Forget Sports Drinks: Chocolate Milk May Be Best for Exercise Recovery

Chocolate milk could be the best post-workout meal, according to a study. 

Consuming the right food and drink after exercising is important, as it helps the body recover and build muscle. 

Chocolate milk has emerged in recent years as a surprise contender for the best post-workout meal. It is the meal of choice for British Olympic gold medal-winning runner Mo Farah. 

The drink contains carbohydrates, proteins and fat, as well as water and electrolytes: all ingredients the body needs after a workout, the authors of a study published in the journal Nature wrote.

To test their hypothesis, researchers conducted a review of existing evidence to compare how chocolate milk affected the body during and after exercise, compared to beverages marketed as sports drinks, and a placebo. 

chocolate-milk-stock "Chocolate milk contains carbohydrates, proteins and fat, as well as water and electrolytes, which may be ideal for post-exercise recovery," wrote the authors of the study. Getty Images

The researchers, based at Shahid Sadoughi University of Medical Sciences in Yazd, Iran, assessed 12 small studies. Fewer than 150 participants were involved in the study in total, and they mostly ran or cycled, according to Reuters.

Factors such as length of time it took the athletes to become physically exhausted, their levels of exertion and their heart rate were measured. Amounts of creatine kinase (which cells in muscles need to function) and serum lactate (which indicates how much lactic acid is released under exertion) in the body were also noted.

Athletes who drank chocolate milk were found to be able to work out for one minute longer before reaching exhaustion compared to those given the placebo, and by six minutes compared with those who consumed sports drinks. Participants who drank chocolate milk also felt they had exerted themselves less, according to the study. 

They also had lower levels of lactic acid than the people who consumed the placebo.

Dr. Amin Salehi-Abargouei of Shahid Sadoughi University of Medical Sciences in Yazd, who led the study, told Reuters, “The take-home message is that chocolate milk is a low-cost, delicious and palatable option for recovery, and provides either similar or superior effects compared with commercial drinks." 

Aisling Pigott, a qualified dietitian and spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association who was not involved in the research, told Newsweek: “We live in a world where every time we enter a shop or turn on our computer, we are bombarded by adverts for health products. This highlights that for those engaging in intense or endurance exercise, they do not necessarily need sports nutrition products or protein drinks—but simple chocolate milk can be just as good!”

Pigott stressed that the study related to chocolate milk as a source of nutrients to aid recovery, and shouldn’t be interpreted as a green light to consume it in excess.

“If you were to drink chocolate milk or something every day with low or moderate activity levels, it would provide you with too much sugar, calories, and ultimately lead to weight gain. This is referring to those with high energy demands and refueling needs,” she said.

Other healthy post-workout foods offering a low-fat meal with adequate levels of protein and carbohydrates include egg on toast, granola with yogurt and a chicken sandwich. 

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