Drop that protein bar! It turns out a much more delicious snack could be the secret to getting a better workout.
Researchers at Kingston University in England did everyone a favor and conducted a study that shows a little bit of dark chocolate can actually improve your athletic performance.
OK, so you can't eat just any chocolate, but dark chocolate tends to be rich in a substance called epicatechin, which has several physiological benefits.
Epicatechin, via the release of extra nitric oxide, leads to improved blood flow and cardiac function overall and, on a more micro level, distributes more energy and oxygen to your cells.
According to The New York Times, the study, published in December, used eight male “recreational cyclists” to test the effects of milk, white and dark chocolate on athletic performance over a four-week period.
At the start, the participants underwent tests on a stationary bike to measure their fitness levels and the amount of oxygen they used while exercising. Then, half were sent back out into the world with 40 grams of Dove dark chocolate and half with white, instructed to replace one daily snack with it.
Other than this swap, each person's training regimen and diet stayed the same.
After two weeks, the men were brought back and re-monitored doing the same tests, then swapped chocolate types and were told to repeat what they had done the previous two weeks.
At the end of the trial period and third set of tests, researchers discovered every cyclist performed better after swapping a snack for dark chocolate. Not only did they require less oxygen, which means they could ride farther before getting tired, but they also covered one-tenth of a mile more in a two-minute sprint than they had prior to the experiment and after eating white chocolate.
One-tenth of a mile may not seem like much, but it's still a reward for rewarding yourself with chocolate. I think that's what you'd call a "win-win."