Does the above photo make you suddenly want to shovel chocolate bark into your mouth? Well, now you can do it guilt-free (sort of)—at least, according to science. A new study published in the Journal of International Society of Sports Medicine found that a small daily dose of dark chocolate can boost workout stamina. Researchers at Kingston University told nine recreational cyclists to eat 1.4 ounces of chocolate every day (yes, every day) for two whole weeks. Half of them were provided with white chocolate, and the other half ate dark. The result? The cyclists who ate dark chocolate for two weeks performed better in physical testing and used less oxygen. They were also able to cover an extra tenth of a mile during the sprint—which, sure, isn’t all that much, but it sure makes a case for choosing dark chocolate over those jelly beans.
So, how exactly is dark chocolate such an overlooked workout booster? In this particular study, researchers believe that the dark chocolate ramped up the production of a substance called nitric oxide, which improves blood flow and cardiac function. According to The New York Times, athletes have long looked for ways to increase the amount of nitric oxide in their bloodstream, downing everything from beetroot juice to supplement pills.
To sum it all up, the study indicates that “recreational athletes who would like to improve their performance” could benefit from swapping their favorite sweet treat for a square (or two) of dark chocolate, according to the lead researcher in the study. But before you go chowing down on dark chocolate before your Spin class, though, know this: Right now, the “ideal” dosage of this workout booster still isn’t known, and it’s likely that anything more than 40 grams will be unhelpful. So eat up—but cautiously (if you ever can, with chocolate).
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