Over the last decade or two, chocolate milk has been popular and known for its recovery benefits. In fact, we have seen many great athletes consume chocolate milk after or between their workout(s)/training sessions and/or their games as a recovery beverage. Is it effective though? And if it is effective, how does it actually work as a recovery drink? How can you incorporate it into your daily/weekly training/games? Are there better options for post-match recovery? Keep reading…
DOES CHOCLATE MILK WORK FOR RECOVERY?
Let’s start off this article by saying that, yes, chocolate milk can be a recovery beverage after strenuous exercise, just as many other beverages marketed as recovery drinks (Spaccarotella KJ, 2011) . Chocolate milk contains enough carbohydrates and proteins to be considered a drink suitable for recovery. In addition, its electrolyte content is also significant. Therefore, chocolate milk contains all the nutrients that one is probably looking for in a post-exercise beverage.
In other words, it replenishes the glycogen stores that intense exercise depletes, with the simple carbohydrates found in milk (lactose), it re-establishes any electrolyte imbalances that may have occured and contains a good amount of protein, important for muscle protein-synthesis and recovery.
Several studies confirm the effectiveness and usefulness of chocolate milk for recovery. A study by Stephanie F Gilson et. al found that chocolate milk did not have impressive effects on the recovery of athletes that would make us “kill” for it, however, the results showed that choclate milk had the same effectiveness as other drinks that are high in carbohydrates and proteins.
WHEN & HOW TO USE IT
We should treat chocolate milk as a means to an end and not idealize it. It is a choice among many others, however, it is not the ideal one. If the footballer is in search of a quick and cheap snack that he/she can consume immediately after training or the game, then chocolate milk is definitely a solution. In particular, athletes who participate in tournaments or have double-days and are looking for a quick solution to make up for the lost nutrients, can include chocolate milk after training/games as a convenient solution.
Usually, 400 – 600ml are enough for a footballer who wants to replenish lost nutrients. Since you consume chocolate milk for convenience and time, you can immediately consume it after exercising, or even include it in a smoothie with fruit and perhaps a protein supplement to increase your protein intake.
Generally speaking, chocolate milk offers a cheap and convenient solution for athletes who are under “time-pressure” and looking for something fast and efficient. Is it effective? Yes. Is it the ideal drink/meal? No!
BETTER ALTERNATIVES TO CHOCOLATE MILK FOR RECOVERY?
One of the factors that does not make chocolate milk ideal is its high sugar content. Processed sugar is a monosaccharide (the simplest carbohydrate) which has a high GI (glycemic index). Although simple carbohydrates are perfect post-workout, processed sugar is not the ideal post-exercise simple carb! So it would be good to resort to a better solution of simple carbohydrates such as fruit (bananas are nutritious and contain fructose), rice, pasta, potatoes, etc. In case we choose to consume a meal, we shall also include a (lean) protein source such as chicken breast, tuna, eggs, turkey etc. Adding vegetables and/or fruits for lost vitamins and minerals (electrolytes) transforms the plate into an ideal recovery meal.
To sum up the article, chocolate milk is definitely an attractive choice! After all, even this moderate amount of sugar it contains is nothing extreme or something you should worry about. However, when the opportunity to consume a nutritious meal exists, then it should definitely be preferred!
If you want to learn more about the basic recovery protocols you should be following, click here!
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 Spaccarotella KJ, Andzel WD. The effects of low fat chocolate milk on postexercise recovery in collegiate athletes. J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Dec;25(12):3456-60. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3182163071. PMID: 22080318.
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 Gilson, Stephanie F et al. “Effects of chocolate milk consumption on markers of muscle recovery following soccer training: a randomized cross-over study.”Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition vol. 7 19. 18 May. 2010, doi:10.1186/1550-2783-7-19