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Dark Chocolate Benefits Workouts, Study Finds

Chocolate Helps Your Workout? Snack Ideas to Maximize Its Benefits

Add another benefit of chocolate to your justification list: not only does dark chocolate help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, soothe a cough, and increase blood flow, but a new study now says it also can help you perform better if you eat it right before a workout.

The study looked at rats given either water or liquid extract of epicatechin, the healthy flavonoid found in dark chocolate that gives the sweet its many benefits, and found that rats who drank the extract ran as much as 50 percent farther than rats who drank only water. Epicatechin, the study found, binds to receptors in muscles, which may help them resist fatigue.

Wait, don't start gobbling the good stuff just yet! Read on for how much chocolate you should eat before a workout.

Good news, right? But don't take this research to mean you should chow down on a huge chocolate bar right before you hop on the treadmill. Only a small amount of dark chocolate is needed to reap the performance-enhancing benefits of the sweet, says the study's lead researcher, who also notes that eating a lot would undo any benefits by overloading muscle receptors. Small means five grams, or only about half a square of a dark chocolate bar. Also, don't think you can get by with a milk chocolate treat — too much processing undoes any positive effects of epicatechin, he says.

If you are looking for some dark chocolaty preworkout snack ideas, try these:

  • A sprinkle of dark cocoa in your Greek yogurt (with some honey if needed).
  • A handful of high-quality dark chocolate chips right before your workout.
  • A few dark-chocolate-covered mini pretzels.
  • A sprinkle of cocoa into a cup of coffee for even more endurance benefits.
  • A handful of trail mix containing cocoa nibs, nuts, and dried fruit.
  • A piece of Alter Eco Dark Quinoa Chocolate for another mix of proteins and carbs.

Still craving chocolate after your workout? Reach for some chocolate milk after an intense session — chocolate milk makes a great recovery drink!

Source: Flickr User sapheron

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