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Chocolate Milk as a Recovery Drink

Although exercise provides an extensive list of health benefits, it also depletes your body of energy and nutrients. The right recovery drink consumed post-workout can make a significant difference in your workout results as well as your overall health. Recovery drinks help in several ways:
  • They replenish energy and fluids lost during your workout and help prepare your body for its next workout.
  • They reduce fatigue and help get you through the rest of your day after high-intensity exercise.
  • They can help increase your speed, strength, and aerobic capacity.

There are numerous recovery drinks to choose from, from water to sports drinks to beverages specifically designed for recovery. But one option you may not have considered is chocolate milk. Chocolate milk might sound like a strange recovery drink, but let’s take another look at its ingredients. It has twice the carbohydrate and protein content of other drinks such as plain milk and sports drinks, so it’s effective at replenishing tired muscles. And not only does it contain carbs and protein, but it has these essential ingredients in the perfect ratio to each other for the best recovery benefits. It also has a high water content, so it replaces fluids and prevents dehydration. Furthermore, it contains calcium as well as just a little sugar and sodium, which help you regain energy and retain water as you recover. Finally, chocolate milk tastes great, is affordable, and is widely available.

What about plain water? Water is better than nothing after you exercise, and you should certainly be drinking lots of it throughout the day. But when you’ve just completed a strenuous workout, all water replaces is fluid lost through sweat. Chocolate milk accomplishes this and also provides carbs, protein, and more. And, its chocolate flavor can satisfy your cravings and make it easier for you to stick to your healthy diet.

Importance of Carbs and Protein after Exercise

So should you switch from bottled water to chocolate milk? It partly depends on your workout level. If you are working out occasionally and not at a very high-intensity level, then downing a glass of carb-heavy chocolate milk is probably not a very good idea. But for athletes working out more frequently at a higher level of intensity, chocolate milk can be the perfect recovery drink. Cyclists, swimmers, and runners, for example, engage in constant, sustained, intense exercise, and they need higher amounts of calories, protein, and carbs to maintain that level of performance. Although chocolate milk isn’t marketed as a recovery drink, it’s actually an excellent one.

But why exactly do protein and carbs matter so much? Exercise stresses the muscles and frequently damages individual muscle fibers. Because protein is associated with tissue repair and muscle growth, athletes who increase their protein intake reap bigger and better benefits of all that hard work. Exercise also uses up glycogen, which supplies energy to muscles. Carbs are an easy way to refuel those glycogen stores. And refueling those supplies is essential, because if you don't, your body will use protein for nutrition instead – negating some of the benefits of your workout.

When, Not Just What

Choosing the right recovery drink is just one part of the process. Chocolate milk makes an excellent post-workout beverage, but drinking it at the right time makes it even more effective. Have your recovery drink within 30 to 60 minutes after exercise. This is when your energy stores are at their lowest. Even better, drink up within 20 minutes of completing your workout. During this time, your muscle fibers are potentially damaged and depleted and are primed to consume the protein and other nutrients you feed them. Also, if you don’t replenish your muscles quickly, you can hurt your performance at your next workout. This is true for anyone, but especially for an elite athlete who’s going to work out again later the same day.

What about Supplements?

If getting the right balance of protein and carbs matters so much after a workout, then why not just use a protein supplement as your recovery drink? Protein drinks may be effective at refueling your muscles, but they so come with a few drawbacks. For starters, they're expensive. That alone is a deterrent for many people. Also, many of them have a bitter taste that many individuals find unappealing. Finally, protein powder ingredients are often extracted from ingredients that are found in dairy products naturally. Chocolate milk is a natural, healthy, and affordable way to promote post-workout recovery.


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