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Eat a massive chunk of dark chocolate every day to see your TT performance improve...

If you’ve ever needed an excuse to eat more chocolate, and let’s face it, who hasn’t - we might have it here for you - just in time for the festive season.

Researchers at Kingston University have found that dark chocolate, consumed daily, can improve a cyclist’s performance in a two minute time trial - and improve the chocoholic’s gas exchange threshold for more prolonged cycling perforance.

The authors found that dark chocolate “is abundant in flavanols which have been reported to increase the bioavailability and bioactivity of nitric oxide.”

This, they discovered, meant that daily consumption of 40g of dark chocolate (sadly the white stuff did nothing at all) “reduced the oxygen cost of moderate intensity exercise and may be an effective ergogenic aid for short-duration moderate intensity exercise.”

The research builds on some we reported back in 2011, in which researchers at the University of California, San Diego, discovered that epicatechin, a component of cocoa which is commonly found in dark chocolate, can significantly boost heart and leg muscle performance in mice.

Their findings are said to be applicable to humans and therefore suggest that consuming a small amount of dark chocolate on a regular basis can enhance leg strength and endurance as well as providing benefits at a mitochondrial or cellular level.

Consuming epicatechin is already known to decrease the likelihood of a person suffering high blood pressure, heart disease or strokes. This latest research appears to show that it can have a much shorter term benefit when it comes to athletic performance.

So if Santa is planning to stuff a few chocolate coins into your stocking, keep your fingers crossed they’re dark, and certainly don’t feel guilty about demolishing them all before breakfast…

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.