Research has already shown that antioxidant-rich chocolate can decrease your risks of cardiovascular disease, but a new study suggests that it may also boost your workouts. But don't get too excited: only a small bite daily will do the trick.
study published last week, researchers at the University of California, San Diego, and other institutions measured the effects of a purified form of cacao's chief beneficial compound, epicatechin, on exercising mice. In treadmill tests, rodents whose diets were supplemented with epicatechin twice a day significantly outperformed the control group.
Researchers also discovered that the leg muscles of the chocolate-fed mice, both sedentary mice and the ones who exercised, displayed more mitochondrial activity than the leg muscles of the control mice, suggesting that the flavonol triggers a physiological reaction even when one is not working out, according to the researchers.
While humans aren't mice, the researchers note that the study's findings suggest that chocolate may boost your workouts as well. However, skip processed milk chocolate and opt for flavonol-rich dark chocolate, but only in tiny portions: about five grams of dark chocolate daily, or a sixth of an ounce, is enough, said study author Francisco Villarreal. Unfortunately, "more is not better," he told The New York Times. "More could lessen or even undo" any benefits because it could overload the muscles' receptors or skew the body's response.
It's unlikely you need more encouragement to eat chocolate, but dark chocolate has also been found to have a significant positive effect on blood pressure.
Also two recent studies from the University of Texas at Austin found that drinking chocolate milk may be the ideal post-workout recovery drink. Compared to the other recovery beverages, chocolate milk drinkers in the study had twice the improvement in maximal oxygen uptake, one indicator of an athlete's aerobic endurance, after four and a half weeks of cycling.
Access the new study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21788351