We're all about fueling our bodies to fuel our workouts'you get out what you put in, right? But even though we love our kale, we sometimes wish the foods that treat our bodies right felt a liiittle more like treats.
Well, a new study might have the answer to our prayers: According to new research from Kensington University in the United Kingdom, dark chocolate may do more than just provide a relatively healthy and delicious snack—it may actually boost athletic performance. (P.S. Scientists have introduced an anti-aging chocolate bar!)
In a small study published in the Journal of International Sports Nutrition, researchers looked at how replacing one snack a day with 40 grams of dark chocolate would effect athletic performance.
Dark chocolate is rich in flavanols (which have previously been studied for their heart health benefits), which can boost the production of nitric oxide in the body—a process that reduces oxygen consumption and allows athletes to go further and longer.
To measure the effects, the researchers had one group of athletes snack on dark chocolate daily, while the other group was given white chocolate for the duration of two weeks.
After the trial period, the effects of the daily chocolate consumption on athletic performance were measured through a series of cycling tests during which the researchers tracked the participants' heart rates and oxygen consumption levels. After letting the athletes rest for a week, the researchers had them repeat the same experiment, this time switching the type of chocolate each group received and running the performance tests again.
They found that after noshing on dark chocolate, the athletes were able to cover more distance in a two-minute flat-out time trial and consumed less oxygen (a sign of stronger endurance) overall. (Stock up on these 6 All-Natural, Energizing Foods for Endurance Training too.)
So what does this mean if you're not a performance athlete? The cyclists were actually tested at a moderate pace (not race pace!), which means the flavanols found in dark chocolate can benefit even the casual Soul Cycle goer. Consider this your chance to feel just as good about a hit of dark chocolate as you do about that kale salad.