In the world of smart-marketing of nutritional superfoods – maybe no other food has a more confused positioning than ‘Chocolate’ ….ahh sorry, I mean Cocoa, I mean Cacao…apologies about all this I really mean dark chocolate … or is it Theobroma cacao.
Getting straight to the point, Cocoa powder is the result of roasting raw cacao beans – followed by crushing them into a fine powder. Chocolate, on the other hand, is made of several ingredients, being cocoa, cocoa butter, sugar (as in lots) and milk (milk powder). So, when you hear about ‘the benefits of chocolate’ – be clear – it’s not the sugar, it’s not the cocoa butter, it’s not the milk – its the cocoa.
So WHY SHOULD endurance athletes care about Cocoa? ….let me try and summarize 5 reasons, in the research findings,
1. In one study, cyclists cycled for a period of time then rested for 4hrs, then cycled to exhaustion. They did this while using a cocoa/milk drink, and then again using a carbohydrate replacement drink. When using the cocoa-based drink, the cyclists could continue to cycle for up to 50% longer, than when they used the carbohydrate drink. This suggests the cocoa-based drink is superior for both endurance and recovery .
2. As a post endurance workout formula, cocoa/milk formula showed lower protein catabolism (breakdown) vs. a carbohydrate only drink. While muscle glycogen was not differently affected by either drink – the time to exhaustion was greater for cocoa/milk drink than that of the carbohydrate drink. Cocoa is a fuel that can help you Go Longer.
3. Prolonged exercise is known to generate oxidative stress (inflammatory mediators etc.) on skeletal muscles and tissues Get access to the Ultra- Recovery HOW TO GUIDE HERE) for a LOT MORE SCIENTIFIC DETAIL. In a study done to understand the impact of oxidative stress (inflammation) on the body, cyclists cycled for 2.5 hrs with and without dark-chocolate consumption. The study showed that cyclists who consumed dark chocolate pre and post-exercise had reduced oxidative stress or in laymen’s terms reduced inflammatory triggers (higher blood plasma antioxidant levels) .
4. On an equal weight basis, Cocoa powder has the second highest amount of resveratrol vs. other foods, with only red-wine (California variety reference) having higher amounts. Resveratrol is a naturally occurring strong antioxidant found in cocoa, grapes, blueberries and raspberries. Lab research on animals is showing that resveratrol supplementation enhances aerobic performance (raising mitochondria counts).
5. Supplementation with cocoa has also shown to reduce insulin resistance and obesity-related inflammation.
Are you ready to indulge in that 500ml chocolate milk at your local snack bar? Not so fast! Most ready to drink chocolate milk comes laden with sugar (typically >3-4 teaspoons), which by design shoot your blood sugars sky high – this is not good for the endurance athlete who is training his body to ‘run on fat’ rather than sugar …Get your copy of the Fuel-Switch Quick-Start Guide.
Recommendation: Using cocoa, with natural sweeteners (stevia) in a water or milk base, post workout is a far better option to ensure you benefit from the ULTRA health benefits research above. Post-training – drop the sugar-laden, nutrition-deficient sports drinks and reach for Cocoa-based drinks…it wasn’t called the ‘Food of the Gods’ for nothing.
1. Improved endurance capacity following chocolate milk consumption compared with 2 commercially available sports drinks. Thomas K et al. Feb, 2009.
2. Does unsweetened Cocoa spike blood sugars?, A. Jacob, Jan 2010.
3. Chocolate milk and endurance exercise recovery: protein balance, glycogen, and performance. Lunn Wr. Apr 2012.
4. Dietary cocoa ameliorates obesity-related inflammation in high fat-fed mice. Gu Y, et al. Feb 2014.
5. The effect of acute pre-exercise dark chocolate consumption on plasma antioxidant status, oxidative stress and immunoendocrine responses to prolonged exercise. Davison G. Feb 2012.
6. Resveratrol enhances exercise training responses in rats selectively bred for high running performance. Hart. N, et al. Nov 2013.