Cortisol is known as the stress hormone. The more stress you have, the potentially more cortisol is released. Cortisol is not inherently negative. Just as stress is not inherently negative. Two factors are crucial here:
- Balance – the alternation between stress and relief. Constant stress is destructive. No stress is also destructive. Alternating between stress and relaxation is productive.
- Stress management - the ability to tolerate stress. The reaction of the body and mind to stress is very individual. The better the stress management, the lower this reaction. There are many ways to optimize stress management - such as sleep, food, micronutrients, meditation and exercise.
A 2009 study (1) offers an interesting and viable solution to optimizing cortisol levels, in this case reducing cortisol levels, by consuming dark chocolate. In this study, consuming 40g of dark chocolate (74%) per day showed a significant reduction in cortisol and catecholamines such as adrenaline. In combination with an optimization of the microbiome, the bacteria in the intestine, which also have an effect on stress management.
A crucial point from a practical point of view, however, is the consumption of dark chocolate in the evening. On the one hand, because the reduction in cortisol over the course of the day is the most important thing here. Secondly, because dark chocolate also has a positive effect on serotonin (2). Serotonin is the neurotransmitter responsible for well-being and relaxation, as well as a crucial precursor to the deep sleep hormone melatonin.
The first counter-argument is certainly the sugar content of dark chocolate. In a 40g portion, however, dark chocolate only has about 12g of sugar and, compared to most “sweets”, has a very small effect on blood sugar levels. Depending on a person's training goal, consuming up to 40g of dark chocolate in the evening is a tool that I use regularly with clients and athletes to optimize the cortisol biorhythm and thus stress management.
Good luck with optimizing cortisol with dark chocolate!
- J Proteome Res. 2009 Dec;8(12):5568-79. doi: 10.1021/pr900607v.; Metabolic effects of dark chocolate consumption on energy, gut microbiota, and stress-related metabolism in free-living subjects; Martin FP1, Rezzi S, Peré-Trepat E, Kamlage B, Collino S, Leibold E, Kastler J, Rein D, Fay LB, Kochhar S. - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19810704
- Journal of Chromatography A ; Volume 1232, 6 April 2012, pages 158-165; Determination of serotonin and its precursors in chocolate samples by capillary liquid chromatography with mass spectrometry detection; V.Guillén-Casla N.Rosales-Conrado MELeón-González LVPérez-Arribas LMPolo-Díez – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22186492
Image: Dark chocolate.