Most people associate cacao with an high kcal, high fat and sugary snack, that can’t be enjoyed when weight loss, lean bulking or maintaining a good shape is the goal. But I want you to eat it! Yes. I am telling you to eat cacao. Especially if you are doing strenuous weightlifting workouts…
Fitness enthusiasts in most cases, don’t eat any chocolate or they might eat it as a cheat meal. I am not a fan of cheat meals, as it negatively impacts the way you think about food and can create psychological issues that can result in adverse diet outcomes. If your diet is sustainable, you don’t even need to “cheat” on it.
I have to admit that not all sources of cacao are equally beneficial. But even eating a few pieces of Milka chocolate daily as a dessert after your one of your bodybuilding meals, can make your diet fun and easier to stick to.
But, this blog isn’t about dietary compliance. It is about improving your muscle gains!
Dark chocolate actually has several health and performance benefits for strength trainees and bodybuilders due to the high flavanol content. It can increase your gym pumps and vascularity massively, besides that it also has positive effects on your heart and brain health. As a student you are also better off eating dark chocolate, you can use it to improve your memory and reaction times, due to the caffeine and theobromine, as both act as a stimulant on the CNS.
Dark chocolate contains a lot of nutrients, like iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, manganese, and copper. It can also delay the perception of fatigue during workouts and the flavanols in cacao can stimulate the endothelial production of NO that results in vasodilatation, improved blood circulation. So it is very useful as an athlete.
Eating a few pieces of a chocolate bar, that is at minimum 85% pure cacao, before your workout can help you in your quest of gaining muscle. You could also opt for cacao nibs and add them to your pre-workout cream of rice. You need to eat probably around 50 grams of dark chocolate at once to get in enough flavanols for it to be really effective as ergogenic aid.
Chocolate bars and cacao nibs also come with some fat. If you are cutting or just want to avoid too much fat preworkout but still get the flavanols, go for cocoa powder. In that case, ~20-25g of cacao powder will contain the clinical effective dosage of flavanols. You can add the cacao powder to your cream of rice, or whey protein shake with some stevia to counteract the bitterness.
If you don’t eat cacao before your workout, but after, it can still improve your recovery but your muscle pump during the workout won’t be as big as possible. So you are missing out a bit.
Due to the cafeine content of cacao, it is not a smart move to eat a lot of it before bedtime.
Key take away:
Eat some cacao in the hours before your workout!