If you’ve ever heard that beet juice may improve exercise performance, we have great news for you; preliminary studies have shown that cocoa flavanols, the antioxidants found in dark chocolate, may do an even better job at boosting performance!
Cocoa flavanol antioxidants enhance brain, heart and skin function via activation of the nitric oxide (NO) system; thereby enhancing endothelial function, blood flow, and the delivery of oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. The impact of cocoa flavanols on flow mediated artery dilation (FMD), a common measure of blood vessel function and flexibility, has been shown to increase with daily use, thus potentially positively affecting exercise performance in both the short and long term.
A recent 14 day study by Patel et al. demonstrated the effect of dark chocolate supplementation with cyclists. The results suggest significant benefits, including a 2 minute improvement in time trial performance, improvement in anaerobic and lactic acid threshold measures, and an improvement in VO2 max.
Though more studies need to be performed to quantify the impact, preliminary research is promising, impressive, and has the potential to provide a cutting edge for athletes at all levels. We’ll certainly take dark chocolate over beet juice any day of the week!