Dark Chocolate Bodybuilding Super Food?
Chocolate is not your typical bodybuilder friendly food choice. Usually we associate it with high sugar high fat and leaving it only to have for cheat meals.
However, chocolate, specifically dark chocolate is high in flavanols and has several health and performance benefits for the bodybuilder. Being a large bodybuilder we have main concerns of protecting the heart and brain, but also want nasty pumps in the gym. Dark Chocolate fits the bill!
Cocoa, Cacao, Chocolate?
So to understand all these similar terms and which to pick we first start at the source of the chocolate bar, the cacao tree. The cacao tree produces cacao beans which are roasted and separated into cocoa solids (cocoa liquor) from the fats (cocoa butter). The cacao liquor is the main component to create dark chocolate or dried into cocoa powder. The liquor is what contains all the flavanols we are seeking for the health benefits NOT the cocoa butter.
What are the benefits?
- Nutrient Density:
- High in fiber, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, potassium and selenium.
- Metabolic Function:
- Cocoa flavonoids improve insulin sensitivity and lower chronic inflammation, particularly in arterial vessels and the liver.
- Flavanols and other dietary antioxidants may decrease insulin resistance by ameliorating Nitric Oxide(NO) bioavailability
- Brain Stimulant and Protectant:
- High in caffeine and theobromine act as a stimulant on the CNS
- Delayed perception of fatigue during training
- Improved memory and reaction times
- Increase brain blood flow and lower neuroinflammation and guarding against degenerative brain disease.
- Cardiovascular System
- Reduce oxidation of LDL lipoproteins and lower total LDL and raises HDL. (LDL decrease of 6mg/dL)
- Several meta-analysis combining multiple studies have shown dark chocolate consumption is associated with lowering of CHD risk and cardiovascular mortality, heart failure, and stroke.
- Stimulate endothelial production of NO to relax arteries and lower blood pressure (Application of hypertrophy and pumps!)
How much do you need for the above benefits?
300-900mg of Chocolate Flavanols
At a standard serving size of 40 grams, many bars can easily provide at least 200 mg of flavanols. Now this must be Dark Chocolate (not milk chocolate, not white chocolate) and I would look for a bar that is at minimum 85% cacao. The issues is only 14g of Dark Chocolate also comes with 8g of fat, 4.5g of that being saturated fat. To avoid the fats and still get flavanols go for cocoa powder.
Consumer Labs found Hershey’s 100% cocoa natural unsweetened cocoa powder contained one the highest flavanol concentrations containing 24mg per gram of powder. Meaning 15-20g of powder will achieve dosages of clinical effectiveness and only 1.5g of fat total.
How to take it?
I add 20g of Cocoa powder into my pre workout cream of rice or whey protein. You can also mix the powder with stevia and a small amount of water to make a chocolate spread for a rice cake. Tip on the powder is to avoid ones that go through “Dutch” processing as this process removes bitterness but that is also the part that contains the flavanols.
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Zugravu C, Otelea MR. Dark Chocolate: To Eat or Not to Eat? A Review. J AOAC Int. 2019 Sep 1;102(5):1388-1396. doi: 10.5740/jaoacint.19-0132. Epub 2019 Jun 14. PMID: 31200790.
Garcia JP, Santana A, Baruqui DL, Suraci N. The Cardiovascular effects of chocolate. Rev Cardiovasc Med. 2018 Dec 30;19(4):123-127. doi: 10.31083/j.rcm.2018.04.3187. PMID: 31064163.
Grassi D, Necozione S, Lippi C, Croce G, Valeri L, Pasqualetti P, Desideri G, Blumberg JB, Ferri C. Cocoa reduces blood pressure and insulin resistance and improves endothelium-dependent vasodilation in hypertensives. Hypertension. 2005 Aug;46(2):398-405. doi: 10.1161/01.HYP.0000174990.46027.70. Epub 2005 Jul 18. PMID: 16027246.