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One of my cousins has a son who is a competitive athlete. Worried that he’s not eating properly, she asked, “What should he eat after a long day of practice? Doesn’t he need extra protein?” Yes, but there’s no need to run out and buy expensive protein shakes. Mother nature has its own refueling protein drink. “Have you tried chocolate milk?” I replied. She looked perplexed. Chocolate milk is a good post-workout drink for people of all ages, and here’s why!
During exercise, our muscles rely on stored and dietary carbohydrates to provide energy. Unfortunately, these carbohydrates only last for one workout, so they need to be replaced. Although you may think of protein as the post-workout cure to tired and damaged muscles, replacing lost carbs is just as crucial. As a matter of fact, the ideal post-workout recovery beverage will have a 4:1 carbs to protein ratio.
A sports drink doesn’t even come close to those numbers, and a simple glass of milk doesn’t do the trick either. But add a little chocolate to your milk, and you’ve got the ideal ratio! Studies have found that people who drank chocolate milk after a tough workout suffered less exercise-induced muscle damage than those who drank sports drinks or water.
Everyone knows that milk is good for bones, but it turns out that milk may have another overlooked and added benefit—hydration.
Drinking fat free milk after exercise may rehydrate better than a sports drink or water, according to a new study. Another study found that fat free and full-fat milk rank higher for hydration than other beverages, like water and sports drinks. After a sweat sesh, chocolate milk not only provides much needed fluid, but it replenishes electrolytes lost in sweat, like calcium, magnesium and potassium.
After learning about chocolate milk’s perfect carb:protein ratio and contribution to hydration, it’s probably no surprise that drinking it may increase athletic performance. One study actually found that swimmers shaved 2.1 seconds off their 200-yard swim after drinking reduced fat chocolate milk instead of grabbing a traditional sports drink. In another recent study, cyclists saw twice the improvement in their aerobic capacity after recovering with low-fat chocolate milk during a 4.5 week training period. And lastly, this study found that cyclists could cycle for 51% longer during a second bout of exercise after drinking chocolate milk, as compared to a sports drink.
So, why is chocolate milk a good post-workout drink? It has a perfect carbohydrate to protein ratio, it provides the body with hydration and electrolytes, and it may increase athletic performance.
If these benefits haven’t convinced you to add chocolate milk to your grocery list, then hopefully the taste of chocolatey goodness will!
If you are looking for a balanced alternative to fueling you or your child’s fitness, chocolate milk is a great option. For those sensitive to dairy, a2 Milk® has just released a 2% chocolate milk variety into their product line. Visit our online store locator here to find the location nearest you!
Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD is a NYC-based media Dietitian, food and nutrition writer and owner of Nutrition ȧ la Natalie, a sports nutrition practice and blog. Natalie writes for many national publications, such as EatingWell, Greatist.com, Shape.com, FitnessMagazine.com, Runner’s World and Food Network Healthy Eats. Natalie is a marathon runner, vegetarian, and lover of practical nutrition advice. Keep up with her long-distance running adventures and plant-based creations on her Instagram or Facebook page.