The health benefits of dark chocolate are often publicized throughout social media, but you may be wondering as to whether these apply to bodybuilders as well.
Is dark chocolate good or bad for bodybuilding? Dark chocolate is good for bodybuilding because it contains fat and fibre, helping you to feel satiated, increasing your ability to stick to your diet. Since dark chocolate contains some carbs and no protein, ensure other meals contain both carbs as a lean protein.
However, there’s more to the story, including how much you should eat, meal timing, types of dark chocolate, and more.
In this article, I will provide:
- The general health benefits and macronutrient breakdown for dark chocolate
- 3 pros and cons of eating dark chocolate for bodybuilding
- How much and when to consume dark chocolate pre-and post-workout
- The best type of dark chocolate for bodybuilders
Eating Dark Chocolate for Bodybuilding: Overview
Dark chocolate includes any chocolate with between 50-90% cocoa; however, the most popular options available in store are 60%, 70% and 85%. The nutrition information for these is as follows:
Per 30g, approximately 3 squares, 60% dark chocolate contains:
- 160 calories
- 2g of protein
- 18g of carbs
- 10g of fat
Per 30g, approximately 3 squares, 70% dark chocolate contains
- 170 calories
- 3g of protein
- 14g of carbs
- 12g of fat
Per 30g, approximately 3 squares, 85% dark chocolate contains
- 165 calories
- 3g of protein
- 11g of carbs
- 14g of fat
As you can see, as the percentage of dark chocolate increases, the number of carbs decreases, and the number of fats increase. This information is important when we start talking about the pros and cons of dark chocolate.
- Dark Chocolate is a low FODMAP food, which is great for people who suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Click to check out my other low FODMAP foods that are good for bodybuilders
3 Pros of Eating Dark Chocolate For Bodybuilding
Bodybuilders have the primary goals of gaining muscle and losing fat to optimize their physique. We want to make sure we keep these goals in mind as we assess the pros and cons of eating dark chocolate for bodybuilders.
1. Dark Chocolate Can Make It Easier To Lose Weight
Dark chocolate is a rich source of fat and contains fibre. Both fat and fibre slow down digestion, this means you will feel full and satisfied longer after eating.
This is particularly beneficial for bodybuilders that are cutting. Anyone who has tried to lose weight knows that one of the biggest hurdles can be avoiding high-calorie foods and treats.
I don’t know about you but I tend to reach for those higher calorie treats when I’m hungry and unsatisfied, especially when I’ve just eaten and my meal didn’t do the trick. The more full and satisfied you can feel after each meal, the easier it will be to stick to a lower-calorie diet long-term.
Therefore, including dark chocolate in your diet is beneficial for bodybuilders as it can assist with weight loss by making it easier to stick with a lower-calorie diet.
- If you want a complete guide to eating chocolate while on a weight loss plan, read my article Can I Eat Chocolate While Cutting? (Yes, Here’s How).
2. Dark Chocolate Can Improve Digestion
Bodybuilders tend to consume a moderate carbohydrate diet, however, the majority of their carbs are often consumed pre and post-workout. Carbs eaten around a workout are generally lower in fibre. So while this is beneficial for workout performance, it can result in some slower digestion.
This is where dark chocolate can help as it provides 4g of fibre per 30g. General fibre recommendations are between 25 – 30g of fibre daily, meaning 30g of dark chocolate will provide 16% of your daily fibre. It is important to note that the fibre increases as the percentage of cocoa increases, I recommend consuming 85% or higher for these health benefits.
The most beneficial aspect for bodybuilders is that chocolate is primarily a fat source, not a carbohydrate source. This is beneficial for bodybuilders as it can be challenging to get fibre strictly from carbs consumed away from a workout, without going over your total daily carbs. Since fat is primarily consumed away from workouts, this is the optimal situation.
By incorporating dark chocolate into your diet when bodybuilding, you can improve your digestive system regularly.
This is important for overall health as this is how your body disposes of waste and toxins. Additionally, it can help improve your overall mood as poor digestive health is often linked to a reduction in mental health.
3. Dark Chocolate Has Antioxidants and Anti-Inflammatory Properties Providing General Health Benefits
Dark chocolate contains cocoa which is rich in antioxidants providing anti-inflammatory properties. Put into simple terms, these foods simply assist your body in dealing with inflammation.
Why is this important for bodybuilders? Well, inflammation is a normal part of weight training and allows for our bodies to adapt and recover.
However, if inflammation is too high you will notice a reduction in performance as your body is never able to fully recover. Consuming dark chocolate can increase your body’s ability to fight inflammation ensuring you are properly recovering after each workout.
Proper recovery is key to being able to perform at your best each and every workout session. Think about the last time you had to work out when you were quite sore. Likely you didn’t have a good workout. Therefore, to maximize performance, incorporate dark chocolate can assist with recovery.
- Check out our guide How To Gain Weight Without Eating Sugar (Sample Meal Plan)
3 Cons of Eating Dark Chocolate For Bodybuilding
Overall, while I’ll discuss a few downsides to dark chocolate, it is not difficult to mitigate these by considering the quantity of dark chocolate being consumed.
1. Dark Chocolate Does Not Provide Sufficient Protein To Build Muscle
Consuming sufficient protein is critical for muscle growth and development so your muscles have what they need to repair and recover after a workout.
Research suggests that to build muscle, a protein intake of 2.4g per kg of body weight should be consumed. For example, this means a 200lb individual (~90kg) would require approximately 206g of protein per day.
Dark chocolate only contains 2g of protein per 30g, making it not a significant source. Protein would need to be consumed from other sources throughout the day to ensure sufficient protein consumption.
2. Dark Chocolate Does Not Have the Recommended Protein to Fat Ratio for Optimal Body Composition
To consume sufficient protein without going over your daily calories, it’s also important to consider the ratio of protein to fat. If you are getting sufficient protein but the ratio to fat is too high, your overall daily calories will be above what they need to be and you will gain fat.
To optimize body composition, research shows that a ratio of 5g of protein to 1g of fat is most optimal. This will ensure you are eating the minimum amount of fat required for healthy hormones while also consuming enough protein to maximize muscle building.
Per 30g serving of dark chocolate, it contains 2g of protein and 10-14g of fat. This is a ratio of 1g of protein to 5-7.5g of fat, quite a bit off from the recommended range.
This isn’t to say that dark chocolate is bad for bodybuilders, but it does show that it is important to pair a lean protein source, such as low-fat Greek yogurt, when consuming dark chocolate to increase the ratio back to the recommended 5:1.
3. Dark Chocolate Is Calorically Dense
Dark chocolate is high in fat, which also means that it is quite calorically dense. This simply means that the physical volume of dark chocolate is much less than say a food high in carbs or protein.
This can become problematic if you are not careful in considering your portion size as you can easily eat a lot of calories worth of dark chocolate without realizing it. This can cause you to go over your daily caloric intake which may lead to fat gain in the long run.
Additionally, food like dark chocolate that is low in volume will not leave you feeling as physically full after consuming. This can result in eating a very high-calorie portion size while trying to feel physically full. For bodybuilders who are looking to maintain a lean physique, these can present challenges.
- Dark chocolate is on our list of high calorie, low protein foods (click to read more food choices that fit this category)
Can You Eat Dark Chocolate Before Workouts?
Pre-workout nutrition is important for bodybuilders as it can help maximize your gym performance. A meal high in carbs and low in fat is best to provide a quick source of energy.
So can you eat dark chocolate before a workout? Yes, you can consume dark chocolate before a workout, however, opt for a 1oz (28g) serving of 50-60% cocoa dark chocolate 30-60 minutes before a workout so your body can utilize the sugar for quick energy. Reduce the amount if any other fat sources are consumed pre-workout.
Is Dark Chocolate Good or Bad to Eat Before Workouts?
Before a workout, you want to be eating a meal high in carbs since carbs can be quickly broken down by your body and used for energy throughout your workout. Both fat and fibre slow down this digestion process, delaying the breakdown of the carbs eaten and reducing the energy available.
Since we want to maximize the energy you have available during your workout, it’s important to limit the fat in your pre-workout meal and allow our body to get its energy from the carbs consumed. A good general range I recommend is 15-20% of a meal’s calories.
Dark chocolate is a rich source of fats, which while important for a healthy diet, is not the best source of energy pre-workout. However, dark chocolate does contain carbs, particularly sugar; which is beneficial for pre-workout. Therefore the quantity consumed is an important consideration to get the benefits of the sugar without any disadvantages that come with too much fat.
- Looking for a treat to eat pre-workout? Check out our articles on Are Donuts Good or Bad For Bodybuilding? and Is Ice Cream Good or Bad For Bodybuilding?
How Much Dark Chocolate Should You Eat Before Workouts?
Dark chocolate can be consumed before a workout, if in a small enough quantity that the total fat in your pre-workout meal does not exceed 15-20% of your meal total calories. In practice, this is about 30g
To keep the fat in your pre-workout meal low, I recommend consuming no more than 30g of dark chocolate before a workout. This will provide you with 10g of fat. This will also provide 18g of carbs, 14g of which are sugar, which is a good additional boost of energy. Since sugar is the quickest for your body to digest, consume it 30-60 minutes before exercise.
When determining the amount of dark chocolate you are eating, ensure you are considering what else you are eating pre-workout. I recommend skipping other fat sources in favour of dark chocolate as it also provides sugar which most other fat sources do not.
We asked Registered Dietician, Breda Paralta, her thoughts on eating dark before your workout. She said:
“Dark chocolate can give some extra energy to your workout. It also increases endorphins which could make you go more motivated to workout. Include 1 oz 30-60 minutes before the activity”.
Can You Eat Dark Chocolate After Workouts?
Post-workout nutrition is not as hot a topic as pre-workout nutrition, but for bodybuilders that are looking to get as much muscle growth as possible, it should be a key consideration. Consuming a high carb and high protein meal will provide your body with what it needs to adequately recover and build muscle.
Can you eat dark chocolate after workouts? Yes, you can consume dark chocolate after workouts as it contains beneficial anti-inflammatory properties. However, limit it to 45g or less to maximize recovery. The amount of dark chocolate should be reduced if any other fat sources are consumed post-workout.
Is Dark Chocolate Good or Bad to Eat After Workouts?
Similar to before a workout, carbs are also important to consume after a workout. This will help replenish your body’s stored energy that is depleted throughout your workout.
In addition to carbs, it’s also important to include protein post-workout. Research shows consuming protein within the first two hours post-workout has a significant positive impact on muscle protein synthesis, otherwise known as the process of repairing and rebuilding muscle.
This process of repair and recovery is what will lead to strength and muscle growth, a key goal of bodybuilding.
Dark chocolate provides some carbohydrates and no protein so it’s best to consume along with a source of protein and carbs. A great example of this would be greek yogurt with fruit and dark chocolate.
Brenda Paralta noted that:
“After training is another good choice. It (dark chocolate) has antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that help in the recuperation process.”
Some inflammation post-workout is normal, however, too much can result in extended muscle soreness, joint pain and difficulty recovering from your workout. As you can imagine, if this is how you’re feeling multiple days after training, your gym sessions for the rest of the week will not be as effective.
Foods, like dark chocolate, that provide anti-inflammatory benefits can help assist with this recovery process along with other tools such as sleep and adequate protein consumption.
Therefore, dark chocolate is beneficial to eat post-workout but also pair with a carb and protein source for optimal recovery.
How Much Dark Chocolate Should You Eat After a Workout?
Dark chocolate is beneficial to be consumed after a workout, as long as the quantity is small enough that the total fat in your post-workout meal does not exceed the recommended range of 20-25% of your total calories. This translates to no more than 45g (approximately 5 squares) of dark chocolate chocolate
This will provide you with approximately 15g of fat as well as 25g of carbohydrates to also assist with recovery. I recommend skipping other fat sources as dark chocolate is the most optimal, providing additional carbs and antioxidants in conjunction with the fat.
Also, there is no amount of time I recommend waiting after you have done your workout to consume dark chocolate. So long as the quantity is within the recommended range, dark chocolate can be consumed anytime.
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Which Type of Dark Chocolate is Better for Bodybuilding?
Dark chocolate ranges in the percentage of cocoa from 50-90%. As the percentage of cocoa increases, the fat in the chocolate increases and the carbs and sugar decrease. Therefore, the best type of dark chocolate to consume will depend on what macro profile is most beneficial.
Around a workout, where we want the carbs to be high and the fat low, I recommend consuming a lower percentage of dark chocolate between 50-60%. This will provide the most sugar and carbs for energy with the least fat slowing down this absorption process.
For meals not around a workout, I recommend sticking to a higher percentage of chocolate, 70-85% is best. This will provide more fat and fibre leaving you feeling most full and satisfied after your meal.
Therefore, all types of dark chocolate are good for bodybuilders, but which one your choose should be based on when you are consuming dark chocolate.
Overall, the health benefits of dark chocolate outweigh the cons and therefore I recommend bodybuilders consume dark chocolate.
Pre-workout and post-workout, opt for a lower percentage of chocolate to maximize the carbs and minimize the fat so you have the most energy available. For meals that aren’t around a workout, opt for a higher percentage of chocolate so you feel full and satiated from the fat and fibre.
About The Author
Laura Semotiuk is a Precision Nutrition Level 1 certified nutrition coach. She works with athletes and active individuals looking to improve performance and develop healthy nutritional habits and behaviors. She has a passion for cooking, meal prepping, and creating simple and healthy recipes.