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Chocoholics Unite! Eating Dark Chocolate Can Boost Your Exercise Endurance

Apr 28, 2016 01:25 PM EDT

There's some good news for health-conscious chocolate lovers. According to a recent study, snacking on dark chocolate could boost endurance and performance during exercise and other athletic activities.

The study, published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, says that besides chocolate's known positive effects on cardiovascular health, dark chocolate has the same components as that of beetroot juice, which is a popular food among athletes because of its performance-boosting effects.

Rishikesh Kankesh Patel from Kingston University, who led the study, said that beetroot juice has the ability to dilate blood vessels and reduce oxygen consumption due to its nitrate content. Patel wanted to compare and know if the substance in dark chocolate called epicatechin could yield to similar effects.

Epicatechin, a type of flavanol, is similar to the nitrates in beetroot juice. Both can be converted to nitric acid, which plays an important role in improving an athlete's endurance.

The researchers conducted the test among two groups of nine moderately-trained male cyclists, all of whom underwent fitness tests beforehand to establish a baseline. The first group was asked to snack on 40 grams of dark chocolate for four days while the second group snacked on 40 grams of white chocolate. Then, the two groups switched snacks. The cyclists' heart rates, oxygen levels, RER and blood lactate were measured via exercise tests, which were done before and after the switch.

The team found out that after snacking on dark chocolate, the participants used less oxygen while covering more distance within a two-minute trial.

"Both dark chocolate and beetroot juice are known to increase nitric oxide, which is the major mechanism we believe is behind these results. We found that people could effectively exercise for longer after eating dark chocolate -something that's not been established before in this way," Patel said, as per Science Daily.

The recent discovery could open up to greater maximization of the effects of dark chocolate on athletic performance. Patel said that he still wants to conduct further research on dark chocolate to see if epicathechin in dark chocolate could have a short or longer effect.

Meanwhile, James Brouner, a sports analyst, gave a few thoughts about Patel's study. According to Brouner, "With so many athletes consuming beetroot juice to achieve this gain but complaining of the palatability, dark chocolate could have a similar effect but with the additional benefit of tasting good too.”

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