Post-run nutrition is essential, but the choice of a recovery drink can be overwhelming. From water to Gatorade to Pedialyte, each liquid has its benefits and varies in popularity within the running community. Most runners have their favorites, but if you're still looking check this out: chocolate milk has made the recovery drink list! This may sound a little strange at first, but it’s basically a liquid carbohydrate.
Cow's milk is considered to be a high quality protein, meaning that it has all the essential amino acids needed by your body. The additional carbohydrate compound included in chocolate milk has interested researchers in examining chocolate milk as a recovery beverage for endurance athletes. This study looked at the effects of drinking milk on different measures of protein-related responses in the body 45 minutes after exercise.
Male runners participated in two different trials a week apart in which they drank either fat-free chocolate milk (Nesquik) or a carbohydrate control beverage following a 45 minute run at 65% of VO2peak. Blood work and muscle biopsies were taken before drinking milk and three other times during a 3-hour recovery period. The second trial, a week later, measured treadmill running time to exhaustion.
The study found that drinking chocolate milk after exercise resulted in higher muscle protein fractional synthetic rate and lower whole body protein breakdown during recovery compared to a protein free, carbohydrate only beverage. It also found that treadmill time to exhaustion was greater in the chocolate milk group. The study had a few limitations; exercise time was not significant enough to fully deplete glycogen stores and the sample size was small. However, the data of this study does suggest that chocolate milk can be a good option for post-exercise nutrition to support protein recovery.
If you are lactose intolerant or maintain a vegan diet, chocolate milk is not the recovery beverage for you. But if you're looking for a way to mix up your recovery (and indulge in a childhood favorite), try a glass of chocolate milk!
Lisbeth Hoyt, DPT