No longer just a sweet treat, chocolate milk has become a favourite recovery drink in the sports world. This low fat power drink contains the carbohydrates, protein, and electrolytes needed for a great recovery snack. But is the hype really true?
It turns out that for high-intensity or prolonged activities like distance running, cycling, or swimming, as a recovery beverage choice, chocolate milk has indeed been found to improve muscle, bone, and cardiovascular health. The high quality protein found in milk has also been linked to faster recovery making it a more suitable post-exercise choice than protein-free sports drinks. A ratio of 3 to 4 grams of carbohydrates to 1 gram of protein is recommended in restoring depleted energy supplies and rebuilding small muscle tears that occur during exercise. Carbohydrates also deliver a quick energy boost, which allows the simple sugar glucose to rapidly enter cells and be used by tired muscles.
Containing almost double the amount of carbohydrates and protein found in regular milk and other sports beverages, chocolate milk supplies a dense source of nutrients to refuel the body. Its flavour makes it a very palatable choice for many although experiment to find the optimal recovery drink for your unique needs. Proteins in milk include fast-acting whey and slower-acting casein, which together supply a lasting source of protein. In addition, chocolate milk helps to rehydrate and cool the body after training, supply a source of vitamin D and calcium and replenish the electrolytes sodium and potassium lost through sweat. Cocoa found in chocolate milk provides antioxidants that can reduce free radicals formed during exercise.
After prolonged physical activity, replenish with a balanced meal, snack or drink. Plan to eat within 20 minutes of exercise in order to maximize tissue repair and muscle recovery. Delaying snacks may affect performance in future workouts. When choosing a snack, pick something with 10 to 20 grams of high-quality protein and 0.4 to 0.7 grams per pound of bodyweight in carbohydrates.
Great snack ideas include:
- 250 mL low-fat chocolate milk
- Ready-made Carnation Instant Breakfast drink
- Homemade peanut butter and banana drink using low fat milk
- Yogurt berry smoothie
- Hummus with whole grain pita chips or crackers
- Nut, raisin and cereal mix
- Cheese slice or peanut butter with an apple, orange or banana
No matter what recovery snack you choose, be sure to rehydrate by drinking water as well.
Allison Gallop and Kara Marshall are 3rd year UBC Dietetics students working with Patricia Chuey, MSc., RD