Chocolate milk has gained a lot of popularity as a post-workout recovery drink. Perhaps you have wondered why and if it’s right for you.
DO YOU NEED TO EAT AFTER A WORKOUT?
The answer depends on how hard and how long you work out. Recovery nutrition is important for high intensity exercises. This includes long duration endurance exercises, like running or biking long distances, or strength building with the goal of body composition change in mind. Additionally, workouts of any nature lasting more than a hour put you in a position where you could benefit from recovery nutrition.
The reason the high intensity (meaning your heart rate is hitting higher zones) part matters is because this type of exercise depletes the glycogen energy stored in your muscles. Consuming something with carbohydrate and protein within 30-45 minutes of completing your workout has been proven to help rebuild those glycogen stores for your next workout. The research shows that drinking something with carbohydrates post-workout can produce better recovery and future performance than just drinking water alone.
3 REASONS WHY CHOCOLATE MILK IS A GOOD RECOVERY DRINK
There are a lot of recovery supplement options on the market that come with a steep price tag, require extra steps (think: mixing and shaking), or have undesirable ingredients. Chocolate milk could be a more natural alternative to all these. The Dairy Council commissioned research on chocolate milk to see if could be a “readily available” (i.e. you can find it in any gas station or quick mart) option for recovery. Here is what they found:
1. It’s the ideal ratio. Besides being convenient, chocolate milk has the perfect mix of macronutrients to be an ideal recovery drink. Research has suggested that a carbohydrate:protein ratio of 4:1 is ideal for improving performance, and chocolate milk (thanks to the added sugar in the chocolate) meets this recommendation perfectly.(2)
2. It contains whey and casein. The type of proteins found in milk are another reason why it is a good option. Milk contains both casein and whey, proteins with qualities that are known to enhance muscle building. They also stimulate the muscles to be more responsive to the hormone insulin, which allows glycogen to be rebuilt rather quickly.
3. It’s tasty (for most of us). The final reason why chocolate milk works is because of its appealing flavor. While some recovery products are challenging to get down, chocolate milk is generally enjoyed by all. As a sports dietitian, I’ve experienced a lot of success using chocolate milk for recovery with teen athletes who have a picky palate.
ARE THERE OTHER OPTIONS?
Chocolate milk is popular recovery drink because of all the reasons mentioned above.It usually produces better performance results than just a sports drink or water alone, but is it the only option?
A very recent, small study compared chocolate milk to other nondairy chocolate beverages (soy and hemp milks) and found that they all improved cycling performance similarly compared to a placebo. This is very interesting because the three types of milk varied greatly in protein and carbohydrate content, but were all similar in total calories. This means that you can pick the option you prefer whether that’s chocolate milk or a nondairy alternative, both will help you.
3 TIPS FOR CHOOSING YOUR RECOVERY DRINK
The good news is that there seems to be a lot of options available for recovery nutrition. One size does not fit all, and you can easily choose the option that works best for you.
Here are three tips to help you decide:
1. Determine if you even need recovery nutrition. If your goal is to lose weight and be generally fit, you may not need a sugary recovery drink like chocolate milk. However, if you do a lot of high intensity fitness or endurance sports, chocolate milk can help aid performance and muscle building.
2. Choose what tastes the best to you. Try the different supplements and milk options to see what you will actually drink after a long workout.
3. Determine what is most convenient and affordable to you. The best news from all of this is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money on a recovery supplement. If you finish a group run or long ride next to a gas station, plain ole’ chocolate milk is there for you. If you are not a milk drinker, then preliminary research suggests that the type of milk does not matter as long as the calories are sufficient.
Does you drink chocolate milk to recover? Share your experiences below.