Does chocolate enhance performance?

Are you a chocoholic? Then read on as James Witts explains how chocolate can improve an athlete's performance

Does chocolate enhance performance?

Yes chocolate does improve athletic performance and it’s down to epicatechin. This is a type of flavanol found in cocoa beans, and there’s evidence that consuming as little as 100mg of the stuff results in higher vasodilation (widening of the blood vessels).

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How does chocolate improve athletic performance?

Higher vasodilation stems from epicatechin ‘stimulating’ the muscles in the arterial wall to relax. The result is increased bloodflow and an increased increase delivery of oxygen and nutrients to all organs, including muscles when swimming, cycling or running.

According to research by sport scientist Lieselot Decroix, who now works for Jumbo-Visma’s women’s team, and further studies by Rishikesh Kankesh Patel of Kingston University, epicatechin also increases levels of nitric oxide in the body by suppressing vascular enzyme activity. In one experiment involving time-triallists, distance covered increased from a baseline of 1,367m to 1,606m after consuming 40g of dark chocolate for 14 days. (Patel noted that this also resulted in no weight gain!)

Which is the best chocolate to take?

Which chocolate in particular should sweeten your performance? It seems that chocolate with enriched cocoa flavanols contains the highest doses of epicatechin. Something like Acticoa Intense has 200mg of flavanols per 10g chocolate bar, while CocoaVia powder for adding to milk or smoothies contains 375mg flavanols.

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Top image by Getty Images