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Should you eat chocolate after a workout?

Eating an apple rather than chocolate after a workout because you’re trying to be ‘healthy’? You could be making a big mistake. Yes, apples, carrots, celery and other fruit and veg are an essential part of any diet, but they’re no good for a post-workout snack on their own. 

Dark chocolate, on the other hand, provides a mix of protein, carbs, vitamins and minerals – all of which can help your body to recover faster.

Why do you need a post-workout snack?

Along with calories, your body burns a lot of electrolytes, glycogen and other nutrients during exercise. It’s important to restore these within 30 minutes of exercising to help your body to recover. If you don’t, you risk muscle aches, cramps and inflammation.

However, it’s important to choose the right snack. While it’s tempting to grab a packet of crisps or handful of sweets, neither will give your body what it truly needs.

The best post-workout snacks

Your body needs both protein and carbohydrates after exercise. Your muscles use glycogen when you’re working out. If you don’t replenish this glycogen by eating carbs, your body will find it harder to recover. (Cue aches, pain and fatigue.)

Exercise also causes micro-tears in your muscle tissue. Protein helps to repair these tears and rebuild the tissue. 

So, a good post-workout snack will include both protein and carbs. However, the best recovery snacks offer a whole more…

Why it’s a great idea to eat dark chocolate after a workout

Dark chocolate contains high levels of cacao, which has a number of health benefits. Cacao is:

  • Rich in theobromine – reduces post-exercise inflammation
  • High in magnesium – helps to prevent muscle cramps
  • A source of protein – rebuilds muscle tissue
  • A good source of glycogen-restoring carbs – helps muscles to recover
  • High in flavonoids and other antioxidants – reduces inflammation and improves blood flow

What are flavonoids?

Flavonoids are plant-based antioxidants. They have numerous health benefits, including post-workout. According to Neuroscientist Dr Rachel Taylor, “The anti-inflammatory flavonoids in dark chocolate and cacao nibs improve blood flow. They help reduce inflammation. They also help the body get rid of the toxins that clog you up.”

One of the flavanols found in dark chocolate is epicatechin, which enhances muscle growth, improves strength and helps blood flow

Is it good to eat milk chocolate after a workout?

It’s better to choose dark chocolate that’s at least 70% cacao. Milk chocolate might give you a quick boost, but it has lower levels of cacao and higher levels of sugar.

Katie Tincello is a Level 2 personal trainer and a big fan of eating dark chocolate after exercising because of its “high natural protein content, lots of antioxidants and flavanols for easing muscle repair and inflammation, plus some natural endorphins. Its magnesium levels can help with magnesium deficiency, commonly seen in highly active people because it has a higher ‘burn rate’ in bodies with higher cortisol levels.”

Why do athletes drink chocolate milk after a workout?

Mo Farah and other athletes swear by a glass of chocolate milk post-workout. Chocolate milk gives your body a balance of protein and carbs, plus the added benefits of cocoa, such as theobromine and magnesium. Chocolate milk after running has also been found to rehydrate the body better than either water or electrolyte drinks, and help muscles to recover faster than sports drinks. 

We recommend using whole milk, rather than skimmed, as studies have shown it’s more effective at promoting muscle growth. For the best results, make your own chocolate milk with cacao powder. This gives you all the benefits of dark chocolate without the sugar of store-bought chocolate milk.

And, of course, if you’re exercising on a cold day and don’t fancy cold milk, a warming mug of cocoa has the same benefits.

What foods should you avoid after working out?

We recommend avoiding snacks that are high in refined sugar, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. While the sugar will give you energy, you could also end up with a sugar crash later on.

Salty foods also aren’t great, as they can lower your potassium levels, and your body needs that potassium to recover after a workout.

5 easy post-workout snacks

Fancy something a bit more substantial than cocoa or chocolate milk for your post-workout snack? Try one of these…

Post-workout snack: Dark chocolate flapjack

These flapjacks give you extra carbs from the oats as well as all the goodness of dark chocolate. (They also taste delicious.)

Cooling post-workout refuel: Mint Choc Chip Banana Smoothie

Working out on a hot day and need help cooling down? Try our ice cold Mint Choc Chip Banana Smoothie for a refreshing and tasty post-workout body refuel! Packed with protein, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats and antioxidants, this recipe is everything you need to refuel and power your day.

Post-workout breakfast: No-bake breakfast tart

If you work out first thing, this tart is the perfect breakfast. It’s rich in protein, carbs, fibre and antioxidants, and it provides one of your five a day.

Gluten-free post-workout snack: Chocolate quinoa crunchy bar

Many of our recipes are gluten-free. This one is particularly good as a post-workout snack as it’s rich in protein, carbs, theobromine, magnesium and other vitamins and minerals that your aching muscles will thank you for.

Easy post-workout snack: Chocolate Almond Date Bites

These Chocolate Almond Date Bites are a delicious, healthy snack that’s packed with antioxidants, healthy fats, and protein. Using cacao rather than chocolate allows you to control the sugar content and ensure you pack in antioxidants and iron from the cacao, that will help your post-workout body recovery. Food Thoughts Organic Cacao Powder which is naturally prepared and non-alkalised, so it retains more antioxidants, iron, potassium, and calcium than other brands.

Chocolate after workout

To sum up, dark chocolate is rich in theobromine, magnesium, glycogen and other vitamins and minerals. Eating dark chocolate after a workout may help your muscles to recover faster. It can also help to repair muscle-tissue, prevent cramps and ease inflammation. And if you add cacao to milk, it’s better for hydrating than water or energy drinks.