Boost Athletic Performance with This Sweet Treat

Sweet Chocolate for Athletic Performance

If you want another excuse to eat a small piece of chocolate, here it is.

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Researchers with London’s Kingston University have found that dark chocolate, already known for its positive effects on cardiovascular health, may also help give athletes an extra edge in their fitness training.

Rishikesh Kankesh Patel and a team of researchers recently found that dark chocolate contains a substance called epicatechin, a type of flavanol which may help increase nitric oxide production in the body. NO dilates blood vessels and reduces oxygen consumption, allowing athletes to go further for longer, states Mr. Patel.

Chocolate Boosts Athletic Performance in Cyclists

The team tested the effects of dark chocolate in a study of a group of nine amateur cyclists. Each was given a 40 gram snack of chocolate – dark chocolate to the experimental group and white chocolate to the control group. After two weeks, heart rates and oxygen consumption levels were measured during moderate exercise and in time trials.

Those consuming dark chocolate used less oxygen when cycling at a moderate pace and covered more distance in a two-minute flat-out time trial.

Mr. Patel said, "We found (in this study) that people could effectively exercise for longer after eating dark chocolate -something that's not been established before in this way."

Next, the team will study to see if the boost in performance is a short term effect or whether it takes time to see benefits. They will also investigate the optimal level of flavanols for improving athletic performance.

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6 Additional Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate

1. Dark chocolate has many nutritional benefits – a 100 gram bar with 70-85% cocoa contains 11 grams of fiber, 67% of the RDA for Iron, plus it is a good source of magnesium, copper, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium.

2. Dark chocolate is a good source of antioxidants, including polyphenols, catechins and of course flavanols.

3. By improving blood flow, dark chocolate may lower blood pressure.

4. Dark chocolate may improve cholesterol levels and therefore lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

5. Dark chocolate may also reduce insulin resistance.

6. Dark chocolate may improve brain function. In one study, cocoa was found to improve cognitive function in elderly people.

Journal Reference:
Rishikesh Kankesh Patel, James Brouner, Owen Spendiff. Dark chocolate supplementation reduces the oxygen cost of moderate intensity cycling. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 2015; 12 (1) DOI: 10.1186/s12970-015-0106-7

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chocolate_-_stonesoup.jpg

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