Chocolate milk is an increasingly popular post-workout snack. Recent research has begun to investigate the post-workout recovery effects of chocolate milk versus protein shakes or powders, with promising results. Coaches and athletes may be surprised to learn that chocolate milk may even be more effective than supplements in many cases. Chocolate milk is a practical and inexpensive alternative to many "high-performance" supplements.
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Chocolate milk offers a number of key nutrients for athletes. According to the Nutrient Facts website, one cup of low-fat chocolate milk contains 160 calories. Further, a cup of chocolate milk offers significant amounts of several B-complex vitamins -- nutrients you need to convert food into energy -- as well as calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D needed for healthy bones. Chocolate milk is low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and contains over a dozen vitamins and minerals.
Exercise increases stress on the muscles. Following a workout, muscle is stressed and individual muscle fibers may have undergone some damage. Protein is associated with muscle growth and tissue repair, and athletes need to increase their protein intake to reap the benefits of practice sessions, according to the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Highly active people need to consume about 1.8 g of protein for each kilogram of body weight, about twice the need of sedentary people. A cup of chocolate milk offers 8 grams of protein.
In addition to protein, athletes need to increase their carbohydrate intake following exercise. Exercise uses up glycogen stores, which are responsible for supplying energy to muscles. Carbohydrates are easily digestible and can refuel these glycogen supplies, according to the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Further, if glycogen is not refueled through food, the body uses protein stores for nutrition, negating some of the benefits of the exercise. Drink a glass of chocolate milk and you'll get 25 grams of carbohydrates.
Why Chocolate Milk?
Research has found that chocolate milk contains an ideal carbohydrate-to-protein ratio, according to strength and conditioning specialist Ryan Johnson. This carbohydrate-to-protein ratio is essential for refueling tired or damaged muscles and assists with the workout recovery process. For this reason, the American Council on Exercise recommends chocolate milk for endurance athletes looking to refuel after a workout. Chocolate milk may contain more workout recovery ability than most protein shakes. Further, many people already like the taste of chocolate milk and it is both cheap and easy to find.
Why Not Supplements?
Protein supplementation is effective for increasing muscle protein synthesis and reducing breakdown, according to exercise scientist G. Damon Wells. However, the drawback to supplements is that they are expensive and they often have a bitter, unappealing taste. Further, the ingredients in protein powders are often extracted from ingredients that are already found naturally in dairy products. Chocolate milk is a healthy, natural and inexpensive way to promote recovery following a workout.
- Nutrient Facts: Chocolate Milk Nutrition Facts
- "Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning"; Thomas R. Baechle and Roger W. Earle (eds.); 2008
- “Strength and Conditioning Journal”; Post-Workout Nutrition for the High School Athlete; Ryan Johnson; August 2008
- “Strength and Conditioning Journal”; The Post-Workout Protein Puzzle: Which Protein Packs the Most Punch?; G. Damon Wells; February 2009
- American Council on Nutrition: 7 Smart Post-Workout Snacks and How to Know When You Really Need One