Is Chocolate for Pre-Workout Good? (Explained by an Expert)

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers | Senior Coach
Last updated: November 26, 2023
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As a gym trainer, I always advise my clients to watch the sweeteners they add to their pre-workouts because not all are healthy and helpful to their fitness journeys.

While consuming artificial sugars and sweeteners can add extra calories, a doctor friend told me that natural sugar compounds from chocolate and cocoa could boost you when lifting weights or during cardio.

To back up these claims, I went over the latest research into chocolate and its pre-workout properties to gather all the essential information.

Here's what I found.

Quick Summary

  • Cocoa flavanols occur naturally in chocolate and help improve blood flow to the muscles as your exercise slows.
  • Eating dark chocolate gives you extra flavonoids that can help with antioxidation under high-intensity training.
  • When you eat dark chocolate, its compounds work together to improve your mood and keep you relaxed.

Chocolate as a Pre-Workout Snack

Close up image of chocolate with almonds and nuts

Chocolate is good before working out because of these compounds:

  • Flavonoids: Dark chocolate has lots of cocoa, and cocoa is rich in flavonoids. 70% dark chocolate has about 1.156mg of flavanols per gram, compared to natural cocoa powder's 34.6mg. These cocoa flavanols were initially identified due to their strong antioxidant action under an intense exercise regime [1].
  • Theobromine: This is a kinder, milder relative of caffeine with a modest stimulant effect on the mind and other elements that encourage relaxation to help you tolerate exercise [2].
  • Tryptophan: This is a building block for the production of the relaxing brain chemical serotonin [3].
  • Polyphenols: This compound helps with the decreased buildup of lipid and protein oxidation byproducts and increased antioxidant capability in athletes [4].

7 Benefits of Chocolate as a Pre-Workout Meal

The secret behind the powerful punch of premium dark chocolate is the cocoa bean.

Here’s what it can do.

1. Reduces Muscle Injury

A naked person hurt his elbow

Dark milk chocolate is a perfect pre-workout snack as it may help elite athletes experience fewer instances of muscle damage.

A study on healthy adults aged 30-45 showed that their levels of antioxidant agents increased after consuming dark chocolate for 30 days.

Their oxidative tension and signs of muscle damage also decreased [5].

These journal findings suggest that consuming natural antioxidants from foods like natural cocoa powder and red wine may be an easy, affordable, and delectable way to lower levels of exercise-related muscle damage.

By incorporating natural antioxidants found in foods like dark milk chocolate, you can enjoy a delicious and affordable strategy to minimize exercise-related muscle damage.

Choosing the perfect pre-workout snack can contribute to a more productive and satisfying exercise session.

2. Cocoa Increases Blood Flow

Chocolate helps to promote healthy blood flow and cardiovascular function in general.

That's because dark chocolate contains compounds known as flavonoids, which have numerous health benefits for the cardiovascular system.

These include promoting healthy blood flow and maintaining ideal levels of cholesterol and blood pressure [6].

"Flavanol occurs naturally in higher amounts in dark chocolates, which have significant antioxidant properties. However, consuming large unnecessary amounts of even the darkest of chocolates might have a detrimental effect on your body's composition"

- Susan Kitchen, Certified Dietician

Since blood transports oxygen and nutrients to muscle while also eliminating waste molecules like carbon dioxide and lactic acid, efficient blood flow to the muscles during and after exercise may maximize performance and post-exercise recovery fuel [7].

3. Reduced Post-Workout Inflammation

An inflammation in his neck muscles

There have been claims that cocoa has inflammation-relieving qualities.

It contains a variety of phytochemicals, such as polyphenols, which have been found to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and a favorable impact on pain [8].

4.  Reduced Coronary Artery Diseases

Regular milk chocolate consumption is linked to a lower cardiovascular and coronary heart disease risk.

It most likely happens because the molecules in cocoa make blood less "sticky" and aid in preventing arterial plaque buildup.

Related:  Is Pre-Workout Bad for Your Heart? (Explained by a Doctor)

These same substances are also thought to lessen the risk of stroke [9].

5. Reduced Diabetes Risk

A high blood sugar result

Consuming dark chocolate may increase insulin sensitivity and lower levels of proteins linked to inflammation in the body, which may lower the chance of developing diabetes [10].

6. Relieves Stress

If you eat chocolate in moderation, it might not be as harmful to you as you may have thought.

According to studies, eating one ounce of dark chocolate every day for two weeks helped anxious people's cortisol levels and mood [11].

Working out when you're relaxed allows you to maximize your output.

7. Dark Chocolate Lowers Junk Cravings

Stack of dark chocolate

Dark chocolate makes you feel fuller longer than lighter-colored chocolates because the fiber in the cocoa bean improves satiety.

According to research, dark chocolate can reduce appetites for fatty, sweet, and salty foods [12].

If you want to lose or maintain a healthy, stable weight, this is a positive feedback loop.


How Does Chocolate Affect Athletes?

Chocolate affects athletes by improving their blood flow during exercise and facilitating muscle recovery post-workout.

Does Chocolate Improve Performance?

Yes, chocolate improves performance because dark chocolate contains a high flavonoid content that boosts glycogen stores.

Does Chocolate Give You a Good Pump?

Yes, chocolate gives you a good pump because it has Theobromine found in cocoa. The pump effect exceeds the minimum physiologically relevant change when working out.


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