Yes, eating chocolate can actually boost your workout.
If you’re missing the freedom that comes with eating as much chocolate as you like at Easter, you’re about to feel vindicated.
A new study has found that eating chocolate can actually boost your workout by improving your endurance.
But before you delve into those hoarded Cadbury Creme Eggs, there is a catch: the chocolate in question is dark chocolate and the required amounts are minimal. But hey – who are we to argue with an excuse to eat more chocolate?
The power lies in the high levels of epicatechin, a plant nutrient in cocoa which can cause cells to release extra nitric oxide. This has a number of effects on the body, including widening the veins and arteries, improving blood flow and cardiac function as well as enhancing the passage of oxygen into cells and take in more blood sugar.
Nitric oxide is a substance athletes have always sought through things like supplements, in order to improve performance.
Watch: Our site producer Lizzie takes on Sam Woods’ 28:28 fitness workout. (Post continues after video.)
While there have been a number of studies touting the various health benefits of dark chocolate, the researchers from UK’s Kingston University are the first to look into how the food can be used as a performance enhancer for athletes.
The study published in The Journal of the International Society of Sports Medicine in December last year looked at the effect of a small amount of dark chocolate every day on eight male recreational cyclists.
Their fitness levels and oxygen uptake were recorded on a stationary bicycle. Half the group were given 40 grams (around one and a half squares) of dark chocolate to eat every day in place of one of their normal snacks or chocolatey desserts. The other half were given the same amount of white chocolate which has little to no epicatechin. (Post continues after gallery.)
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They ate this every day for two weeks, repeated the tests, then were given the opposite chocolate and tested after the same period.
The results showed that all of the cyclists performed better in most of the physical tests after two weeks with the dark chocolate compared to the start of the study and the white chocolate period.
They used less oxygen during their rides at moderate pace, meaning they would be able to ride harder and longer, and covered more distance during the two minute sprint, signifying that their anaeobic sprinting ability had been enhanced. While the performance gains were minimal, the researchers argued they were promising.
"The findings suggest that recreational athletes who would like to improve their performance might consider swapping a daily cookie or soda for a square or two of dark chocolate," said Rishikesh Kankesh Patel, a graduate student at Kingston University who led the study.
However, the ideal dosage is yet to be determined and epicatechin levels also vary from brand to brand, so indulging in a whole block isn't going to make you Usain Bolt. But a little piece here and there to improve endurance? We'll happily give it a go.