Let’s be honest here for a moment. We all love chocolate and cycling and hope they can go happily together. Here is what I found after doing colossal research on the topic.
Dark chocolate is excellent for cycling because cocoa beans are loaded with flavonoids that deliver many benefits to the human body. Consuming dark chocolate reduces the oxygen cost of cycling, thus helping improve your performance.
But there is more.
Is Dark Chocolate The Secret to Enhanced Cycling Performance?
When researchers Keely Shaw and Patrick Neary undertook their landmark study on the relationship between dark chocolate (DC) and athletic performance, their goal was to learn whether consuming DC impacted cycling performance at varying altitudes. Intrigued?
|1 Bar of Dark Chocolate ( 70 – 85% cocoa )
Another scholarly study in the “Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition” concurs. “Chronic supplementation with DC resulted in a higher GET and enhanced TT performance.” Dark chocolate reduces the oxygen cost of moderate-intensity exercise and may be an effective ergogenic aid for short-duration moderate-intensity training,” experts added.
Why you should add chocolate in your balanced diet
Caitlin Giddings’ article on chocolate as fuel for Bicycling.com calls into question many studies undertaken by researchers eager to prove a relationship between consuming dark chocolate and enhanced performance. Almost all of them agree with evidence from cocoa consumption studies that prove this specific ingredient contributes to favorable gas exchange thresholds during clinical trials.
Where do these scientific roots lie?
The well-documented evidence proves that plant-based nutrients like cocoa beans are loaded with flavonoids that deliver more than just cycling enhancement benefits. Flavonoids are packed with life-extending and health-promoting benefits, including decreased blood pressure, reduced fatigue, and delayed memory loss, so no guilt, please. Add dark chocolate to your diet and reap big benefits.
Related: Are bananas good for cycling?
Benefits of Dark Chocolate for Cyclists
Are you impressed by the many benefits already cited simply by eating the treat you love? We haven’t touched the surface, say researchers at Ecowatch.com.
1. Cyclists regularly peddle depression away by eating dark chocolate because it triggers depression-fighting chemicals like theobromine, anandamide, phenethylamine, and serotonin.
2. Fight cardiovascular disease by eating dark chocolate that lowers the risk for circulatory and heart disease, say study participants engaged in this clinical trial.
3. By bolstering your dark chocolate intake, you increase endothelial function and insulin resistance, both of which can help combat the onset of diabetes.
4. Stroke prevention is a little-known benefit of dark chocolate, say British researchers.
5. Lower LDL and raise HDL cholesterol readings by taking advantage of antioxidant boosts from dark chocolate.
6. Harvard studies have proven that dark chocolate has the ability to lower blood pressure as long as the chocolate consumed includes between 50- and 70-percent cocoa.
7. Dark chocolate makes a great cough suppressant that’s as effective as codeine at controlling coughs, and it tastes better than medicinal syrups.
8. Pregnant cyclists may not know that chocolate improves fetal growth. For women at risk for pre-eclampsia, dark chocolate cuts that risk by lowering blood pressure.
9. Dark chocolate helps brains function more efficiently. It can positively impact your working memory, visual-spatial awareness, and cognitive processing skills.
10. Antioxidants in chocolate help isolate free radicals due to polyphenols, flavanols, catechins, and theobromine, all chemicals that boost immune systems.
11. Protect your skin from sun damage by eating dark chocolate – or go straight to flavonoid central by munching on cocoa beans that work to counter UV ray-related skin damage. ( SOURCE )
12. Add ½-cup of pure cocoa to your daily diet to boost your intake of nutrients. This small amount of cocoa provides big recommended daily value numbers: Magnesium (53 percent), iron (33 percent), zinc (40 percent), copper (80 percent), and manganese (83 percent) plus 378mg of omega-6.
13. Remedy inadequate red blood cell distribution that can impact performance by including dark chocolate in your diet. This study explains how the process works.
14. A robust immune system fights off disease and illness. Tissue inflammation can be mediated by ingesting high-quality cocoa to aid the body in producing antibodies ( SOURCE ).
How about hot chocolate?
Did you know that before energy bars, drinks and snacks came along, Tour de France participants relied upon hot cocoa to fuel up? It’s true, says Jiri Kaloc, exploring the topic for WeLoveCycling.com. When the Tour existed in the early 1900s, but feeding stations had yet to be invented, riders carried “a simple bidon full of hot chocolate.” Still, the recipe wasn’t as simple as putting chocolate, milk, or water into a canteen.
Want the original recipe? Find it here, but don’t skip the part of the story that details what cyclists ate within 24 hours of arriving at the Tour’s start line more than a century ago: “45 cutlets, 19 liters of hot chocolate, eight cooked eggs, 7 liters of tea, 5 liters of tapioca, 2 kilos of rice,” plus endless helpings of red wine, champagne, coffee, and oysters.
Should you eat chocolate before a ride?
There’s no reason not to eat chocolate before a ride – milk, white or dark versions – but for powerhouse results, dark chocolate outperforms the other two handily thanks to carbs and antioxidants.
Your body’s capacity for using oxygen efficiently is enhanced by dark chocolate because “epicatechin, a flavonol in cacao, enables mitochondria (the powerhouse of your cells) to function more efficiently,” says Runner’s World’s Jordan Smith.
The higher the cocoa amount, the more inflammation benefits you glean by eating dark chocolate before a ride, and it can also help to diminish associated pain, which is why dark chocolate before any ride can be justified. If that dark chocolate also includes caffeine, the treat can assist muscle recovery once you’re done. Limits? Scientists recommend between 1 and 2 ounces of dark chocolate to reap results.
Is dark chocolate better than white or milk chocolate?
It is, says numerous studies testing and comparing the three. During a ramp test at a laboratory reported by editors at Cycling Weekly, cyclists participating in two-minute trials were asked to ride for 20 minutes at 80 percent capacity after eating either white or dark chocolate. Compared to the white chocolate eaters, dark chocolate consumers accomplished 13 additional meters and rode 17 percent further than their study partners.
What makes dark chocolate a more powerful nutrient? Dark chocolate has a heavier, deeper concentration of cocoa, is usually made with fewer additives, and consumers get between 35- and 100-percent more cocoa per serving than milk chocolate eaters.
Milk chocolate tends to taste better because it’s made with sugar, milk solids, and cream additives — all of which can negate the benefits found in dark chocolate. After all, these additives aren’t always healthy.
The downside to eating dark chocolate is that it doesn’t always taste good, says Dr. Maulik Purohit writing for DovMed.com. You may have to cultivate a taste for the good stuff to get the health benefits, dude.
Is chocolate good for muscle building?
Yes, say Muscle and Strength website experts, because dark chocolate is loaded with the naturally-occurring epicatechin found within the flavanols discussed within this article, the darker, the better.
“Health benefits of dark chocolate do not translate to milk chocolate and similar lighter types that are mostly just high in sugar,” they explain. But don’t be overdue. “Multiple doses of at least 40-50 grams of dark chocolate throughout the day” should do the trick.
The benefits of including dark chocolate in a bodybuilder’s diet are that epicatechin triggers blood vessel dilation for better circulation and blood flow. The older you get, the more you need dark chocolate since aging slows satellite cell production, so post-exercise recovery takes longer and becomes more difficult.
Dare we add that cacao flavanols can impact sexual performance since their chemical makeup closely matches the chemical properties in Viagra?
Fun chocolate facts from The National Confectioners Association
- On average, it takes 400 cocoa beans to make a pound of chocolate.
- Delicate cacao trees can produce 2,500 beans annually. Sadly, growers lose 30-percent of their crop each year.
- Chocolate won’t raise cholesterol, even if you eat a lot of it.
- The word cocoa translates as “food of the gods,” says the father of plant taxonomy, Carolus Linnaeus.
- Cocoa leaves can move 90 degrees in any direction to find sun and protect younger leaves from sunburn.
- Despite being fragile, cocoa trees can live to be 200 years old, but beans are only viable during the first 25.
- A majority of the world’s cocoa supply – 70-percent – originates with 1.5 million farms located in West Africa.
- Benjamin Franklin had a side business: He sold chocolate in his print shop.
- Mesoamerican people used cocoa beans as currency before the idea of money existed.
- Early Maya hot chocolate recipes were loaded with chili and tasted pretty awful, but the drink was reserved for royalty only.
- Aztec emperor Montezuma was said to drink 50 cups of cacao daily from a hand-tooled gold chalice.
- Part of the marriage dowries of early Spanish royal families included cacao cakes.