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The Amazing Benefits of Dark Chocolate Before Running

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Chocolate is back on the menu!

Chocolate has its unique host of benefits that can help repair and restore muscles and energy levels post-exercise, but did you know that when you eat chocolate, it can also give you a boost before you even lace up your running shoes?

Ingredients found in dark chocolate can boost your mood, reduce inflammation, naturally boost energy levels, and increase your V02 Max for increased endurance. 

Which Chocolate Is Best For Running?

Before I break down why chocolate is so great for running and when you should add it into your diet, it’s essential to discuss which type of chocolate is best. It should come as no surprise that dark chocolate reigns supreme, but milk and white chocolate aren’t without benefits. 

The powerhouse ingredient found in chocolate that contains all of the magical running-boosting benefits is cacao. Higher concentrations of this ingredient mean you can eat less chocolate, resulting in fewer calories. 

A common misconception about eating a chocolate bar for positive health benefits is that milk chocolate is off the menu, which isn’t true. Milk chocolate still contains performance-enhancing ingredients, but it’s just been watered down.

So you can still reap the positive benefits from milk chocolate; you will need to eat more of it, which could land you over your daily caloric intake for the day, and it’s certainly not good for weight loss.

Dark chocolate is always best because it contains a higher concentration of cacao and fewer calories. If you cannot stand the taste of dark chocolate, milk chocolate works too if you have the available calories left in your diet plan. 

Eating Chocolate Before Your Run

If you find yourself in a bit of a running funk (I have certainly been there!), indulging in a little bit of chocolate can help get your mind right. To ensure that it’s effectively absorbed into your system, make sure you eat it around 2 hours before you lace up your running shoes.

In addition to its apparent great taste and mood-boosting benefits, it can also increase your performance, post-run recovery, and reduce inflammation.

Mood-boosing. Cacao contains a mood-boost hit of serotonin. There are plenty of natural ways to increase serotonin production, including working out, but if you are feeling a little down in the dumps, it can be hard to muster the enthusiasm to lace up those running shoes.

Eating an ounce or two of dark chocolate before you run can provide you with post-workout serotonin levels before you even change into your workout clothes!

Increased Endurance. In addition to higher serotonin levels, studies have also found that indulging in chocolate regularly can also boost your V02 Max. This is because epicatechin, an ingredient found in chocolate, helps your cells function more efficiently, which translates to higher endurance levels. 

Stop Inflammation. The ample dosage of antioxidants found in chocolate can also help reduce muscle and joint inflammation as you run. Antioxidants work by preventing damage to tissues in your body. When you boost your body’s antioxidant levels, you can help prevent inflammation from occurring, which means pain-free runs. 

Increase Energy Levels. One tablespoon of cacao solids provides just 12 mg of caffeine. A cup of coffee clocks in at around 90 mg of caffeine to put that into perspective.

While a serving of chocolate will give you a tiny jolt of caffeine, it’s the theobromine found in chocolate that is responsible for that jolt of energy that can get you through your runs. Move over, caffeine, there’s a new sheriff in town!

Theobromine is considered a stimulant in the same family as caffeine, but it doesn’t have the same jittery side effects as your traditional jolt from your morning cup of coffee. It increases focus and brain function and provides more sustained energy levels than caffeine. All of these things are essential for runners. 

Eating Chocolate After You Run

Fitting in a serving of chocolate after your run can help build back better, replenish lost energy levels, and tastes a whole lot better than pre-packaged recovery drinks. One serving of chocolate contains essential vitamins and nutrients: protein, iron, calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and magnesium

So, why is drinking chocolate milk such a popular recovery sports drink? While eating a serving of chocolate will provide critical nutrients into your body to help it recover, mixing it with milk turns this positive ingredient into a muscle recovery powerhouse.

When combined with milk, it provides runners with the perfect protein to carbohydrate ratio to replenish lost energy levels and essential nutrients to speed up recovery. 

Want to dial up your recovery to an 11?

My favorite post-run meal involves whipping up a quick chocolate and peanut butter smoothie. Most smoothie shops offer similar smoothies, but I like to make mine at home to save a little bit of money.

My post-workout recovery smoothie looks something like this: 

  • 1 large frozen banana
  • 1 scoop whey protein (vanilla is my favorite)
  • 2 teaspoons organic peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon cacao (you can sub in chocolate syrup in a pinch)
  • 1 cup oat milk
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • Fill to top with ice cubes

Everything In Moderation

It can be easy to go a little overboard on chocolate. While this humble ingredient provides ample energy and mood-boosting benefits, keeping things in moderation is essential. It may be a nutritional powerhouse, but it’s also high in fat. 

Ideally, you should have no more than one to two ounces of chocolate per day. Calories fluctuate from brand to brand, but one ounce of dark chocolate typically contains 150 calories. For milk chocolate, 1 ounce contains around twice as much- about 300 calories

Milk chocolate may taste better, but dark chocolate boosts performance while keeping calories low. 

Sources

  1. Pam R. Taub, Israel Ramirez-Sanchez, Minal Patel, Erin Higginbotham, Aldo Moreno-Ulloa, Luis Miguel Román-Pintos, Paul Phillips, Guy Perkins, Guillermo Ceballos, and Francisco Villarreala, Beneficial Effects Of Dark Chocolate On Exercise Capacity In Sedentary Subjects: Underlying Mechanisms, Scientific Article
  2. Eva Martínez-Pinilla, Ainhoa Oñatibia-Astibia, and Rafael Franco, The Relevance Of Theobromine For The Beneficial Effects Of Cocoa Consumption, Scientific Article

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