Chocolate milk has been a longtime favourite for those looking to fuel and recover from a hard workout. It’s a relatively good source of protein and carbohydrates to boost energy, as well as being chock-full of micronutrients. But, what about a chocolate bar? I heard the buzz going around (albeit this could just be the sugar high) that chocolate can boost workout performance and improve recovery.
I like chocolate. I like performing better. Did I mention I like chocolate? This must be too good to be true, right?
While cocoa is high in antioxidants and nutrients thought to increase blood flow which aids recovery, there is minimal reliable research to back up the claim that chocolate will get you next year’s gold medal. A study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition in 2015 suggested that dark chocolate aided in reducing oxygen cost in cyclists, touting that dark chocolate is rich in flavanols, which can aid in greater performance during moderate intensity exercise. However, this study was performed in a small group of only eight men, without a non-chocolate consuming control group. Chocolate is also very high in sugar, which can lead to the oh so familiar sugar crash, as well as digestive issues and feelings of sluggishness – not true friends of high performance!
What I do know is that a post-workout meal should contain carbohydrates and protein to replenish our energy levels and aid in muscle repair and growth. Chocolate will certainly perk you up, but you are better off choosing a nutrient dense snack that will keep you satisfied longer. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, go for a peanut butter and banana smoothie, or yogurt and berries.
Long story short, there is not enough viable research available yet to say with confidence that chocolate will make us better athletes. As the old saying goes, enjoy everything in moderation and you do not need an excuse to indulge every now and then. I know I will!
by Megan Denholm
Megan is a Bachelor of Kinesiology graduate from the University of Alberta. She is a CSEP-CPT certified Exercise Specialist with the MacEwan University Sport and Wellness fitness team.