Could Dark Chocolate Be An Exercise Aid?
Popularity of dietary nitrates is growing in the sports nutrition industry. Inorganic nitrate is found in foods such as leafy green vegetables and beetroot. When ingested, nitrates are converted to nitrites and stored in the body. In conditions of low oxygen availability, nitrite can then be converted to nitric oxide (NO). NO has several important roles in the body, such as assisting the immune system and regulating blood pressure by dilating arteries. During moderate exercise, such as cycling, NO reduces the amount of oxygen our bodies need to perform exercise, enhancing exercise tolerance and performance.
Subsequently, beetroot juice has become a popular choice for athletes to improve performance. However, due to poor taste, recent studies have used to dark chocolate to increase the bioavailability and bioactivity of NO. Dark chocolate contains flavanol compounds which are thought to help our body absorb and utilize nitric oxide. A study in the Journal of International Sports Nutrition concluded that ingestion of 40 grams of dark chocolate, equivalent to the size of a large chocolate bar, for fourteen days reduced the oxygen cost of cycling compared to white chocolate and may be an effective ergogenic aid for short duration moderate intensity exercise.