Need a Natural Pre-Workout Option? How Cacao Can Help You
Want to have an energized workout session?
Chocolate may just be your best food yet.
If this sounds too good to be true, well,
it may have something to do with what type of chocolate you are thinking of.
No, we’re not talking about the binge-y kind of chocolate you are imagining. We’re talking about cacao – pure, unadulterated dark chocolate with a rich, robust flavor.
Add this to your pre-workout shake and you can enjoy better muscle recovery and growth.
What is Cacao?
Cacao has its roots from the Mayan civilization, believed to be the people who first cultivated the cacao plant around 400 AD.
Native to Central and South America, cacao beans have a rich, chocolate flavor, albeit a very bitter kind if eaten in its pure form. Processed cacao can be made into cacao powder, cacao nibs, and cacao butter.
Take note that cacao can be used to make chocolate and other chocolate-derived products, but cacao is actually NOT chocolate.
Cacao: Natural Pre-Workout Superfood
Considered an unrefined extract that has no artificial preservatives, cacao is entirely natural and contains active minerals that can give you great results.
The main feature of cacao is a flavonoid called epicatechin, which improves blood flow throughout the body. With enhanced blood circulation, the body receives the right amount of oxygen and nutrients for its various organs. In addition, toxins and waste are flushed out more efficiently.
Blood circulation impacts your workouts, as it allows the muscles to curb fatigue better, improving your physical performance.
Another key ingredient in cacao is theobromine, a stimulant that has the same effects like caffeine – promoting strength, endurance and enhanced mood levels – without the unwanted after effects from caffeine.
There are also a lot of antioxidants in cacao, such as magnesium, iron, zinc, vitamin C and more. These, along with antioxidants, help boost energy and stamina to help you endure challenging workouts.
In essence, raw cacao is an amazing superfood that has all the health benefits of chocolate without the excess sugar and fats that usually cancel out these health perks.
How to Prepare Cacao as a Pre Workout Option
There are different ways to easily incorporate raw cacao into your daily routine. Depending on your preferred way of eating cacao, as long as you have the kind that has no added preservatives and sugars, you’re ready to go. Here are some simple ways to prepare cacao:
- Blend into a smoothie
This is probably the best way to have cacao before you exercise. You can decide what ingredients will go in your smoothie, but we are also giving you a few ideas:
- 400ml warm milk or water
- 25g raw cacao powder
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- honey to sweeten
This smoothie recipe will generally taste bitter, as there’s a large portion of cacao in the mix. You may add bananas or berries to make it more pleasing to the palette.
- 2 tbsp cacao powder
- 1 tbsp chia seeds, ground/soaked
- 2 tbsp almond butter
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 1 banana (preferably frozen)
- 1 cup unsweetened milk
- ice cubes
This one’s a bit more complicated, but it will taste great with all the wonderful ingredients. Pour the milk in first, then add the rest of the ingredients as you blend until the mixture is smooth.
- Nibble on raw cacao nibs
If you want to double down on your cacao boost, you can add cacao nibs as toppings for various foods.
These are peeled and crumbled pieces of cacao beans, which can give you that nice texture and deep flavor in case you want something different than the usual cacao powder.
You can add these on your grains and smoothie bowls. If you’re up for some trail mix before hitting the gym, you can add nibs to your recipe.
Or if you want that smoothie to pack more punch, add cacao nibs as crunchy toppings!
- Flavor your bowl
Aside from smoothies, cacao powder can also be incorporated into your healthy bowl. Try adding it on some yogurt or oatmeal, and you get an instant source of energy.
Keep in mind that cacao is quite potent in taste and stimulating effect, so use just a bit for your pre-workout meal. You wouldn’t want to get too jittery from it!
- Whip up a (healthy) chocolate drink
To do this, add a tablespoon of raw cacao powder to a cup of warm nut milk. If you want it sweeter, add a bit of honey, Stevia or any other unprocessed sweetener.
When it comes to cacao, you’d want to check what you’re buying from the store. Those that say “cocoa” are usually over-processed, leaving little nutrients in the final product. So be careful about choosing only the raw and organic cacao variety so you can have all the health benefits.
- Have a piece of pure dark chocolate
Okay, so we’ve mentioned that cacao is different from chocolate, but there are brands that incorporate pure cacao powder into chocolate bars.
To get maximum benefits, pick a brand that is minimally processed and made without any additives like corn syrup, oil, and flavoring.
There’s also the cacao percentage. If the label says 100% pure dark chocolate, obviously this is the best option, as it will have no added sugar. Look for cacao content of at least 70% and more to get the most benefits.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can eat a bunch of chocolate bars in one sitting. Always watch your portions when eating chocolate bars.
Cacao is one great superfood that you can easily incorporate to your pre-workout routine. This ingredient can significantly increase your energy and endurance, and help maintain your blood circulation at its optimal level.
It’s so easy to add cacao to your daily diet. Just make sure to use only raw and pure cacao when preparing your food, so you can experience its full health benefits.