Have you ever wondered, what's the deal with drinking chocolate milk after workouts and running events? Over the past few years, chocolate milk has been marketed as a great post-workout meal, but does anyone know why? It is more than just protein!
Understanding the Basics
After a hard workout the body is craving carbohydrates to replenish the fuel that was consumed during the strenuous exercise. Whether it be running a half marathon or hitting the weights, carbohydrate is your critical fuel for performing at your peak. Many athletes mistakenly believe protein is the key to keeping fueled for a workout, but that could not be farther from the truth. Protein is essential to rebuilding muscle after the workout in which muscle and tissue has been broken down. The key to recovery is being able to replenish the carbohydrate that was burned as fuel at the same time as you are replenishing the protein necessary for muscle rebuilding. The best time to most efficiently replete carbohydrate and protein is immediately after a workout, usually within the first hour. The first hour after exercise is dubbed the "Golden Hour" because the body is extremely efficient at recovery during this time frame. It is absolutely critical to take advantage of the "Golden Hour" when athletes have multiple workouts or competitions in the same day.
What is so special about Chocolate Milk?
There are several reasons why chocolate milk is seen as a great choice for a post workout meal. The primary reason is the mix of carbohydrate and protein that is available in the drink. In 8 fluid ounces of an average chocolate milk drink, there are 29 grams of carbohydrate and 8 grams of protein. If the athlete consumes a full 20 ounces of chocolate milk, they will take in about 73 g of carbohydrate and 20 g of protein. Both of these amounts are very close to what is recommended for the average 75 kg individual during the golden hour. Moreover, research suggests that your carbohydrate to protein ratio should be about 3:1 in favor of carbohydrate, which would be right on target.
Additionally, there are some practical facts about chocolate milk that make it useful. The primary benefits are that it is cold, tasty and readily available. You are also replenishing fluid at the same time, which can help in the rehydration process. Keep in mind, there are plenty of other foods and drinks that can accomplish the same end result. The conclusion is that it is not the chocolate milk per se, it is the combination of carbohydrate and protein found within it that is the key to recovery.