Diet and Nutrition

Why You Should Still Drink Chocolate Milk

According to a new study, drinking chocolate milk after a workout provides the right amount of carbohydrates and protein to build muscles, improve endurance, reduce fat, and enhance performance. “After an exercise session, we need to replenish the sugar stores in the muscles and switch on protein synthesis for effective recovery," says John L. Ivy, PhD, department chair of kinesiology and health education at the University of Texas at Austin. The right combination of carbohydrates and proteins found in low-fat chocolate milk seems to work effectively to bring about the recovery after a workout, claims Ivy. The results of the study are published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research and the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism. That's good news for all of the chocolate lovers out there! 

In one of the studies, cyclists did a two-hour exercise session to the point of exhaustion. After the workout, they were given either chocolate milk, or a carbohydrate drink, or a no-calorie beverage. This was repeated after two hours of the workout. The cyclists did a 40k cycling time trial after four hours of having the drink. Participants who had the chocolate drink performed faster and saved six minutes time when compared to others who had the carbohydrate drink or the beverage. According to Ivy, chocolate drink activates the protein that blocks the breakdown of protein.

In the second study, a group of untrained participants were asked to cycle for 60 minutes per day, five days a week for 4.5 weeks. One group of participants were given chocolate milk immediately after cycling and again after one hour. The second group of participants were given the carbohydrate drink while the third group was provided with a no-calorie drink. The researchers measure the oxygen uptake as a measure of endurance. The maximum oxygen uptake was found to be two times greater in the group who had the chocolate drink when compared to the other two groups. Participants who had chocolate milk also had a greater increase in the lean body mass and reduction in the body fat. According to Ivy, the study was not a head on comparison of the different sports drinks available in the market.

The chocolate milk used in the study had a good mix of carbohydrate and protein than white milk, with 11.5 grams of carbohydrates, 3.5 grams of protein and 2 grams of fat in 100ml of milk. The carbohydrate drink used in the study had 5 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fat and no protein.

According to Jennifer Schmit, a spokeswoman for Gatorade, it is important to have 10 to 20 grams of protein within 30 minutes of the workout to kick start the muscle recovery process and also to replenish the lost carbohydrates and electrolytes. Barbara Lewin, RD, a sports nutritionist in Ft. Myers, agrees with this fact and advises athletes to focus on nutrition after work out. Including protein in the drink helps to improves muscle repair and growth, she adds.

This does not mean that carbohydrates are not needed, because these nutrients are the backbone of recovery process and for restoring the glycogen lost during the exercise. A food with a carbohydrate to protein ratio of 4:1 or 5:1 has more advantage than just taking carbohydrates. “This is the reason why chocolate milk is the most ideal option”, says Lewin. According to her 1% or skim chocolate milk is better, as fat in the milk does not provide any additional advantage. This chocolate milk should be had within 10 to 20 minutes after the workout.

The quantity of the drink will depend on the intensity of the workout and the individual’s body weight. “Drinking 8 to 16 ounces of chocolate drink would be ideal," says Lewin. “For an average exerciser, 50% of the calories burned during the work out would be the best," according to  Ivy.  

Key Takeaways

  • Drinking chocolate milk after a workout gives the right amount of carbohydrates and proteins to build muscles, improve endurance, reduce fat, and enhance performance.