Is Chocolate Milk Really the Ideal Recovery Drink for Endurance Athletes?
Many of you have likely seen low-fat chocolate milk being touted as the ideal recovery drink after an intense, prolonged aerobic workout. That’s because low-fat chocolate milk contains a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein, which, according to multiple research studies, supports rapid glycogen storage repletion in the body.
But what should endurance athletes drink if they are lactose intolerant, follow a strict vegan diet, or just don’t like chocolate milk? Are they out of luck? A recent study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism set out to answer that question.
This particular study was conducted on eight trained male cyclists to determine if a chocolate dairy beverage was more effective at replacing glycogen stores when compared to other options.
All participants exercised vigorously to deplete their glycogen stores, after which each cyclist consumed one of the following beverages: chocolate milk (4:1 carbohydrates to protein ratio); 1% milk (1.5:1); soy chocolate milk (4:1); hemp chocolate milk (6:1); or a low-calorie, carbohydrate-only placebo. All of the beverages, except the placebo, contained the same number of calories. Two hours after consuming their recovery drink, the cyclists participated in a 20km time trial.
The results showed that all beverages resulted in better performance in the time trial compared to the placebo (Upshaw, et al., 2016).
This indicates that the precise ratio of carbohydrates to protein may be less important than originally thought, but also that you do need a mixture of carbohydrates and protein, in some combination, to recover most fully from extended aerobic training sessions.
So, if you enjoy having a glass of chocolate milk after a run or bike ride, please continue to do so. If chocolate milk is not the ideal recovery drink for you, rest assured you have many other options to choose from.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post below or send me an e-mail!
Upshaw, A., Wong, T., Bandegan, A., et al. (2016). Cycling time trial performance 4 hours after glycogen lowering exercise is similarly enhanced by recovery nondairy chocolate beverages versus chocolate milk. Int J Sport Nut. Exerc Metab. 26: 65-70.