This study investigated the effects of regular consumption of dark chocolate (DC), rich in cocoa polyphenols, on plasma metabolites, hormones, and markers of oxidative stress after prolonged exhaustive exercise. Twenty active men cycled at 60% maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) for 1.5 hr, with the intensity increased to 90% VO2max for a 30-s period every 10 min, followed by a ride to exhaustion at 90% VO2max. In the 2 wk before exercise participants consumed 40 g of DC or an isocarbohydrate-fat control cocoa liquor–free chocolate (CON) twice daily and once 2 hr before exercise in a randomized, counterbalanced, crossover design. Venous blood samples were taken immediately before exercise, postexercise (fixed duration), postexhaustion, and after 1 hr of recovery. F2-isoprostanes were significantly lower (post hoc tests: p < .001) at exhaustion and after 1 hr of recovery with DC. Oxidized low-density lipoproteins were significantly lower with DC (p < .001) both before and after exercise and at exhaustion. DC was also associated with ~21% greater rises in free fatty acids during exercise (main effect: p < .05). Changes in circulating glucose, insulin, glucagon, cortisol, and interleukin (IL)-6, IL-10, and IL-1ra were unaffected by treatment. Time to exhaustion at 90% VO2max was not significantly different between trials (398 ± 204 and 374 ± 194 s for DC and CON, respectively). These results suggest that regular DC intake is associated with reduced oxidative-stress markers and increased mobilization of free fatty acids after exercise but has no observed effect on exercise performance.
Allgrove, Farrell, and Gleeson are with the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK. Williamson and Cooper are with the Bioanalytical Science Dept., Nestlé Research Center, Lausanne, Switzerland.