Beetroot juice was found to enhance athletic performance by providing the body with nitrates, which the body transforms into nitrites, and then into nitric oxide. Nitric oxide affects performance in two ways. Firstly nitric oxide dilates the blood vessels, allowing more blood to pass through them, and secondly it improves the efficiency of the mitochondria, the power-houses of the cells, allowing them to create the same energy while using less oxygen.
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If you were given a choice of beetroot juice or dark chocolate to boost your performance, which one would you choose? If you are like most people, I presume that you would choose the latter.
New research indicates that dark chocolate can affect performance in the same manner as beetroot juice. It contains epicatechin, a type of flavanol, which also increases nitric oxide production in the body. Recently researchers tested the effects of dark chocolate on performance and found that consuming 40 grams of dark chocolate over a period of two weeks allowed athletes to cycle a longer distance over a two minute time trial and to use less oxygen when exercising at a moderate pace. The authors concluded that dark chocolate enhanced performance because it changed the athlete’s response to activity.
So remember to follow up your chocolate snack with a nice endurance workout! It may end up being your best workout yet!
Nina Zisko, PhD candidate at CERG
- Dark chocolate supplementation reduces the oxygen cost of moderate intensity cycling