Dark chocolate—that is, chocolate with at least 65% cacao content—has been shown in medical research studies to be good for our blood vessels, brain, and heart, and this latest study published by the International Society of Sports Medicine suggests daily intake of dark chocolate may help our aerobic workouts as well.
Researchers from Kingston University (England) wanted to see if eating dark chocolate would help the performance of recreational bicyclists. They took nine volunteer cyclists and tested how their body responded during 30 minutes of moderate cycling. Then they measured their performance during 2 final minutes of cycling maximally fast.
All the volunteers were repeatedly tested after various conditions: after eating 40 grams of dark chocolate per day for two weeks, and then after eating 40 grams of white chocolate daily for two weeks instead. White chocolate does not contain significant levels of the antioxidants that are present in dark chocolate, so the study was to see if the dark chocolate would give a performance boost compared with the white.
The results showed a mild, but significant, improvement in the neighborhood of 10 to 15% after two weeks of dark chocolate. For example, after 2 weeks of dark chocolate, they were able to ride 13% further during the 2 minute burst of maximal cycling, and their bodies showed better exercise efficiency by requiring less oxygen intake during moderate speed cycling.
The results did not surprise the scientists, since it is known that dark chocolate contains high levels of the (bitter tasting) antioxidant “epicatechin”. White chocolate, which is much more processed than dark chocolate, loses it’s content of epicatechin, and other antioxidants, during manufacturing. Milk chocolate, in comparison, still has some epicatechin content left at the end of manufacture, but not nearly as much as dark chocolate.
Epicatechin is known to dilate blood vessels, since this substance causes a release of nitric acid right in the lining of our arteries and veins. Nitric acid in our vessels acts to improve our heart functioning, lower our blood pressure, and encourages our muscle cells to absorb more blood glucose, so they work better. (Sexual performance enhancing medications such as Viagra and Cialis work through this same nitric acid mechanism.)
Only dark chocolate is healthy
While the performance improvements in the bicycle testing were not huge, they demonstrate that adding a couple squares of dark chocolate to your daily diet might give a mild boost to your athletic workouts. Remember that milk and white chocolate will not give you this effect, but will only add empty sugar calories.
If you want to get the health benefit of chocolate, you will need to adapt to the bitter taste, because unfortunately, the healthy antioxidant component of chocolate is not sweet. But once you get used to that new taste, you may learn to appreciate and enjoy it, as well as notice a little boost when you exercise.
See also in ProcuraMed:
Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)