When it comes to foods to consume to actually help you power through your workout, you probably think of the typical foods. Oatmeal, bananas, protein bars, a piece of fruit and so on. The last food you’d think would be beneficial would be chocolate but in actual fact, according to a team of highly skilled, highly trained, and highly qualified experts from Aberystwyth University, Wales, chocolate could actually not only help provide you with energy, it could also help boost your workouts in a number of other ways too. Now, before you get too carried away, the chocolate in question is not milk, but rather dark, and rather than consuming a huge bar, or several huge bars for that matter, they recommend only a few small pieces. Never the less, it’s still a healthy excuse to consume chocolate, and that should not be sneered at.
So, how can dark chocolate help us during our workouts?
There are a number of reasons why dark chocolate can be of benefit to us during our workouts. For starters dark chocolate naturally contains caffeine, which is a stimulant and so it stimulates the body promoting an increase in energy levels and mental focus. As well as it also contains a decent amount of calories to help provide additional energy for the body. We’re not done yet however. Dark chocolate also contains Nitric Oxide, an ingredient commonly found in many pre-workout energy supplements. Nitric Oxide helps to improve circulation of the blood by dilating the blood vessels. The more dilated they are, the more blood they can transport through them. As nutrients are transported around the body in our blood, the more there is, the more nutrients can be transported to the muscles, aiding in growth and recovery.
Researchers from the University in Wales carried out a study by having men consume either 100 grams of dark chocolate, or a placebo control bar before hopping on an exercise bike and cycling at a steady pace for 2 and a half hours. Afterwards they took readings of the men’s blood glucose levels, insulin, and markers of oxidative stress. What they found was that the individuals that consumed the dark chocolate before exercising were actually able to maintain their own blood glucose levels. On top of this, they also had much higher insulin levels and experienced far less oxidative stress. The blood glucose maintenance is what interested them the most as the ability to maintain blood glucose basically allows you to be able to train more efficiently and intensely before experiencing fatigue. Increased insulin levels can lead to improved muscle growth, and the reduction in oxidative stress can lead to a much greater rate of recovery following exercise.