I think that something we can all agree on is that everybody loves chocolate.
Some love it more than others, others don’t really care, while some cannot live without their daily chocolate fix.
Even if you are very healthy and you try your best to stay away from anything sugary and sweet, it’s often hard to do away with all the yummy goodness.
I sure as hell know that nothing can beat the taste of my chocolate flavored protein powder – shoutout to MyProtein for their amazing Chocolate Smooth flavor (definitely one of the best out there).
The bad news however is that chocolate is not really one of the healthiest products on the markets as it’s usually high in sugar and packed with fats (most of which are saturated).
Most chocolate goods are even bundled with trans fats that are extremely bad for not just your waist line but also for your health in general.
Contrary to popular belief however chocolate (dark chocolate that is) is actually a very healthy food packed with dietary fiber, protein and good fats as well as many other health boosting micronutrients such as iron, magnesium, copper, zinc, potassium, and selenium.
Chocolate is also packed with organic compounds that function as antioxidants. And even more interestingly dark chocolate has been shown to be one of the most powerful antioxidants that disarm harmful free particles. Chocolate proved to be a much stronger antioxidant than blueberries and Acai berries, which are literally infamous for their antioxidant properties (read more about it here).
Chocolate is also known to act as a really good pre-workout food as it contains Theobromine – an alkaloid that has similar properties as caffeine, but less effective.
It’s also good for your cardiovascular (hearth) health, improves brain function, relieves stress, and helps fights cancer cells.
All of these sound amazing and honestly they make chocolate seem less of a bad and unhealthy food that you eat when you’re feeling down, and more as a super food that can help you prevent a number of illnesses, improve your general health and even potentially help you lose some body fat along the way.
What if I told you that chocolate can also help you gain more muscle mass?
Yeah you heard me right – chocolate can facilitate muscle growth and development.
I completely understand why this might be hard for you to accept. My reaction when I first heard this was quite similar to yours – solid denial.
Stay with me, it will start making sense as you continue reading…
Chocolate is believed to help build muscle because it contains the flavanol – Epicatechin. It has been hypothesizes by many that Epicatechin can invoke two major muscle building properties: decreasing myostatin and increasing follistatin.
A study carried out in 2014 seeking potential methods to diminish the effects of sarcopenia (where we lose muscle mass as we age) showed that with roughly 150mg of Epicatechin supplementation every day the middle-aged subjects had a 16.6% decrease in myostatin and a 49.2% follistatin increase.
Ok, that’s great and all, but what does this actually mean?
Myostatin is a regulating protein that controls the rate of muscle growth in your body, making sure that it doesn’t get outta hand. It is also known to create a so-called “genetic sealing” – the more myostatin present in your body, the lower the amount of muscle mass that you can build.
As seen in some animals, the lack of myostatin can cause unnatural and INSANE amounts of muscle growth. It is also believed that, genetically speaking, the lower levels of myostatin concentration in some bodybuilders and fitness models is the primary reason why they can grow muscle quicker or in larger quantities than others – i.e. they are genetically gifted.
ASAPScience even made a video about it:
The protein follistatin serves as an antagonist to myostatin as it diminishes myostatin’s muscle-building-limiting effect.
Or put simply, if your goal is to build muscle you want myostatin reduced and follistatin increased – which is exactly what Epicatechin is shown to do.
The best part is that the necessary amount of Epicatechin can be obtained through chocolate with the only downside being that you would have to eat relatively high amounts of chocolate if you want to hit the 150mg Epicatechin threshold.
However, not all chocolate is created equal and it is worth noting that the higher the cocoa concentration or cocoa purity the stronger the concentration of Epicatechin in it.
What this means is that dark chocolate or pure cocoa powder is far better than confectionery chocolate as they are much lower in additives such as sugar and dairy and have a much higher Epicatechin concentration.
A rule of thumb is that 50% cocoa dark chocolate has 150mg of Epicatechin in every 100g of chocolate and 85% cocoa dark chocolate contains the same amount for every 60g. This is anywhere from 350 to 600 calories from nothing but chocolate, every day. Obviously this may be a problem for those who are trying to lower their total body fat percentage. Whether consuming smaller amounts of Epicatechin will have any effect on muscle gains is yet to be seen.
Obviously, cocoa powder (which has the highest purity out of all other chocolate products) would therefore contain more Epicatechin and would be a healthier option for you.
According to one study the country of origin of the cocoa beans also has an effect on the Epicatechin concentration – with Sulawesi being the highest (1200mg Epicatechin per 100g of cocoa beans) followed by Malaysia (800mg per 100g of cocoa beans).
So you might wanna make sure that your chocolate is coming from those two places – obvious joke, don’t start reading the labels at the back looking for that Malaysian or Sulawesi chocolate (unless you are keen on doing so).
The Epicatechin benefits do not stop there – It has been shown that the flavanol can potentially increase testosterone production (ultimately leading to more muscle growth)(study); improve your insulin sensitivity (which can be beneficial for weight loss purposes); increased ghrelin production (which helps suppress appetite)(read more about it); and can even increase nitric oxide (which increases blood flow to the muscles and can thus help you have better workouts at the gym)(study), as well as reduce blood pressure (study).
It is also worth nothing that chocolate is not just the only food source of Epicatechin it’s simply the one with the highest concentration. There are many other sources such as: apples, berries, ginger, grape seeds and even wine (which may be good news for all of you wine lovers out there)(read more).
Obviously chocolate, namely dark chocolate, is a very healthy snack food that could potentially help you build more muscle.
Does this mean that you can just eat dark chocolate and you’re going to start growing BIG and muscular. Probably not.
There are a lot of other things you need to make sure are in check such as your nutrition and your workout program. Those always come first. Are you eating enough, are you eating the right nutrients, are you training with the right intensity at the gym, are you using full ROM, are you focusing on eccentric movement?
All of those questions (and more) need to be covered before thinking how chocolate will help you get SWOLE.
That being said, it’s truly worth giving chocolate a chance and seeing whether there would be any noticeable difference in the amount of muscle you’re going to gain in the weeks to come.
Tell me what you think
In the comments below tell me what you think about this whole chocolate thing. Is it worth testing out or is it just a waste of time. Or if you’ve tried it out for yourself, tell me all about it – has it worked for you at all?
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