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Another Benefit to Chocolate: Exercise Performance

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Another Benefit to Chocolate: Exercise Performance

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Good news: Dark chocolate may help increase your fitness endurance. Bad news: The ideal dosage of chocolate for just that purpose is so tiny it would take only the mightest of strong-willed chocolate lovers to limit themselves.

Dark chocolate's already been shown to have some effect in reducing the likeless of developing high blood pressure, heart disease or strokes. But a new study examining the role of chocolate in exercise performance showed it can also help increase intensity, the New York Times' Well blog reports.

Researchers gave one group of mice a purified form of epicatechin, cacao's primary nutritional ingredient, and another group plain water. They had both groups of mice work out and this is what they found, according to Well:

By and large, the animals that had been drinking water were the first to give out during the treadmill test. They became exhausted more quickly than the animals that had received epicatechin. Even the control mice that had lightly exercised grew tired more quickly than the nonexercising mice that had been given epicatechin. The fittest rodents, however, were those that had combined epicatechin and exercise. They covered about 50 percent more distance than the control animals.

But it may not have the same effect on humans, scientists caution, especially because we tend to consume our chocolate not in purified liquid epicatechin but in processed bar form. Milk chocolate contains almost none of the flavonol, while cacao-rich dark chocolate has far more.

And even for those who love dark chocolate, the estimated ideal amount for exercise benefit is incredibly small: five grams a day, or just a sixth of an ounce -- about half of one square of a typical chocolate bar.

Sadly, “more is not better,” [Dr. Villarreal] continued. “More could lessen or even undo” any benefits, he said, by overloading the muscles’ receptors or otherwise skewing the body’s response.

But given human nature, microdoses of chocolate may be impractical, underscoring the difficulties of using nutrition to bolster fitness. Dr. Villarreal’s colleagues regularly filch from his cache of dark-chocolate bars, he said, and despite his admonitions, they invariably finish the entire thing. “I keep telling them that’s too much,” he said. “But it doesn’t matter. They want to eat the whole thing and,” no matter what the expert tells them, “they do.”

Alas, such a sweet morsel of news comes with a little bitterness.

RELATED: Chocolate Milk for Post-Workout Recovery

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