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Dark Chocolate for Athletes

Eating Dark Chocolate May Improve Race Times and Fitness 

Have you ever seen an athlete drinking beet juice? The purple juice is rich in nitrates, a compound shown to improve aerobic efficiency by converting to nitric oxide and facilitating blood flow. (Confused about nitrates? Read more here.) Now, for some really sweet news in the Halloween spirit: Research from the UK finds dark chocolate may do the same thing. 

For the study, published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, nine recreational cyclists completed a 20-minute moderate ride and a 2-minute all-out sprint on a stationary bike. They were then asked to eat about 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate every day for 14 days and complete the rides again. 

Results point to dark chocolate as a powerhouse food. Compared with baseline, eating dark chocolate helped cyclists increase their gas exchange threshold (GET) by 21% during the moderate ride (which means less oxygen used for the same amount of work), and increase total distance by 17% during the 2-minute time trial. 

We’ve seen this in basic research before. Dark chocolate contains flavanols, healthful compounds that can help increase production of nitric oxide and promote blood flow. Dark chocolate is also rich in epicatechin, which converts to compounds that help suppress free radical production and increase availability of nitric oxide. 

Add a little dark chocolate to your diet this Halloween and all-year long and you could reap these blood flow benefits—just remember to practice moderation as just one ounce packs about 168 calories. This Halloween, make our Festive Dessert Pizza using fresh DOLE® Strawberries, Raspberries and Pineapple and melted dark chocolate.

Published October 1, 2016

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