In the times of nutrition awareness, especially when it comes to endurance sports, dark chocolate draws more and more attention. Not only athletes and healthy food enthusiasts, but also scientists… Modern scientists have been intrigued by the beneficial effect of high content cacao product to the human body. Apart from being very tasty, dark chocolate has many positive health effects. This is exactly why scientists went a step further and tested its impact on sports performance. The results were more than exciting!
Scientific study proves dark chocolate improves endurance and performance
Dark chocolate contains a large amount of cocoa that is rich in flavanols. Flavanols act as a powerful antioxidants. The positive effects include improvement of bloodstream system, as well as improvement of immune response and insulin sensitivity. All these effects have been observed by scientists at the Kingston University in London. Similarly, flavanols improve the production of nitric oxide which gave scientists the reason to further explore dark chocolate and its impact on endurance sports activities.
Initial research has shown that the intake of 40 grams of dark chocolate daily boosted oxygen intake during the activity and sports performance. Athletes who consumed dark chocolate had significantly better performance and endurance than those who did not consume it.
This study discovered that dark chocolate provides similar benefits as the well-known natural endurance booster - beetroot juice.
But not just any chocolate!
One might think: Great! Let me get a bar of dark chocolate from a local supermarket and I’ll get the top results overnight. Things are not that simple. Our market nowadays is overflown with industrially processed products packed with additives and bad sugars, that in most cases, they do more harm than benefit. Furthermore, most of the producers prepare the chocolate using high-temperature methods, which in the end, results in poorer antioxidant content.
The key could be in preparing your own dark chocolate – “a-la-Paleo” from 100% pure ingredients, such as organic cacao powder, cacao nibs, coconut oil and stevia… On the other hand, if you need a good fuelling version, you can use organic raw honey and dried fruits and add it to your own raw chocolate mixture. Here’s a quick and easy recipe you can prepare at home.
½ cup organic cocoa powder
¼ cup coconut oil
1-2 tablespoons of stevia powder
½ teaspoon of natural vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon Himalayan salt
In a small ceramic bowl, mix all ingredients and stir until you get a smooth mixture. No cooking, no baking, no additional processing… Voila, your organic, sugar-free chocolate is ready!
But Is there a healthy version available in the market?
People who care about the natural and good approach to athletic life, especially endurance sports athletes, know that there are much better and healthier versions of fuelling and recovering snacks than industrial energy bars, energy gels and drinks. We are living in a society when everything is express, instant, artificial and industrial. That is not the approach that ancient heroes and athletes of the great Olympic era had. Still, they were achieving results worthy of Gods! How? By being true to themselves and to the natural food sources. This is why there are products that combine all the best natural ingredients and approach to ancient preparation methods.
Ancient Aztec recipe brought to life - Kapuhala Food 88% Pure Chocolate
A beautiful example of colliding the ancient wisdom with modern knowledge is represented in a form of dark chocolate bar made in picturesque Modica in Sicily. The local secret recipe can be considered as a raw chocolate recipe because it is processed at 40° C and includes only natural ingredients. There are no hydrogenated fats, additives, dairy or any non-beneficial ingredients that modern industrial products usually contain. The 1% pure marine salt will bring the sodium to a healthy level, while the proven benefits of raw cacao bring the rejuvenating energy to body, spirit and mind.
Advantage of dark chocolate compared to industrial energy products
Dark chocolate is a choice that many athletes prefer due to its triple action. Scientifically proven benefits to body and mind (bringing up the level of serotonin) and empirically proven effect to the soul. The motivation is a key factor! Many athletes reported much better result if they consume some dark chocolate as recovery or fuelling snack. In fact, pure organic dark chocolate has lower GI index and does not influence insulin spark like some industrial gels or energy bars. On the other hand, the more processed the product is, the more foreign to your organism. After all, our bodies are coded to react better when exposed to natural energy sources.
One thing we must agree - the ancient people of all continents had a lot to teach us about success in life battles. The best way we can connect with this wisdom is to follow the paths of natural food sources, as closest to them as possible. By combining modern science and ancient wisdom, we will, most certainly, succeed!
My personal view and test on racing and training
It’s not a mystery that I am following a very low carb diet especially in training season. I use this method to become fat adapted and cruise through races with little extra nutrition and avoid this dependency on “cheap-carbs”.
I found chocolate to be one of the best nutrition tool to give myself energy without a trigger on the insulin and allows me a consistent release of energy. Again, I don’t want to hide the fact that after I tried the Modica chocolate I made my own formulation at 88% purity and adding either caffeine, marine salt or carob to replicate the nutritional value of more accepted endurance fueling. The true advantage is that this is a single product and a real natural supplement.
In today's consumer market where organic products could still be full of additives and other unknown sugars, Kapuhala chocolate is a pure product that is also a great fuel for training. To top it up it’s super easy to eat either on the bike or during a run because with the high percentages of cacao, the heat will not melt but rather soften to make it ready to be eaten.
Crash-test: I used it recently at both the 70.3 and 140.6 Ironman World Championships and it worked wonderfully!
Dark chocolate supplementation reduces the oxygen cost of moderate intensity cycling
by Rishikesh Kankesh Patel, James Brouner and Owen Spendiff
by Kris Gunnars
by David Katz
The truth about chocolate for runners
by Stefano Passarello
The Kapuhala Project Founder