This is a guest post from Alex Eriksson.
Eriksson is the founder of Anabolic Health, a men’s health blog dedicated to providing honest and research backed advice for optimal male hormonal health. Anabolic Health aspires to become a trusted resource where men can come and learn how to fix their hormonal problems naturally, without pharmaceuticals. Check out anabolichealth.com to learn more about Alex and his work. You can also find him on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook.
When it comes to changing the way your body looks, diet and exercise need to work in tandem to achieve desired results. But what is also known is the fact that the diet we are forced to follow is usually bland, and severely lacking in variety. Luckily, all hope is not lost, as there are small treats we can take advantage of to keep our sanity in check.
One such of those treats? Dark Chocolate.
Dark chocolate is not bad for you as you may have been led to believe (other varieties are not good options), but can in fact assist your efforts to change your body significantly.
Let’s learn some ways dark chocolate can help you.
Why Is Dark Chocolate Good?
Do you know what dark chocolate is? If not, it is the type of chocolate that is referred to as “rich”, having a characteristic mild bittersweet taste. In addition to the taste, however, is one major component that differentiates dark chocolate from the milk varieties; its epicatechin content. Epicatechin is what is responsible for virtually all of the benefits of dark chocolate, so it is essential that you consume high quality varieties (ideally containing 70% of more epicatechin content). Doing so ensures you receive all the possible benefits your physique deserves.
Here are the most significant ways dark chocolate can help you achieve the body you’ve always wanted:
Dark Chocolate Promotes Accrual Of Lean Muscle
Did you know your body does not want to carry around excess muscle? Yes, ideally your body wants to be very lean, and has built in mechanisms to fight muscle gain. One of these adaptations is a protein called myostatin, which restricts the extent to which muscles can grow. And this is exactly where dark chocolate can help. The epicatechin found in dark chocolate is able to inhibit myostatin, according to findings of a study, which allows your efforts in the gym and diligent nutrition to show.
Dark Chocolate Can Boost Testosterone Levels
You can have the most perfect training routine and on point diet, but if your testosterone levels are sub-par, you will have a bad time. But what did you know, dark chocolate can help you out here as well! A study conducted found that low dose epicatechin consumed daily translated to increases in levels of testosterone, even though it was done on rodents. This was accomplished by stimulating the pituitary gland in the brain, which leads to the testes themselves increasing production of testosterone. Even though these findings were on rodents, there’s no reason for you to not consume a little every day as well, since it may be just as effective in humans.
Dark Chocolate Can Fight The Negative Effects Of The Stress Hormone Cortisol
Cortisol is the adversary of testosterone. As the levels of one go up, the other inversely goes down, which is not what we want testosterone to do. This is especially a big issue as nowadays far too often cortisol levels are higher than normal, with a corresponding testosterone level lower than what should be expected.
Similar to the way insulin acts in diabetics, many of us walk around with some degree of cortisol resistance; characterized by chronically high levels of this hormone, even though its potency is very weak. Thus, the body keeps secreting more and more into blood, in an effort to handle stress. But this just keeps making things worse.
Luckily, epicatechin found in dark chocolate can blunt the development of cortisol resistance, greatly improving your levels of testosterone in the process. You need to keep cortisol in check, as its adverse effects are far reaching and can lead to further health maladies down the road.
Dark Chocolate Is Good For Blood Flow
Without a good delivery system, many nutrients find it difficult to enter muscle cells, along with waste materials not being removed in a timely fashion. This leads to premature failure during your workout and will restrict your recuperative abilities afterwards.
Luckily, this is another area dark chocolate can help out with also, as it is an effective natural vasodilator being included in popular pre-workout products for its blood flow enhancing properties. Blood flow is also essential for more than muscle pumps and nutrient delivery, as it can also enhance the quality of your erections.
Another way it likely helps improve blood flow is by enhancing the structural integrity of blood vessels themselves, so that they are more flexible and able to accommodate changes in blood pressure. These benefits were confirmed via a study.
Dark Chocolate Increases Glucose Uptake In Muscle Cells
Insulin is a very anabolic hormone, which plays a key role in the muscle building process. However, insulin sensitivity is important, as insulin can either increase glucose uptake via muscle cells, or its storage as fat. and this is where dark chocolate comes in. as you consume carbohydrates in a constant pattern (such as multiple times daily), your insulin gradually gets less and less efficient at shuttling it into muscles, making more go into fat cells instead. However, consumption of 100g of epicatechin rich dark chocolate was found to increase insulin sensitivity, promoting glucose entry into muscle cells, as opposed to fat. This effect ensures more muscle is built, less fat is retained and is the basis for many companies including cacao extract in supplements known as nutrient partitioners.
Epicatechin From Dark Chocolate Helps To Suppress Cravings
Cravings can derail the best diet plans, simply because they are difficult to deal with. Cravings may not be the result of true hunger, but rather psychological impulses to foods that deliver a “feel good” shot of endorphins. Dark chocolate can help keep you on track with your diet plan, as it can boost levels of the “satiety” hormone named Ghrelin, which tells your brain you’ve had enough. This is another hormone that people develop resistance to, so that its potency or threshold for adequate signaling is never truly met, and you are left feeling a little hungry all the time. It is the epicatechin itself that has this benefit of suppressing cravings, as a study comparing epicatechin with epicatechin free versions of cacao found out.
Epicatechin rich dark chocolate should be added to your diet plan as it can easily change the game. However, if your macros are very tight, it may be wiser to consume an effective epicatechin supplement, as they are virtually devoid of calories.