Weightlifting chocolate lovers rejoice: you can have your sweet tooth fix without jeopardizing your hard work in the gym. Eating chocolate causes the brain to release those feel-good endorphins, the same pleasurable chemicals you get after a stellar workout. But, as you know, milk chocolate is loaded with fat and sugar, so it doesn’t have a place in a clean-eating lifestyle. But you can get the same great taste with these two easy-to-find ingredients at your supermarket.
You can make anything taste like chocolate by adding cocoa powder to it. It’s teeming with flavanols, phytochemicals that help lower blood pressure, decrease cholesterol, and improve insulin sensitivity (for controlling cravings). Research even suggests that it may help your training efforts by speeding up your recovery after an intense workout. A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition showed that consumption of a high dosage of cocoa two hours before exercise can relax and dilate blood vessels. This will allow for greater nutrient uptake and faster recovery. Note that flavanols are what give cocoa its pungent taste, but if the powder has been significantly processed through fermentation, alkalizing and roasting, you end up with a product with fewer flavanols. Always choose unprocessed and unsweetened cocoa powder.
Bonus: Some studies show that cocoa boasts more antioxidants than red wine and green tea.
Assuming that you’ve found a good-quality dark chocolate (over 65 percent cocoa) and are looking forward to reaping the antioxidant benefits, you might be concerned about the fat in chocolate. The fat in chocolate is from oleic acid (a monounsaturated fat that’s also found in olive oil), stearic acid and palmitic acid. Although both stearic and palmitic acids are saturated fats, we now know that only palmitic acid can negatively impact your cholesterol levels, as stearic acid has a neutral effect on cholesterol. Since palmitic acid only makes up one-third of the fat in chocolate, and the other two fats are either heart-healthy or neutral, the fat in chocolate is not so bad for you. Just don’t use this as permission to polish off a whole dark chocolate bar every day. Portion size still matters! Consuming no more than one small square (about an ounce) of dark chocolate per day is best. And be sure to take your time to really savor the taste to boost your feeling of true satisfaction.
Need a sweet, chocolate treat? Try our Sinfully Clean Chocolate Brownie recipe.