Is Chocolate Milk Really A Good Recovery Drink?

Athletes typically spend a lot of time and money trying to make sure that they are properly fueling their body – both before and after their workouts. The market is flooded with drinks and bars and premade meals that all promise to give you the best possible nutrition after you put your muscles through the ringer – for a considerable price.

It’s really not surprising, then, that people everywhere jumped on the bandwagon when chocolate milk was presented as a viable option for a post-workout recovery drink. Of course, we all want to believe that this is true. All of use – unless, of course, you’re lactose intolerant – would love to be able a cold glass of chocolate milk after a grueling workout. But, is it true? Or are we just fooling ourselves into a lovely delusion?


The Logic and Science Behind It

It all begin several years ago, when researchers decided that a ratio of 4g of carbs to every 1g of protein was the secret to proper recovery from an endurance workout. Not long after that, the dairy industry realized that chocolate milk naturally fits these requirements. And the marketing blitz began.

But is it all just hype or does chocolate milk live up to its reputation?

The short answer is, Yes. In a number of studies, chocolate milk has shown itself to be a more effective post-workout recovery drink than water or sports drinks. Consistently, study groups that were given the treat after their workout saw greater improvements in endurance, power and even body composition than other groups.


Things To Consider

Here’s the thing, though. Look at what the chocolate milk was compared to: Water and sports drinks. Of course it’s going to perform better as a post-workout recovery, the odds are clearly it favor of milk when you look at the situation from a nutritional standpoint.

Of course, milk does have the clear advantage of containing micronutrients like calcium and sodium that will help you body retain water. Chocolate milk is also much cheaper than the products on the market that are specifically formulated to act as recovery meals.

It should also be noted that chocolate milk has been specifically studied for its effects on endurance athletes, so its usefulness for strength training has not been fully explored. According to most sports nutrition experts, recovery drinks are really only needed after endurance events that last more than an hour. For your average training session, water is still just fine.

When it comes to strength training, though, it makes sense that milk would be a viable option. Compared to most other recovery drinks, though, milk is relatively low in protein so it may not be the best option if you don’t mind investing in a protein shake.

We should be clear, at this point, that these studies used low-fat milk rather than whole. That’s not to say that whole milk wouldn’t give you the same recovery benefits, but it does mean that you have the option of limiting your fat if you so choose.

Ultimately, yes. Milk is a suitable post-workout recovery drink. While it isn’t necessarily best in all situations, chocolate milk does provide a cheap and delicious option that can be prepared quickly after an event.





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About jonathan.thompson

Jonathan Thompson is a Certified Personal Trainer and Running Coach with the American Council on Exercise, specializing in nutrition. In addition to his real-world experience working with clients, his articles and blogs on fitness advice have been published on many websites and magazines.