For runners looking to satisfy their sweet tooth, dark chocolate is one of the healthiest options going – and can even improve your running. Here’s five benefits:
Dark chocolate with a high cocoa content contains essential vitamins and minerals your body needs to function. Alongside soluble fibre and vitamin D, a 100-gram bar of 70-85% pure cocoa contains Iron (67% RDA), Manganese (98% RDA), Copper (89% RDA) and Magnesium (58% RDA). These minerals are essential as they help your body to produce vitamins, enzymes and hormones and support proper blood circulation, fluid regulation and muscle contraction – all essential to running.
Clinicians at Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals conducted a study that revealed that chocolate can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Just like green tea, cocoa is rich in components of flavonoids, which are powerful antioxidants. Flavanoids help to protect your cells from free radicals, which are molecules that accumulate in the body and over time cause damage to the cells and are thought to lead to heart disease as well as other aliments. A healthier heart not only means you can live longer, but you can also exercise safely for longer, too.
A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association showed that chocolate can help blood flow to your heart, also helping you exercise for longer. According to the researchers, the polyphenols in dark chocolate help the body form more nitric oxide that helps blood vessels to dilate and increase blood flow. The increased blood flow not only helps to reduce blood pressure but means more oxygenated blood is delivered to the working muscles, meaning you can run further and for longer.
Following an accidental discovery that milk was more effective for post-exercise recovery than popular sports drinks, several studies have consistently shown that milk, especially chocolate milk, is the most effect post-exercise drink for individuals that participate in endurance training. This is because, unlike ordinary sports drinks, chocolate milk contains high levels of water, as well as protein and carbohydrates. This means that chocolate milk helps with rehydration as well as post-exercise muscle repair and energy recovery. In fact, according to nutritionists at the University of Georgia, USA, chocolate milk contains the ideal carbohydrate-to-protein ratio that athletes need for post-exercise recovery. Chocolate milk also helps with replenishing your electrolytes as two of the most important electrolytes, potassium and sodium, can be found in milk.
Chocolate milk is not only good for recovery but it can also lead to leaner muscles. A study published by Canadian researchers in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that participants who drank milk after exercising had greater increase in muscle hypertrophy and lean muscle mass. Lean, strong muscles are important for runners as they help protect against injuries and also improve performance.