You already know about the health benefits of eating dark chocolate, but if you're an athlete or weekend warrior, you might want to listen up: Research finds that the tasty treat may also improve athletic stamina, which may be the sweetest news you hear today.
A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Medicine found that a small daily dose of dark chocolate could boost cyclists' endurance.
Researchers at England's Kingston University had nine recreational cyclists consume 1.4 ounces of chocolate every day for two weeks. The riders were instructed to swap one of their normal indulgences for the chocolate to avoid weight gain. Half of the cyclists were provided with white chocolate, which is missing all of the cocoa powder goodness, while the other half ate dark.
The researchers found that all of the cyclists who ate dark chocolate for two weeks performed better in physical testing. They used less oxygen, which allowed them to go for longer periods or at a more intense pace, and they were able to cover more ground during a two-minute sprint.
While the difference in performance was not massive by any means (dark chocolate-eating riders covered an extra tenth of a mile during the sprint), the findings suggest that riders and other athletes who want to amp up their endurance should replace other sweets with dark chocolate, if they want to improve performance.
This seems to be a result of the chocolate's flavanols, which "have been reported to increase the bioavailability and bioactivity of nitric oxide," according to the study. This is important because nitric oxide helps increase blood flow and prevents high blood pressure. It's also been credited for helping with pain management.
Previous research has made it possible for dark chocolate lovers to boast about the food's health benefits: it may reduce blood pressure levels, improve skin health and possibly lower stress levels.
Still, scientists don't know how much chocolate is ideal for all of these benefits, though it's probably not the whole bar.
H/T New York Times