February 1st is National Dark Chocolate Day! Not sure if I need a national holiday to justify eating dark chocolate, but should we eat dark chocolate more often to gain the health benefits as athletes? In 2015, a study revealed that dark chocolate provides similar benefits to beetroot juice to improve sports performance. Beetroot juice is rich in nitrates, which are converted to nitric oxide in the body. Nitrates help to dilate blood vessels, regulate muscle contraction, and reduce oxygen demands, allowing athletes to perform longer during submaximal exercise. Dark chocolate contains a substance called epicatechin, a type of flavanol found in the cacao bean, that increases nitric oxide production in the body to potentially decrease cardiovascular risk and improve sports performance. The study showed that the athletes who ate 40 g of dark chocolate compared to athletes who ate 40 g of white chocolate, used less oxygen when cycling at a moderate pace and also covered more distance in a two-minute flat-out time trial. This study is just the beginning to better understand the benefits of eating dark chocolate and suggests dark chocolate could offer particular benefits to athletes. Facts about dark chocolate: 🍫. The higher the cocoa content, the more beneficial flavonols the chocolate contains. Most of the benefits seen in research are associated with chocolate that has at least a 70% cacao content. 🍫. Consider eating about an ounce (28 g) as a treat. The study showed that eating 40 g (about 1.4 ounces) helped athletes improve their sports performance but you still need to be mindful of the amount of added sugars you are eating daily and weigh the pros and cons of adding dark chocolate more regularly into your diet. 🍫. Dark chocolate may even help improve your gut bacteria and your mood when eating a bar with at least 85% cacao content. The studies are promising and if you need a little sweat treat, consider adding a small amount of dark chocolate to your diet. This can help combat your sugar cravings, as well as help reduce your cardiovascular risk, improve your gut health, and help boost your training.