Dark chocolate for workouts might seem like an unlike pairing, but research has shown that it can indeed help improve your workouts and fitness. Learn more about this breakthrough study.
Dark chocolate for workouts is good
Do you worry that fitness requires nutritional denial? Here is good news for you (with caveats, of course). Auspicious new science says that chocolate can actually have a big effect on the response of the body to exercise, although not in the ways that many of us might expect, and certainly not in the doses that many might hope for. Read on as we learn more about this fascinating study that will put chocolate in a whole new light.
For some time now, researchers have known that chocolate has healthful effects, and new epidemiological studies have shown that people who regularly indulge in moderate amounts of dark chocolate are less likely to develop heart disease or high blood pressure or suffer strokes. However, the potential role of chocolate in exercise performance has not been studied, or maybe even much considered, until scientists gave middle-aged, sedentary a purified form of epicatechin (the purified form of the main nutritional ingredient of cacao) and made the work out.
Epicatechin is a flavanol, a class of molecules believed to have widespread effects on the body
The mice were given small liquid doses of epicatechin two times a day. A separate control group of mice drank equal amounts of water. Both of the groups were divided into two. Half of the mice in every group started a light exercise routine, which is made up of strolling on a treadmill for a short period every day. This regimen was not meant to get the animals into tip-top shape; rather, this was done only to get them moving. After 15 days, all the animals were made to complete a treadmill test, during which they ran to exhaustion. The researchers also biopsied the back leg muscles of the animals.
By and large, those animals who were made to drink water were the first to give out during the treadmill test
They became exhausted more quickly compared to the animals that had received epicatechin. Even the control mice that only lightly exercise grew tired more quickly compared to the non-exercising mice that had been given epitechin. However, the fittest rodents were those that had a combination of epicatechin and exercise. They covered about 50 percent more distance than the control animals. The muscle biopsies offered some explanation for their dominance. The muscles of those given epicatechin contained new capillaries, and biochemical markers show that their cells were making new mitochondria.
Dark Chocolate for Workouts: Mitochondria are cell structures that produce cellular energy
The more functioning mitochondria a muscle has, the healthier and more fatigue-resistant it is. The leg muscles of the mice were given epicatechin and exercise showed more mitochondrial activity than the leg muscles of the control mice. Even mice that drunk epicatechin and not exercised had markers of increased mitochondrial health, showing that flavonol prompts a physiological reaction even among the sedentary. However, this response is very heightened by exercise, regardless of how rigorous it was.
Exactly how epicatechin intensified the response of the muscles of the mice is not yet known, but it seems likely that muscle cells has specific receptors of epicatechin. Epicatechin binds to the receptors and induces an integrated response that includes metabolic and structural changes in cardiac and skeletal muscles, resulting in greater endurance capacity. However, mice are not people, so it remains to be seen if the fitness-boosting effects of epicatechin will be the same with humans, especially since many of us will get the substance from chocolate, and not the purified liquid form. Processing destroys catechin, so heavily-processed milk chocolate has almost no flavanol, while cacao-rich dark chocolate has more.
And even for those who love dark chocolate, there is one catch: A very small amount of enough
Basing from the mouse data, five grams of dark chocolate every day, or a mere sixth of an ounce (which is about half or one square of a typical chocolate bar) might be a reasonable human dose if you aim to intensify the effects of your workout. Unfortunately, more is not better. Consuming more lose chocolate than what is necessary can lessen or even undo any benefits. Overindulging can overload the receptors of your muscles or otherwise skew the response of your body.
However, given human nature, micro-doses of chocolate might be impractical, which underscores the difficulties of using nutrition to improve fitness. This is why control and discipline is key. And, yes, sometimes it can be hard to resist a good bar of chocolate. In any case, make sure that you get and eat the right kind of chocolate. Go with dark chocolate that has the most amount of cacao and contains the least amount of additives.