Not only does chocolate milk taste good; studies show it’s also the ideal post-workout recovery drink.
“Serious and amateur athletes alike enjoyed physical recovery benefits when they drank low-fat chocolate milk after a vigorous workout,” says Dr. John Ivy, lead researcher on the studies and chair of the College of Education’s Department of Kinesiology and Health Education. “The advantages for the study participants were more muscle and less fat, improved times while working out and overall better physical shape than peers who consumed sports beverages that just contained carbohydrates.”
Ivy and his research team compared the recovery benefits of drinking low-fat chocolate milk after exercise to the effects of a carbohydrate beverage with the same ingredients and calories as typical sports drinks as well as to a calorie-free beverage. After riding a bike for 90 minutes at moderate intensity, then for 10 minutes of high intensity intervals, 10 trained cyclists had significantly more power and rode faster when they consumed low-fat chocolate milk rather than a carbohydrate sports drink or calorie-free beverage.
Compared to the other recovery drinks, chocolate milk drinkers had twice the improvement in maximal oxygen uptake after four and a half weeks of cycling, which included intense exercise five days a week, with each exercise session followed by one of the three recovery beverages. The study included 32 healthy, amateur male and female cyclists.
“We don’t yet understand exactly what mechanism is causing low-fat chocolate milk to give athletes these advantages — that will take more research,” says Ivy, “but there’s something in the naturally-occurring protein and carbohydrate mix that offers significant benefits.”
Ivy notes that a 30-minute recovery window after exercise, for people of all fitness levels, is as important as the nutrition supplement that’s consumed.