By Alexa Romagnolo
You may have heard that a nibble of dark chocolate every now and then can contribute to better health because of its antioxidant content, but a new study takes these benefits a step further.
According to The Journal of the International Society of Sports Medicine, letting your sweet tooth get acquainted with its smooth, dark and sweet friend before a workout can actually enhance your performance.
It all comes down to a key substance in dark chocolate, epicatechin. This nutrient found in cocoa allows for the release of nitric acid, which widens the veins to improve blood flow and cardiac function.
“It also gooses muscle cells to take in more blood sugar, providing them with more energy, and it enhances the passage of oxygen into cells,” says Gretchen Reynolds of the New York Times.
Basically, epicatechin improves the efficiency of oxygen usage, allowing for longer periods of exercise without feeling tired.
Before those with a chronic sweet tooth get too excited, it might be beneficial to note that this isn’t a free pass to eat as much chocolate as you want as long as it’s dark.
Researchers used only 40mg – about a square and a half – of dark chocolate in this study and positive results were reported. They caution, however, that exceeding this amount is unlikely to be helpful.
Next time you work out, take a bite of dark chocolate and then push yourself farther than you think you can go. In this case, a spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down a little easier.