Could a piece of chocolate before your daily workout improve your athletic endurance?
That is the question researchers wanted to answer in a new study of sports nutrition.
For some time now, the various health benefits of dark chocolate have been linked to everything from better heart health to cough remedies, but can chocolate boost our endurance too?
The study, published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition in December, looked at the ability for the natural nitric oxide, present within dark chocolate, to increase oxygen uptake during exercise.
Cyclists became the first test subjects. Given 40 grams of chocolate every day for two weeks, the groups were split into two – one consuming white chocolate and the other, dark.
After the two week period had ended, scientists swapped the groups, changing the type of chocolate they received.
After each period of time, the cyclists were performance tested and their results revealed a surprising conclusion.
During the weeks where the cyclists were given dark chocolate, their performance improved, compared to the weeks when they were given white chocolate.
The reason for this, is the role of epicatechin, a plant nutrient found in cocoa. Epicatechin is known to enhance the release of extra nitric oxide, a substance that can increase vasodilation, or the widening of veins and arteries, which can improve cardiac function.
This means that the athletes were able to improve their bodies’ ability to use oxygen and therefore increase their endurance.
Whilst scientists are yet to discover the ideal amount of chocolate to introduce pre-workout, they say much more than the 40 grams might not be doing you any favours.
So why not reward yourself before the end of your workout next time you’re heading to the gym. For science of course.