A BIT OF DARK CHOCOLATE MAY IMPROVE PERFORMANCE A BIT!
Gretchen Reynolds in the New York Times "WELL" Blog provides a nice summary of new research into the effects of dark chocolate (DC) supplementation (Dove brand manufactured by Mars, Inc. specifically) on athletic performance: "Chocolate Can Boost Your Workout. Really.", March 23, 2016.
The study, "Dark Chocolate Supplementation Reduces the Oxygen Cost of Moderate Intensity Cycling" by RK Patel and colleagues, was small (9 cyclists) and included only males. The daily dose was small (40 grams) and the experimental supplementation period was only 2 weeks. There was no indication that participants were blinded to what they were ingesting (dark versus white chocolate). The improvements were relatively small, a little over a tenth of a mile in a short duration, 2 minute-cycling time trial and an 21% and 11% increase in gas exchange threshold over the baseline measurement and after white chocolate supplementation (which translates to a reduced oxygen cost for the moderate intensity exercise performed by the test subjects). With all that in consideration, this type of supplementation would be a safe and relatively minor change to the diet for runners seeking faster times.
What if there is a major placebo component to the improvement? Remember that Ron Weasley took what he thought was Felix Felicis ("lucky") serum and brought the Griffindor Quiddich team a victory, in the book "Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince" by JK Rowling. The mental contribution to competition can be significant in real life and in fiction! Give a try if you can stop at the recommended dose and can afford the extra calories (I bought a bag; you can see the foil wrapped pieces in the above image; 40 grams= 5 pieces @ about 210 calories).
The components in commercially available DC that the authors thought contributed to the results include flavanols (it's especially rich in a substance called epicatechin) in the cocoa powder, which allow for the increased production and bioavailability of nitric oxide (NO) by endothelial cells that line blood vessels. NO, they state, is known to "potentially increase vasodilation, glucose uptake and regulate muscular contraction".
The full research article is available online.
The Reynolds piece informative and goes into more detail.
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EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. I began participating in road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health.
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