Seems like every day there’s a new medical study bound and determined to depress us, telling us that our favorite things are making us sick, shortening our lives, making our hair fall out. So when researchers announced that eating dark chocolate could actually make exercise routines more effective, saying that it sounds too good to be true might just be the understatement of the year. The good news is that as fantastic as this sounds, it is the conclusion of real research done by scientists at the University of California at San Diego. The bad news? So far, the research has only proven true on mice, and the most beneficial amount of chocolate for getting those results is roughly the size of a postage stamp – just one sixth of an ounce.
The study followed mice that were provided either water or epicatechin, the flavenol found in dark chocolate. The creatures were then set to work on treadmills where half were put through the paces of moderate workout routines every day – nothing extreme, just enough to get them moving. Then both groups were run to the point of exhaustion. The results were clear – the mice that had been dosed with the ingredient found in chocolate had more stamina, and later biopsies done on their leg muscles found that they had more capillaries and evidence of metabolic improvements in their cells. Remarkably, even the mice who were not lightly exercised but who had received the flavanol were shown to be healthier and reach the point of exhaustion more slowly than those that had exercised but only had water. Amazing!
Of course, just because it worked that way for laboratory mice doesn’t mean that it will work the same on men – or women. But it could be a fun experiment to try if not for that depressing bit about the miniscule amount that maximizes the impact – the researchers were quite clear that exceeding the small dose would negate some of the positive impact. Still, there are a fair number of studies showing that adding chocolate to your pre-workout nutritional mix can help you with recovery, and that drinking chocolate milk as your after workout drink has more benefits than drinking a standard sports drink, plain water, or even regular milk because it takes the standard fluid and carbohydrate mix and adds in the benefits of protein. So go ahead; grab some chocolate as your pre-exercise encouragement or post-exercise reward. It will do your body good!