You finish up your 10 miler and fall into your house for some stretching and refuelling. What do you go for - water? Lucozade? An energy gel? A high-sugar drink blended with electrolytes, or a giant steak? Physiologist Joel Stager, director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Indiana University has one more potential workout recovery drink to add to the list, and it’s been sitting in your fridge all this time: chocolate milk. New research shows that downing this childhood favourite after a tough worktop can help replenish exhausted muscles and significantly aid exercise recovery.
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. Whilst drinking plain water might be cheap, easy to grab and may feel like the simple option as opposed to the high-sugar high-additive supermarket options, it replaces sweat loss...and that’s about it.
Drinking a pint of chocolate milk after a workout will ensure optimum results to endurance, stamina, recovery and the rate of fat burn. Milk and its high-quality protein has been shown to help athletes gain more lean muscle and lose fat when compared to drinking a carb-only beverage, as part of a regular workout and recovery routine. Most prepared chocolate milk beverages are made with 1 percent or 2 percent milk, but you could also create your own fat-free chocolate milk (for half the price) by adding some chocolate powder to regular semi-skimmed milk. This will provide you with the benefits of carbohydrates, while giving you the optimal protein source found in milk.
The surprisingly revitalising qualities of chocolate milk were discovered by accident during a scientific study which aimed to pitch the finest electrolyte sports drinks on the market against each other, with the help of nine elite cyclists. With any experiment comes a control or placebo – and in this study milk was used to gauge the relative benefits of each drink. But in an unexpected twist, the cyclists on milk outperformed their rivals by a considerable margin.
"In order to enhance recovery, the key is to get the carbohydrate and protein you need in the first two hours after exercise," says Kelly Pritchett of the department of foods and nutrition at the University of Georgia. After a long workout muscle fibres have depleted and so it is advised that you replace muscle glycogen within the first hour after exercise. Whilst a juicy steak or a chicken breast will also provide you for a good protein hit, and is certainly popular with bodybuilders, a cup of milk is readily available within moments of stepping through your door. With 8 grams of high-quality protein to each 8 ounces, chocolate milk has enough protein to help rebuild muscles. Why is the chocolate needed? While it might appear the added chocolate is for taste, it actually provides extra sugar which plays a key part in ensuring you’re getting the post-exercise recommendations for carbohydrate.
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, so keeping your carbohydrate and protein intake levels balanced after workouts helps sustain your level of performance. Drink up!
features writer & lifestyle blogger and avid shoe wearer.