Chocolate is incredibly popular, almost universally so. But it is also seen as a “bad” food by many, and it is often one of the first things to be banned from most healthy eating diets. But do bodybuilders eat chocolate?
Bodybuilders may eat chocolate if they feel like a treat, but they won’t eat chocolate for its health benefits. Eating chocolate is more likely during a bulk than a cut. Successful bodybuilders know how to eat enough chocolate to satisfy a craving, without having it affect their diet.
In this article, we will look at whether bodybuilders eat chocolate, whether chocolate is good for building muscle, and how to manage chocolate cravings while on a diet.
Bodybuilders are human, not robots. They are just as likely to crave chocolate as anyone else. Whether they eat it or not depends on a number of factors:
#1 is pretty simple. Most bodybuilders split their training into two distinct periods, a bulking period and a cutting period. The idea is that during a bulk, they will eat more food to create a calorie surplus. This allows them to train harder, and to build more muscle. During most bulks, bodybuilders are more cavalier with what they eat.
While on a cut, bodybuilders will gradually lower their daily calorie totals to create a growing calorie deficit. During a cut, bodybuilders will aim to burn as many calories as they can while eating less and less. This will lead to burning body fat, helping them create an incredibly lean physique.
Some bodybuilders will find ways to fit chocolate into their diet, even during a cut, but this is influenced by #2 the form of diet they are following, #3 how rigidly they follow the rules, and #4 whether they enjoy chocolate enough to add it in.
A diet such as If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) is much more likely to contain chocolate, even if it is only a little bit. This is because the diet is more flexible. It is for this reason that I believe that IIFYM when followed correctly is the best diet for bodybuilders.
While there are a few potential benefits to eating dark chocolate, realistically they are not going to lead to muscle building. Chocolate is a delicious treat, and when eaten in its purest form it can have some small health benefits, but these are barely noticeable in the grand scheme of things.
There’s an interesting article by Muscle & Strength on the subject which you can check out here.
The idea is that chocolate contains epicatechin (a flavanol) which stimulates the production of follistatin. The follistatin interrupts myostatin (a protein that regulates muscle growth) allowing you to build muscle.
Examine.com provides an excellent rebuttal:
To get 150 mg epicatechin per day you would need to eat about 120 g of the most epicatechin-rich chocolate bars, and more than 200 g of most dark chocolate. This would contain a considerable amount of calories. Many dark chocolate products have much less, and the percentage of cocoa can’t fully explain the differences, so you’d have to have detailed information on the products you use.
The reality is that if epicatechin actually does improve muscle building capabilities (and it is a big if at the moment), then supplementation would be the way to go. Chocolate is an unreliable source, and due to the calories, it would probably do more harm than good.
The media does this all the time, it sensationalises science in an attempt to grab the reader’s attention. Chocolate is unlikely to help build muscle, and even if it did, the difference would be absolutely minimal. But saying “flavanol supplement may lead to a negligible difference in muscle strength, but more research is required” doesn’t get eyeballs on the screen.
Dark chocolate does offer several health benefits. It is a decent source of fibre, contains a lot of antioxidants, may reduce your risk of heart disease, and could help increase blood flow. But this is very dark chocolate we’re talking about here, not your usual chocolate bar.
You’re looking at chocolate with a cocoa percentage of at least 70%, anything lower and you are unlikely to see any benefits. Also, as with epicatechin (see above) the benefits may not be as huge as some news articles imply.
Personally, I would say that a small amount of high cocoa chocolate could easily be part of a healthy diet. But that does not mean that eating chocolate regularly is necessarily a good thing. Quality and quantity are important here.
I am not a massive fan of designating foods as good or bad. I have a guest blog post written for me by Fabienne Marier which is titled “Stop ascribing moral value to your food” and it is absolutely superb. She talks about the dangers of thinking of food as “junk” or associating certain foods with feelings of guilt.
It just doesn’t work, and can cause a lot of issues down the line. If you enjoy chocolate, then I encourage you to continue eating it. That being said, if you eat an entire chocolate Easter egg for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, then you are probably going to gain weight.
I’ve got clients who feel that if they take a single bite of chocolate they will end up eating fistfuls of the stuff. I would also class myself as at risk of this! So what do I recommend? Don’t store chocolate in the house. Buy it as a treat once per week, and pay attention to how much you are buying.
As we’ve learned, not all chocolate is equal. A high cocoa chocolate bar may contain the same calories as a low cocoa bar (though often it doesn’t) but it is much healthier. Meaning that swapping the two is a positive move.
These are just some options, and many of you may be absolutely fine eating chocolate every day. If the rest of your diet is well looked after, and you are seeing progress, then keep it up. I’m not here to police your chocolate intake.
Matt Smith is the owner of Beer N Biceps. He has a degree in Sports Science, 10 years of experience working in the fitness industry, and has written for hundreds of fitness websites. He is a lover of good quality beer and believes that drinking in moderation can form part of a healthy lifestyle.