Chocolate Milk for Recovery?

I've been spending a lot of time driving lately, which means a lot of time at gas stations, which means a lot of time walking past cooler after cooler full of random beverages just to get to the one door that contains bottles of water (which is all we really need to be drinking if we're thirsty while driving).

Maybe I just haven't paid much attention to it in the past decade, but it seems like I am seeing a lot of increased advertising of chocolate milk being a good recovery drink for athletes. I remember seeing a lot of advertising like this about ten years ago (more on that later), and some of my running apps I use will have pop up ads related to athletes drinking chocolate milk, but for whatever reason it seems like I have been seeing much more of it lately.

There are several studies out there that look at utilizing chocolate milk as a recovery drink for athletes, however, I am really only familiar with one of them from 2010. I wanted to write a quick post examining the study from 2010 that I have read a few times.

The first time I remember hearing a lot about chocolate milk and recovery was back in 2010. University of Connecticut had put out a study and subsequent press communication about the study on September 27, 2010 (which happened to be "National Chocolate Milk Day") touting the benefits of chocolate milk for athletes. Let's look at that study a little closer.

First, what did the study look at? The population in the study was 6 moderately trained college aged male runners. Not exactly a profound sample size or diverse sample. In the study, the athletes would run at a moderate pace for 45 minutes at 65% of their peak Vo2 max and then would consume either chocolate milk post run or kool-aid. Following ingestion of the chosen recovery drink, researchers would look at blood samples and muscle biopsies that found greater amounts of protein synthesis in the group that consumed chocolate milk. Protein synthesis and amino acid profiles are important for endurance athletes, as muscle breakdown from long bouts of endurance activity can be a limiting factor to performance.

If that is what the study is actually looking at, can we extrapolate that chocolate milk is a great recovery drink? No. We can't. But that didn't stop the folks at UCONN from writing an article claiming that "Chocolate Milk is Choc-full of Goodness."

What can we say from looking at this one study? Well, we can say that chocolate milk is a better recovery drink than kool-aid. Not exactly an exciting headline is it? Anyone with any amount of common sense could probably tell you that there are many things out there that are better than kool-aid. That doesn't mean that we should all be rushing to the fridge post run and start massively consuming chocolate milk.

One more thing to keep in mind. The study was funded by the National Dairy Council and National Fluid Milk Processor and the press release went out in time for "National Chocolate Milk Day." Now, it's important to remember that who funds the study is not always a determining factor to the validity of the study, but it should be viewed through a contextual lens.

What do I recommend to consume post workout? That is up to the individual. I don't like to eat immediately post run, but I do try to ingest several hundred calories consisting of about 50-80 g of carbs and around 30 grams of protein. Generally, I'll get those from fruit and whey protein in a blender which has always worked for me. It is important to replace carbs and protein post run or post workout, but there isn't much need to take in more than the amounts I mentioned above immediately.

I wanted to write this quick post to remind everyone the importance of not just taking the press release of " a new study shows" at face value. Examine the study to see what the study actually looked at. In this case, chocolate milk outperformed kool-aid, but that doesn't mean that chocolate milk is a great recovery agent.

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