photo: LC Foods

see ya later, Gatorade! recover from your workout with chocolate milk

Well, it’s finally here–the end of the holiday weekend, the beginning of another week! We had a really awesome weekend with two different groups of overnight visitors…our offers for everyone to come visit us in Miami are finally getting redeemed! We spent Saturday at South Beach lounging in the sand and watching all the crazy tourists. My ideal Saturday.

So after a weekend of indulgence and less sleep than normal, it seems like everyone on Facebook and Twitter is getting back to their normal fitness routine today. With this motivation come harder workouts and an increased need for recovery time.

chocolate milk for recovery, recover with chocolate milk, repair muscles with chocolate milk

photo: LC Foods

I came across a study via the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism from several years ago that shed light on a cost-effective yet powerful recovery drink: chocolate milk. This study (warning: partially supported by Dairy & Nutrition Council, Inc.) has found that the proper combination of carbohydrates and protein in chocolate milk make it an effective recovery aid, rivaling that of carbohydrate replacement drinks (like Endurox) and fluid replacement drinks (such as Gatorade). Take into account the hydration qualities and various vitamins and minerals that milk provides and you’ve got yourself a pretty nutritious post-workout beverage. So that’s why they hand out chocolate milk at marathon finish lines!

The study involved male cyclists who were young, healthy, and highly trained in cycling. During the study their down time was monitored and their daily diets were analyzed. They participated in four specific sessions with one week in between each monitored session. The first session established baseline levels and the following three sessions contained the meat of the study. In these three sessions there were two workouts in one day. The first workout involved cycling intervals with the intention of depleting glycogen stores (essential for proper performance), thus priming the body for an optimal recovery situation. After ingesting a specific recovery beverage (chocolate milk, carb replacement drink, or fluid replacement drink) and waiting four hours, the subjects performed a second workout (to exhaustion) of a more steady, endurance-testing pace.

The results? Time to exhaustion and the amount of total work performed were much higher for the participants who drank chocolate milk or the fluid replacement drink. Translation: they could work out longer! Those who drank the carb replacement drink did not have as impressive measurements. This could be attributable to the type of carbs in each beverage or a number of other factors (if you’re interested in reading a scientific snooze-inducing study on a Monday morning, you might want to click here).

What’s interesting is that the chocolate milk had similar carb levels as the carb replacement drink, but the milk provided a hit of protein. Studies have shown that combining protein with carbs after a tough workout aids in rebuilding glycogen stores, thus getting you ready for your next session.

So how will this help you? A proper ratio of 4:1 carbs to protein has been suggested for a recovery beverage or snack. For maximum recovery after a tough workout, aim for 50 to 75 grams of carbs within 30 to 45 minutes after your sweat session. For a 154-pound man this equals about 17 to 27 fluid ounces of the low-fat chocolatey goodness; for a 132-pound woman this would be 14.5 to 23 fluid ounces. If you are an endurance athlete with a more grueling training program, you’d most likely need to continue with a steady stream of additional carbs in the hours after your training session.

What I like about this finding is that it’s a cheap alternative to fancy sports drinks. It’s also more natural than a chemical-filled Powerade, so I rest a little easier knowing that I’m avoiding unnecessary ingredients. I no longer will fall into the marketing trap that Gatorade and LeBron James have perpetuated–sports drinks aren’t the only way to recover. You can find me sipping on some cold, frothy, chocolate milk. I’ll drink to that!

photo credit: LC Foods