Dark chocolate may improve physical performance by reducing the oxygen cost of exercise.
A simple piece of dark chocolate is obviously a real alternative to energy drinks and pills of all kinds supposed to improve performance.
Indeed, dark chocolate combines high palatability, high energy content and, thanks to its flavanols, increases the bioavailability of nitric acid (NO), which could promote performance. This is what a team of British researchers wanted to see.
40g of dark chocolate per day, for two weeks before exercise
In this study, 9 moderately trained young men participated in 3 rounds, each separated by an interval of 2 weeks and according to a cross-over design, in a cycling event.
Each event included a cycling test at VO2 max, followed by another for 20 min. at 80% of the gas exchange threshold (GET) as well as a race against the clock for 2 minutes.
For two of the tests, the participants had consumed 40 g of dark chocolate or 40 g of white chocolate daily for 2 weeks.
The results are clear
The results indicate that dark chocolate consumption is associated with:
- an increase in the respiratory gas exchange threshold (by 21% in comparison with the reference test and by 11% for white chocolate),
- an increase in the distance traveled during the race against the clock (respectively by 17% and 13%),
- a tendency to increase VO2 max. of 6% (p<0.05), in comparison with the reference measurement, but not significant compared to white chocolate.
This seems encouraging for all athletes who want to naturally improve their performance.
Patel RK et al. Dark chocolate supplementation reduces the oxygen cost of moderate intensity cycling. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12:47,