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Got Milk? Try Chocolate After Your Workout

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Downing chocolate milk after a tough workout can help replenish exhausted muscles and significantly aid exercise recovery, new research shows.

Post-Workout Drinks

When it's time to choose a liquid chug after a long, tough workout, there's a slew of options out there. Water? Gatorade, POWERade, or All Sport? Endurox R4? Physiologist Joel Stager, director of the Human Performance laboratory at Indiana University, has even one more potential workout recovery drink to add to the list: chocolate milk. His latest study, published in this month's International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, names this kids' favorite an optimal post-exercise recovery aid.

Before your stomach recoils, take a look at chocolate milk's ingredient list. For a high-endurance athlete, Stager's team sees it as a catch-all workout recovery drink. Compared to plain milk, water, or most sports drinks, it has double the carbohydrate and protein content, perfect for replenishing tired muscles. Its high water content replaces fluids lost as sweat, preventing dehydration. Plus it packs a nutritional bonus of calcium, and includes just a little sodium and sugar -- additives that help recovering athletes retain water and regain energy. 

Drinking plain water after exercise replaces sweat losses -- and that's it. "Chocolate milk provides carbohydrate replenishment to your muscles -- something they can metabolize," said Jason Karp, MS, another researcher for this study. "There's nothing to metabolize in water." 

Stager's assessment of chocolate milk is even simpler. "It's water plus a whole lot more," he said.

The Case for Carbs

Ready to switch your bottled water for chocolate milk? Assess your workout level first. Downing a post-workout beverage chock-full of carbohydrates isn't just for the weekend tennis player, said Stager -- and that's key. A drink like chocolate milk is most useful to a cyclist, swimmer, or long-distance runner. These sports stress high endurance levels and constant, sustained movement. Competing athletes need high levels of calories, carbs, and protein to sustain that level of performance.

Stager tested out chocolate milk's performance as a workout recovery drink on nine cyclists. In his lab, each athlete biked until exhaustion, and then rested for four hours. During this break, each consumed low-fat chocolate milk, Gatorade, or the high-carbohydrate sports drink Endurox R4. Afterward, they cycled to exhaustion again.

The results were positive. His research team concluded that the athletes who consumed chocolate milk performed just as well or better as those who drank the other beverages. The high carb and protein content in milk make it an incredibly effective recovery drink, Stager said -- even though it's never been marketed as one.

Next:  When to Fuel Up


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exelman wrote:

Why not eat a Snickers bar, and eat a cup of Yogurt?

8/31/2014 12:08:27 PM Report Abuse
JessicaJones37 wrote:

I use C12 Recovery after every workout and it is like a freaken miracle! It's also organic and plant-based. No dairy!

6/30/2014 06:35:37 PM Report Abuse
mj8rybin wrote:

Many studies report benefits of chocolate, yet few articulate the difference to unprocessed dark cocoa. I like the idea about the exercise recovery benefits from protein and carbohydrate. Yet, we trade those benefits for other health risks. Questions 1.high fructose corn syrup in chocolate milk, 2.studies that report diseases like cancer and Parkinson's from milk, 3.protein and carbohydrates from natural foods versus processed foods or energy drinks?

3/18/2013 04:18:17 PM Report Abuse
Caropolof wrote:

I tried Core Power. It is made with real milk and has no lactose. The flavor is fantastic

2/11/2013 04:04:05 PM Report Abuse
hmiller139 wrote:

Of course this is just me and a couple of friends, but I've tried many sports recovery drinks and I've found the best results from good old fashioned chocolate milk, 2 big glasses worth. In fact, one thing I've especially noticed (and note, too, that I also did my usual after a loooooong ride routine of sleep, keeping my legs up, stretching, and massage)that I didn't have ANY muscle soreness the next day with ch. milk instead of the other post ride sports drinks I've used.

6/25/2012 03:25:40 PM Report Abuse

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