Questions about chocolate milk

Posted on 10-07-2017 , by: Nancy Clark , in , , , 0 Comments

Dear Nancy,

I have a lot of questions about chocolate milk as a recovery drink. Thank you for your answers.

  • What exactly counts as “chocolate milk”? There are a lot of products these days. Does it matter which one? As a kid a hundred years ago, we never had “store bought” chocolate milk; it was a luxury. We made our own from Hershey’s cocoa, whole milk and sugar (and vanilla if Mom wasn’t looking). The details interest me because commercial chocolate milk has a LOT of sugar.

Answer: The type of chocolate milk doesn’t matter. You could drink skim, lowfat or full fat milk, vanilla milk, or strawberry milk. Or you could simple enjoy a banana with a glass of plain milk.

     Chocolate milk is a vehicle to get carbs (sugar) into the body to refuel depleted muscle glycogen after a hard workout — a time when you are hot and thirsty and might not want solid food. Chocolate milk is a good combination of protein (to build and repair muscles) and carbs (sugar, to refuel muscles).

  • Is the advice on chocolate milk as the best recovery drink based on one study of a small number of athletes, or has it been reconfirmed by many studies or many athletes? What kind of chocolate milk did they use in those studies? 

Yes, many studies with many athletes have confirmed that chocolate milk (both nonfat and full-fat) offers a good balance of protein with carbohydrates. It is a more effective post-exercise choice than plain water or a sports drink.

Yes, chocolate milk does have added sugar, but so do sports drinks. Sugar is what the body wants to replace depleted glycogen stores. While you may look at the added sugar, I look at all the nutrients that come with the sugar: calcium for bones, high quality protein for building and repairing muscles, sodium and potassium for replacing electrolytes, and a plethora of life-sustaining vitamins. Given that 10% of an athletes’ diet can healthfully come from sugar, I am supportive of chocolate milk (preferably lowfat, to reduce intake of saturated fat) as a yummy way to spend those sugar-calories.

     If you are opposed to consuming foods with added sugar, than whip up a fruit shake with milk or yogurt plus banana, berries, pineapple, etc. You can get carbs and protein in many ways!

  • Some of my workouts are not intense, due to whatever the current injury issue might be. How do you judge whether you even need a recovery drink?

Answer: If you have not depleted your muscles of glycogen, you have a less urgent need for consuming post-exercise recovery foods. A simple solution, regardless of the intensity of the workout, is to back your workout into a meal. That eliminates extra “recovery calories.” The carbs and protein in the meal (eggs & toast; turkey sandwich; chicken & rice, etc.) will offer the “tools” you need to recover optimally. Again, the tools are 1) carbs to replace depleted muscle and liver glycogen, 2) protein to build and repair muscles, 3) water and electrolytes to replace sweat losses.

Recovery is most important for people who do double workouts and will exercise again with in the next 6 hours, or for athletes who did an exhaustive workout. Yet, everyone can benefit from optimizing their sports diet by refueling within the hour post-exercise. For dieters, eating soon after exercise can nip the hungry horrors in the bud and spare a visit from the Cookie Monster.

Best, Nancy

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