Credit: Miramax Films

Next time you’re about to reach for a piece of fruit, you may want to reach for some dark chocolate instead — especially if you’re on a training diet or work out regularly. Yep, you read that right. You may have heard rumors that “dark chocolate is good for you,” and a new study proved it yet again. Rishikesh Kankesh Patel, a graduate student at Kingston University, led the study and published his findings in the International Society of Sports Medicine.

It’s long been said that dark chocolate is great for our brains. It helps improve cognitive functioning and blood flow, can lower blood pressure, contains antioxidants, and even provides us with potassium and iron (!). Plus, dark chocolate has epicatechin, a plant nutrient found in cocoa, which helps oxygen flow through our cells. But, in addition, it has the stimulant phenylethylamine (PEA), which helps our brains release endorphins — which will make us happier, in general. So, dark chocolate is a win-win all-around. Sweet.

With the new chocolate study, researchers had eight male recreational cyclists “agree” to consume a bit of dark chocolate every day for two weeks. (Tough job, we know!) The results? After the two weeks, the men performed better in many physical tests — they were able to ride longer or tougher before getting tired, used less oxygen to cycle at a moderate pace, and they were able to ride further during a two-minute, “all-out time trial,” i.e., they had better results in a shorter period of time.

“Both dark chocolate and beetroot juice are known to increase nitric oxide, which is the major mechanism we believe is behind these results,” Patel said. “We found that people could effectively exercise for longer after eating dark chocolate — something that’s not been established before in this way.”

Though more test subjects may be needed (we volunteer!), the findings did show that a square or two of dark chocolate (40g) a day definitely helped the cyclists’ athletic performances. So, you may want to stock up on some! And next time a naysayer tries to shove a piece of fruit your way instead, you may want to educate them on the latest study and health benefits of dark chocolate.