Music to our ears. So much for deprivation. We know that dark chocolate is good for you, antioxidants and all that, but can it actually be good for your fitness, too? The answer is yes, but not nearly in the quantities you'd hope.
While indulging in moderate amounts of dark chocolate can lower the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease or strokes, it can apparently make you fitter. Such is the claim made by scientists at the University of California, San Diego whose study was published recently in The Journal of Physiology.
When middle-aged, sedentary male mice were given a purified form of cacao’s primary nutritional ingredient, epicatechin, before a work-out, they were able to run for longer on the treadmill than their water-drinking counterparts.
While the water-drinkers became exhausted quickly, the rodents who'd received the epicatechin ran double the distance than that of the control animals. Apparently the response of the epicatechin is greatly heightened by exercise, no matter how slight.
Researchers aren't yet exactly sure how the cacao affected the mouse muscles' response to exercise and endurance. But according to Dr. Francisco Villarreal, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego, the results of the study speak for themselves.
Mice are obviously not people, though, so before you reach for that bar of Swiss heaven, it remains to be seen whether the study translates to humans, since "processing destroys epicatechin”. So while heavily processed milk chocolate is out, dark chocolate is in.
Unfortunately only a very small quantity -- around five grams of dark chocolate daily, about half of one square of a typical chocolate bar -- is enough to intensify the effects of a workout. Any more nullifies the benefits by "overloading the muscles’ receptors or otherwise skewing the body’s response".
Yummies, you just knew it was too good to be true.