Thursday, February 21, 2013

My favorite recovery drink: Chocolate Milk

During my last run, I was asked “Is it true that chocolate milk is a good recovery drink?”  The answer is “yes”. This has been backed up by a variety of scientific studies, the most recent in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, Oct. 15, 2012, “Chocolate Milk...Post  Exercise Recovery”. This is a review article that found low-fat chocolate milk, which consists of a 4:1 carbohydrate:protein ratio, provides fluids and sodium to aid in post-workout recovery. Consuming chocolate milk immediately after exercise and again at 2 hours post-exercise appears to be optimal for exercise recovery and may attenuate indices of muscle damage.

One of my favorite studies that I like to cite was in the February 2006 issue of the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism.  In three trials administered at one-week intervals, nine male endurance trained cyclists performed an interval workout then drank one of three drinks after 2 hours of recovery. One group got standard 2% chocolate milk, another drank fluid- and electrolyte-replenishing Gatorade and a third group Endurox R4, a specially formulated beverage with a "patented 4 to 1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein" and other ingredients aimed at replenishing muscle glycogen stores and helping rebuild muscle.  Four hours later they performed an endurance trial to exhaustion at 70% VO2max.  The study reported that the cyclists who drank chocolate milk were able to continue cycling about 50% longer than those who drank Endurox R4 and about equally as long as those who drank Gatorade.


There is a common factor in all the chocolate milk recovery studies – they are done on male cyclists, although there is one study on collegiate soccer players.  So what does that mean to us?  If you are a male endurance trained cyclist, chances are that chocolate milk is a good recovery drink.  What if you are a female runner?  There are no studies that prove the same benefits, but it will probably be a good choice after a bout of exercise.   I recommend chocolate milk to all my athletes as a recovery drink.  Why?  It contains carbohydrates that are needed to refuel the muscles.  It contains protein that provides amino acids for building and repairing of muscle tissues.  Also, a little protein might give an athlete a performance edge by enhancing the insulin release, which aids in the transport of carbohydrates to the muscles.  It contains calcium, a nutrient that most adults don’t get enough of.  It is easy to make and less expensive than commercial drinks.  And it tastes good!

But what if you don’t consume dairy? Cow’s milk contains 12-13 grams carbs and 8 grams of protein for one cup while soy milk contains 5-15 grams of carbs and 6 to 8 grams of protein.  If you drink soy milk, select one that is close to 12-13 grams of carbs and 8 grams of protein.  Make sure you purchase soy milk with added calcium and vitamin D. Almond milk contains 8 grams of carbs and one gram of protein.  Almond milk does not have sufficient protein or carbs to make a recovery chocolate milk. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t drink it; it just means you need to supplement it with additional carbs and protein for recovery sake.  

Eat well to run strong!

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