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Chapter 16

The Role of Chocolate in Exercise Performance Louise M. Burke

Modern sports nutrition guidelines offer athletes an important tool in the achievement of their sporting potential, with goals and strategies being developed from the outcomes of rigorous scientific research. Sports nutrition encompasses issues in the everyday or training diet, which promote the health of the athlete and optimize the benefits of training (Table 16.1). Special strategies can be undertaken before, during and after exercise to enhance performance and recovery; these are particularly relevant to the competition setting (Table 16.1). While the importance of these issues is most evident in the case of élite athletes, many apply equally well to the much larger number of committed recreational athletes and people undertaking regular exercise. Therefore, this chapter refers to all such people as athletes.

The purpose of this chapter is to review the role of chocolate, and chocolate bars in particular, in the achievement of optimal sports performance. It is difficult to assess the role of a single food, or even a group of foods in the nutrition of athletes. Generally, a menu based on food variety is promoted to ensure adequate nutrient intake and eating pleasure. Table 16.1 illustrates the diversity of sports nutrition goals which vary between athletes and sports, and the period of the sporting calendar. Furthermore, individuals may be able to use a number of foods, or combinations of foods, to meet a specific nutritional goal, according to their personal preference and previous experience.

Since carbohydrate is the primary nutrient supplied by a chocolate bar, this review focuses on the acute intake of carbohydrate and exercise performance. Investigations of carbohydrate intake before, during and after exercise are examined, and studies in which chocolate bars have served as the carbohydrate feeding are indicated.

To consider whether the results of carbohydrate-feeding studies can be applied to chocolate, issues such as the effects of adding fat and protein to carbohydrate, and differences between liquid and solid feedings, are reviewed.

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