When asking what you wanted to hear about in this blog I was asked “How can I eat chocolate and stay lean?”.
Usually I'd take my typical firm stance, huff a little and dismiss the question. But I've been asked this a few times now so it's probably a good time to answer the question properly.
It's a difficult question to answer because, well; if we’re being totally honest with each other it’s clearly far better to just not eat chocolate whilst trying to get lean or stay lean! There are much more useful things to spend your macro’s on.
Hooooowever, there are a number of ways you can have your cake (or chocolate) and eat it.
1Choose dark over milk
The main problem I come across when speaking to clients about why their chocoholic tendencies are being so detrimental to their goals, is that you are smashing down bar upon bar of the top branded, magically too good to be true, I feel sick, I can’t stop, just one more bite, MILK CHOCOLATE versions.
Instead of picking up your usual bar of milk chocolatey goodness, try going for the Dark chocolate option instead (at least 60% Cocoa content, the darker, the better). There are 2 main reasons this will help you.
Firstly, despite having similar calorie counts per gram, dark chocolate contains far fewer carbohydrates. With milk chocolate usually carrying around 50g carbs per 100g bar, it’s more sophisticated counterpart dark chocolate makes it far easier to avoid an insulin spike and subsequent fat storage with between 8g and 30g of carbs per 100g.
Secondly, choosing dark chocolate means you will actually benefit from some of the “new study shows chocolate is good for you” points that are so often banded about in lifestyle magazines and newspapers.
Due to the higher Cocoa content, dark chocolate has a much higher flavenoids content which act as antioxidants in the body. These flavenoids are also much more bioavailable in dark chocolate as when mixed with milk, as in milk chocolate, the antioxidants become unavailable to be used by the body.
Flavenoids may help to lower blood pressure, decrease low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, lower blood clot risk, improve cognitive performance and improve mood, according to the University of Michigan Health System.
2Don’t “do an Augustus”
Willy Wonka taught us all at a very young age that if you act like a fat German boy you will be swept up in a river of chocolate and get stuck in a pipe. Do you want to be stuck in a pipe? I thought not.
Having sugar cravings is a perfectly normal thing, and satisfying them every now and then can actually be a good thing I reckon. Personally it allows me to make my clean eating sustainable and stop me from getting bogged down in what can sometimes be a sweet-less meal plan. However, when I do give in to the craving and head to the chocolate aisle, I make sure to only buy a small amount and when it’s gone, it’s gone.
This is another reason to stick with dark chocolate, as one of my clients was telling me this morning she finds the dark chocolate bars come in much smaller amounts which helps with curbing your intake. This holds up scientifically as well, with far more bioavailable nutrients in dark chocolate, your body will send out the satiety signal much faster and you won’t feel the need to “do an Augustus” quite so much.
Most of the time, we are only eating chocolate because our body is craving something sweet, why not find something that tastes like chocolate but has far less sugar and might even be good for you?!
These treats can be something as simple as a protein shake or bar but personally, this is where I like to get creative in the kitchen. I’m talking chocolate peanut butter protein balls, banana, peanut butter and vanilla frozen yoghurt, protein pancakes, mug cakes, angel delight(ish)...the list goes on! I will leave this here as I will be delving into this another time but for now, do what everyone does these days and ask Google for some kitchenspiration.
Call me old fashioned but, failing this, eat fruit!
4Timing is everything
If you must eat your delicious refined sugars, make sure you do so at times that your body will use them in a useful manner. Chocolate comes under the “refined-sugary” carbohydrate label. This means that they are absorbed quickly by the body, are relatively nutrient poor, and generally won’t do much for your overall health.
These types of carbs should only be eaten AFTER a workout. Within 2-3 hours post workout, your body needs to replenish its glycogen stores and your muscles become like a sponge. Outside of this window it’s better to focus on your protein and fat intake.
5Stick to the plan
Any client of mine will have a nutrition plan which is focused around hitting a certain number of calories and macronutrients per day. Very simply put as a final point, if it fits in with your plan, then eat it. You can do this without feeling guilty about doing so and tracking the numbers whilst having “something naughty” will make sure that you aren’t over doing with portion size as mentioned above.
Conversely, if you check your macro tracker or know full well that you’ve been on an absolute carb bender for the rest of the day, don’t go home and eat chocolate...that’s just plain silly.