Can chocolate boost your workout?

Sounds too good to be true right? While the answer is a little complicated, one thing that is certain: eating a family block of chocolate before slipping into your active wear isn’t the best fuel for the body.

That said, there is some credence to the idea of chocolate boosting your workout. In the world of sports nutrition, dark chocolate has been identified as a food which contains antioxidants called flavonols. Flavonols (doesn’t that sound tasty and full of flavour) which come from the cocoa component have been shown to boost heart health and there is some research that suggests it may ease inflammation.

A more recent study even suggests that dark chocolate can ‘reduce the oxygen cost of moderate intensity exercise and may be an effective ergogenic aid for short-duration moderate intensity exercise’ – in English: it made it easier to perform well in moderate intensity workouts! Warning: there aren’t many of these studies proving a true benefit. Watch this space for more emerging research.

What we do know is that dark chocolate (the best is that with at least 70% cocoa) has more of the good stuff than the milk (around 20% cocoa mass) and the white variety (there’s zero cocoa in white chocolate). So if you’re going to opt for a piece or two, go for the darker varietal but try not to go overboard. Chocolate is still a higher energy snack than many other options, so particularly avoid having too much if you’re working hard to avoid weight gain, or trying to lose weight.

Chocolate milk can be a great post-workout recovery snack if you’re someone who is exerting a lot of energy (you might be losing weight without trying, or training at least 10+ hours per week), is time-poor and perhaps finds it hard to keep hydrated. A chocolate milk drink (and we’re not talking about a syrup-based thick shake with loads of added sugar and ice cream – think chocolate powder + milk) can provide you with the double whammy of both protein (in the milk) and carbohydrate (chocolate powder and milk). It helps out with recovery in the muscles you’ve just worked out, and although many have added sugar (which isn’t great), for high energy needs it means you can refuel a little quicker. The milk provides hydration that you probably wouldn’t get from a solid snack too. 

Be careful not to fill up on chocolate milk though, as it might end up limiting the nutrition you can get from other foods which is important for good post workout recovery. You might like to trial a few different post-workout options and see which seems to suit you best.

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