If you’re dieting, the best kind of chocolate is no chocolate. However, if you’re allowing yourself a small cheat, then go with dark chocolate. In an experiment performed at the University of Copenhagen, 16 students were given 100 grams of chocolate for breakfast on two different occasions. One morning they were given dark chocolate and the other milk chocolate. When they ate dark chocolate, the subjects reported being less hungry afterward and ate fewer calories at lunch compared to when they ate milk chocolate. The dark chocolate had slightly more calories, as well as more grams of fat and protein, but fewer carbs and sugar than the milk chocolate. It’s likely that because of the greater fat content in dark chocolate it passes more slowly through the digestive tract, causing the release of appetite-blunting hormones. Considering that dark chocolate is much richer in antioxidants, it’s a much better choice when you cheat.
Just Your Cup Of Tea
A mug of coffee or green tea might be the next big thing when it comes to post-workout beverages. A study published in the Journal Of Strength And Conditioning Research examined the fat-burning effects of ingesting caffeine and polyphenols (a type of antioxidant) after an intense 30-minute sprint interval workout. In the hours after the workout, the subjects who consumed the combo burned significantly more calories and oxidized more fat stores than the placebo group. It should be noted that the supplement group also experienced elevated blood pressure and heart rate after the workout as well. Coffee is a convenient source of both caffeine and polyphenols, as is green tea, albeit not as strong as coffee. Cocoa powder, dark-red berries, sweet cherries, and plums are also loaded with polyphenols and can be easily tossed into a post-workout shake.
Protect Your Muscle
It’s not about how much muscle you build, it’s about how much muscle you can keep. That’s why an Iranian study on methylsulfonylmethane, better known as MSM, is interesting. MSM has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and has been shown to improve joint health. In this study, a daily dose of MSM reduced the amount of muscle damage that occurred in an intensive cardio session. The group who took pre-workout MSM had less protein carbonyl in their blood—a sign of protein oxidation—than the group who drank only water before the workout. Each subject was given 100 milligrams per kilogram of bodyweight. This is a pretty big dose considering most studies show that 3,000 milligrams of MSM imparts its other benefits. Still, if you’re doing a lot of HIIT in order to lean out, MSM might help you save your hard-earned muscle.
No Protein? No Problem
There’s a reason no one cycles protein the way they do carbs: Because protein is awesome and you always want get plenty of it. If there are days you cannot get enough protein—you’re fasting, traveling, you’re vegan, or maybe you have a short-term medical condition—a new study shows that a daily hit of L-citrulline can help you hold onto your muscle. A study published in the journal Clinical Nutrition took eight subjects and put them on a low-protein diet for three days. On the fourth day they were given a dose of L-citruline and experienced an increase in the synthesis of new muscle protein. This action had no effect on insulin levels. More research is needed to determine the mechanism of action and L-citrulline’s effect on muscle breakdown, but for now it looks like a promising solution if you ever have to cut back on your daily protein.
A new study shows that vitamin C could be called vitamin G, for “Get off your ass.” Published in the journal Nutrients, the research shows that men with slight deficiencies in vitamin C had very little motivation to work out. When subjects were given an extra 100 milligrams a day of vitamin C, exercise participation increased. One theory is that the extra vitamin C kept them from getting colds, which typically scuttled their workouts. The scientists also point to previous research showing that vitamin C supplementation reduces perception of effort during exercise, which helps inspire physical activity. The antioxidant activity of vitamin C may also play a role, as oxidative stress is related to fatigue. Despite the findings, 100 milligrams is still a very modest dose, especially if you’re very active. If you train intensely, try to get between 500 milligrams and 3,000 milligrams a day.