Benefits Of Dark Chocolate After Exercise


Dark chocolate possesses a wealth of benefits for the body. Not only is it a significant antioxidant and source of nutrition, there’s evidence to show that it improves mental health, blood flow, protects the skin against the sun, and is of benefit to major organs including the brain and heart. 

Our bodies are particularly receptive to nutrition after exercise. This is well known when it comes to protein intake and muscle growth, but what are the benefits of consuming dark chocolate after exercise?

Dark chocolate after exercise

Nutritions we can get from dark chocolate

Cocoa solids, the defining ingredient of dark chocolate, contains a mass of nutrients. 

Here are a few: 

  • Copper 
  • Magnesium
  • Zinc 
  • Potassium 
  • Iron 
  • Flavonoids

Copper comprises around 3.8mg per 100g of cocoa.1 It is so rich in copper that it has been used to treat copper deficiency, alongside supplements, with proven results.2

Magnesium makes up about 2.5% of the content of some dark chocolates.3 It supports bone growth, energy absorption, and there is some evidence to show that it can aid with diabetes, migraines, and mitigate cardiovascular issues.4

Dark chocolate contains a significant amount of zinc. Zinc helps heal damaged tissues, is a part of DNA, promotes cell growth and is an important part of a functioning immune system.5

As can be found in this article by Klarity, dark chocolate is a high-potassium food. Potassium ensures good function of the nerves and muscles, helps the body regulate its heartbeat, and is vital for a healthy metabolism.6

The US department of agriculture states that we will find around 13.9 milligrams of iron per 100g of cocoa powder. Iron is a key component of the blood.7 

Flavonoids act as powerful antioxidants with anti-inflammatory and beneficial immune effects.8 They are found in most plants and are responsible for the vibrant colours of fruits and vegetables.8

Benefits of dark chocolate after exercise

It is important to eat after exercise. During exercise the body burns key nutrients which must be restored to ensure health. Dark chocolate can not only replenish supplies of vital nutrients, but due to its influence on the cardiovascular and nervous systems, prove to have more far-reaching benefits including the reduction of oxidative stress.

Antioxidants are produced by the body and vital in combating free radicals and reducing oxidative stress, a leading cause of obesity, cancer and diabetes.9  This study suggests that a combination of exercise and dark chocolate consumption, ideally at different times, increases the body’s antioxidant reserves. 

Reduced oxygen cost of exercise has been associated with the consumption of dark chocolate.10 Dark chocolate promotes the body’s generation of nitric oxide which plays a large part in vascular relaxation, improving blood flow and reducing blood pressure.11 This promotes oxygenation of the blood, thus reducing the strain on the lungs and heart to circulate as much much blood resulting in improved exercise performance. 

It is well known that cocoa is beneficial for muscle recovery. The anti-inflammatory and oxidative stress reducing properties of cocoa reduce the swelling of muscles and soreness, encouraging blood flow which allows key nutrients to reach muscles and repair them.12

Several studies indicate that cocoa powder and dark chocolate consumption reduces fatigue and promote exercise stamina.10,12 

There is some evidence to show that dark chocolate may be beneficial in combating hypertension.13 This myriad of health benefits coupled with the endorphin release associated with dark chocolate means that combining its consumption with exercise can provide a significant mental health boost.14,15

Is it okay to eat dark chocolate after every exercise?

It is the general view that eating small amounts of dark chocolate everyday is perfectly acceptable and good for general health. This study looked at the effect of eating dark chocolate every day on elite football players. They were encouraged to eat two 20g portions of dark chocolate everyday to aid recovery and improve performance. The study shows no detriment with this level of consumption and so this should be taken as a good indicator of an acceptable daily amount. 

How much is enough?

There is some contention about this. One study indicates that consuming 20g of chocolate daily may increase resting energy expenditure and suggests a larger dose may even inhibit skeletal muscle adaptation to exercise.16 However, there are no other supporting studies to suggest that this may always be the case, with most studies showing the contrary. A significant factor might be that the study in question only gave chocolate supplements to subjects over the course of 30 days, whereas many other studies acted over the course of around 60 days. Perhaps there is an adjustment period which needs to be accounted for. 

Remember, we are considering dark chocolate here, which is known to be reduced in sugars and fats when compared with milk chocolate. If consuming a cocoa product other than dark chocolate, the NHS has some advice on how much sugar to consume a day. 

Things to remember

  • The higher the percentage of cocoa powder in the chocolate, the greater the benefits. 
  • Consuming dark chocolate in the day, not immediately before exercise, may have benefits for blood flow and exercise performance. 
  • Dark chocolate has been shown to reduce high blood pressure (hypertension). 
  • It will reduce inflammation and encourage muscle repair. 
  • It has a sizable impact on mental health. 


Dark chocolate is a natural source of many nutrients. Studies show that consuming a small amount after exercise will encourage good blood flow, muscle repair and cell regeneration. The oxidative stress influence must not be overlooked, hinting at the reduction of free radicals and a corresponding lowering of risk of cancers and obesity. 

With a lower sugar content, dark chocolate should be the preferred choice over milk or white chocolate

This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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George Chowdhury

Msc Robotics and Computation, WiFi, UCL
George Chowdhury is a science and technology writer who draws upon a wealth of academic and industry experience to democratise the state-of-the-art.

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