ability to improve the body’s levels of nitric oxide. It is the efforts of nitric oxide that cause the blood vessels in the body to dilate and limit the consumption of oxygen, which in turn produces more stamina and endurance in athletes.
Not Just for Athletes
In addition to potentially revolutionizing your workout routine and performance, there is also strong research linking the consumption of cocoa and chocolate to a reduced risk of heart disease and heart attack. Within cocoa are flavanols, powerful antioxidants that work to reduce cellular damage often blamed for heart disease. These nutrients have also been found effective at improving vascular health and lowering blood pressure. Rather than filling your diet with candy bars, the Mayo Clinic advises that you choose your chocolate carefully. Processed chocolate has had most of the beneficial properties removed, and the added sugars and fats can lead to an increase in belly fat and weight gain. In addition to moderately consuming dark chocolate that is minimally processed and natural, it is best to opt for a cocoa flavanol supplement if you are really wanting to maximize the potential benefits of flavanols.
Testing Chocolate’s Success
The present of epicatechin found in the flavanols of dark chocolate and the cocoa bean is credited with increasing the production of nitric oxide within the body. One study, conducted in the United Kingdom, sought to compare the benefits of dark chocolate over beetroot. Nine cyclists participated in the study and underwent a baseline comparison of fitness ability. The study divided the athletes into two groups, both of which had the participants change one of their daily snacks for a one and a half ounces of chocolate. For two weeks, these groups made the change. One group snacked on dark chocolate rich in flavanols, while the other consumed white chocolate. At the end of the two weeks, all participants were put through the same fitness and exercise tests, having their oxygen consumption levels and heart rates monitored. The groups took a break for a week, then switched chocolate types and repeated the prior requirements for two more weeks. Both series of testings revealed that the riders who consumed dark chocolate used less oxygen when cycling at a moderate pace and were able to cycle further in a 2 minute timed trial at an all-out pace. The researchers attribute this performance improvement to the increased levels of flavanols and nitric oxide in the bloodstream.
Potential Areas of Inclusion
With the results of current research holding a lot of promise for improved performance, additional studies are looking into how dark chocolate could benefit long-distance performance. Stamina and energy reserves are a part of an individual’s aerobic capacity, and with the right training and strong cardiovascular health, athletes can increase their capacity to endure greater physical challenges. Beetroot juice is often used to help with endurance, but as the taste is unpleasant to many, switching to dark chocolate could be a more tasty approach performance enhancement. However, commercially marketed chocolate bars don’t contain the flavanols needed to make this an effective swap.
If you are needing to throw a workout snack in your gym bag, the right kind of candy bar could make a difference in your workout. Dark chocolate and cocoa flavanols have the power to improve your performance and endurance, getting the most out of your exercise routine.