Dark chocolate is already known for its positive effects on cardiovascular health, and now a new study undertaken at London’s Kingston University has found that this treat can significantly boost athletic performance.
The British researchers wanted to find out if chocolate can give a boost to athletic fitness training as chocolate contains the compound epicatechin. This flavanol increases nitric oxide production in the body, which dilates blood vessels while reducing oxygen consumption and allows athletes to go further, longer.
To test this theory, scientists carried out a study with nine amateur cyclists split into two groups. One group was asked to replace their nutritional post exercise snack with 40 grams dark chocolate, while the other substituted white chocolate.
This experiment was tested for two weeks. At the seven day interval, the groups switched chocolate.
Compared with their baseline scores, consuming dark chocolate increased the distance they were able to travel in a two minute sprint by 17%, or 518 feet.
This effect was also determined to be 13% greater than white chocolate, suggesting that the extra calories weren’t the only factor causing this phenomenon.
Led by 23-year-old postgraduate researcher Rishikesh Kankesh Patel, this study is opening the door to more research, which could eventually lead to dark chocolate becoming a staple part of an athlete’s diet. With the global consumption of chocolate already at 7.2 million metric tons annually, the demand for chocolate could increase further with these findings.
But for now, Patel is focusing on investigating how quickly this effect can be achieved and how long it will last.
Patel commented to Science Daily, “We want to see whether the boost in performance is a short term effect — you eat a bar and within a day it works — or whether it takes slightly longer, which is what the initial research is showing.”
This study was published in the Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition.