Today’s fitness tip: eat some chocolate!! Think we’re joking? Nope! Chocolate can be a relatively healthy snack that has some surprising benefits not only to your diet, but also to your workout! Chocolate has a special ingredient that helps allow for more muscle growth, helps increase endurance, and helps decrease the amount of oxygen needed during a quick, intense workout.
What type of chocolate?
When it comes to health benefits, you get the most bang for your buck with dark chocolate. That has more cocoa, meaning more of the good stuff, and a lower quantity of additives like sugar and milk solids. For a truly healthy snack, look out for dark chocolate that has at least 70% cacao content and minimal sugar and other additives.
Quick note on the difference between cocoa and cacao: cacao is the name of the plant from which cocoa is derived. Cocoa is produced by heating the cacao beans and forming cocoa powder to be used in chocolate. It is possible to get cacao itself, the purer form which hasn’t been heated. Both are very nutrient dense, but cocoa is the tasty one you’ll find in chocolate. In the study we’ll mention below, white chocolate was used in one group while dark chocolate was used for the other group, and white chocolate (which contains little to no cacao) produced no benefits.
What are the benefits of chocolate for exercise?
Chocolate’s star ingredient (for exercise purposes) is epicatechin, contained in the cocoa that’s within the chocolate. Epicatechin is a phytochemical found in several plants such as in green tea, apples, and berries. It is a type of flavonoid and is an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory effects. Dark chocolate contains the most epicatechin, and the higher the cacao content of the chocolate you’re eating, the more epicatechin it contains.
One notable benefit of epicatechin is that it helps to inhibit the action of a certain type of protein that limits muscle growth.
Dark chocolate before your workout can help boost performance and decrease oxygen demand. These findings were published in a study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, and the benefits were demonstrated in cyclists and in runners while sprinting.
And last but not least, chocolate increases endorphin levels. Nothing like a nice feel-good boost before your workout!
So, munch on a few squares of dark chocolate or add some cocoa powder to your smoothie before the next time you work out. And read more tips and tricks to maximize your workouts here!