Saint Louis University

BLOG: Power-Up with Chocolate Milk

Author: Cassie Dorschner
Published: Thursday, November 1, 2012

Gatorade, Powerade and other popular sports drinks are heavily advertised as the preferred product to refuel the body with after sports performance or exercise, but are these sports drinks really the optimal choice for athletes to consume in regards to rebuilding muscle and refueling storage systems throughout the body post-workout? The avid users of these products may say “yes”, but current research literature states differently. Chocolate milk is the new product of choice given its result on post-game or performance recovery.

After recently completing my health promotion rotation at the St. Louis Dairy Council where I focused and researched on their program, “Power Up with Chocolate Milk,” I quickly became intrigued. This program is used to inform coaches, athletic directors, school nurses, principles, etc. on the nutritional benefits of chocolate milk and why it is the optimal choice for a post-workout or performance beverage.

“Power Up with Chocolate Milk” endorses one major take-home message: the workout may be finished, but the body isn’t. This idea promotes the presence of a two-hour recovery window after exercise or performance where the body needs to be refueled with the appropriate amount carbohydrate and protein In order to do so, it is recommended that within 30 minutes of exercise or performance completion, a snack which contains both carb and protein is consumed (ideally chocolate milk) and within 2-hours, a full recovery meal would be consumed.

Research suggests that by implementing chocolate milk consumption as part of a post-workout recovery routine, athletes will be able to sufficiently refuel muscles for optimal performance the following day, build muscle and help reduce exercise-induced damage, and hydrate and replenish the electrolytes lost through strenuous activity.

So, why chocolate milk? Chocolate milk provides a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrate: protein which is the optimal ratio for replenishing glycogen storage and repairing and stimulating growth of muscles after strenuous workout or performance. In addition to carbohydrate and protein, chocolate milk is an ideal source of electrolytes such as magnesium, potassium, calcium, and sodium that are lost in sweat throughout an exercise regimen. Calcium, specifically, is the electrolyte most people are unaware that’s being lost in sweat. If it’s not replaced properly, athletes are at greater risk for injury, specifically stress and bone fractures. Chocolate milk doesn’t only work as an electrolyte, but it also rehydrates the body substantially.

Many individuals ask if white milk has the same outcome as chocolate. The simple answer is yes, but consumption of white milk needs to be paired with an additional source of a simple sugar such as a piece of fruit or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to create the 3:1 ration of carbohydrate to protein.

Implementing the routine of drinking chocolate milk post-workout can be very simple. In fact, here are three easy ways you can start:

  1. Coaches can work with their food service department and ask for extra chocolate milk to be ordered during season.
  2. Milk can be kept on the sidelines during a sporting event or game. Have two or three gallons of milk chilled in a cooler along with plastic cups, so when practice or games are over milk is easily accessible and handed out.
  3. Recruit volunteers to donate milk. If booster clubs are used at your school, ask them for support or ask parent volunteers to bring low-fat chocolate milk for after the game.

Whether you’re a parent, a coach or an athlete, be sure to think twice when you go to reach for your post-workout Powerade. Your body will be happier, healthier and better replenished when you choose chocolate milk for your post-workout drink. It supports a strong immune system and keeps athletes healthy and ready to play the next day.

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