Chocolate Milk as a Sports Recovery Drink
Endurance athletes, especially those training for the upcoming Seattle to Portland (STP) Bicycle Classic (July 13th and 14th), have a post-workout routine called the “After” (as in ‘after the workout’). That could include stretching, listening to music or resting and recovery nutrition. An athlete’s “After” can make a dramatic difference in how they feel and perform.
Strenuous exercise tears down muscle tissue and that tissue needs time and nutrients to repair and be stronger – which is why athletes work out.
During a recent study conducted at the University of Texas in Austin endurance cyclists consumed one of three recovery drinks – lowfat chocolate milk, a carbohydrate sports drink or non-caloric flavored water. The results showed that lowfat chocolate milk improved performance – reduced the ride time for the same distance by an average of six minutes compared to the carbohydrate sports drink or calorie-free water.
The findings confirmed a 2006 Indiana University study on endurance-trained cyclists who drank lowfat chocolate milk after an intense period of cycling. They were able to work out longer and with more power during a second exercise period.
The key to the science behind chocolate milk is its three to one carbohydrate to protein ratio, which is optimal for muscle recovery.
“I do use chocolate milk as my recovery drink,” said Jeff Reed, a veteran of three STPs. “Chocolate milk works for me and is the first thing I want after my ride. It is also easily available anywhere I go.”
“I have always struggled with recovery drinks because I don’t like the taste,” added Laurie Bakke, who will be participating in her ninth STP this year. “Chocolate milk is refreshing and tastes great.”
There is no denying the annual Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic or STP is a strenuous event. The 200-mile ride is the largest multi-day bicycle event in the Northwest, with up to 10,000 participants riding from Seattle to Portland in one or two days. That makes refueling vital.
“Recovery is all about being ready to work out hard again next session,” added Reed, a Lake Stevens resident, who typically races twice a week during race season (March – August).
“In the summer, I ride 250 to 300 miles a week,” explained Bakke who began cycling ten years ago. “I started drinking chocolate milk for recovery three years ago. Now, I drink it after every ride.”
Lowfat chocolate milk has also been shown to help athletes tone up – gain more lean muscle – when compared to drinking a carb-only beverage. In addition, several studies have found that subjects who drank regular or flavored milk after a rigorous workout experienced less exercise-induced muscle damage than those who drank typical sports drinks or water. Also, for those who are lactose intolerant, there is lactose-free chocolate milk.
Replacing muscle fuel (glycogen) after exercise – whether in training or at the actual event – is essential to an athlete’s recovery.
“I ride STP in one day and always have chocolate milk at the one-hundred mile mark,” said Bakke. “The proteins and carbohydrates help refuel my body and refresh my legs. Plus, chocolate milk is very easy on my digestive system.”
During this year’s STP, Darigold will be handing out samples of Refuel, a lactose-free chocolate milk recovery beverage at the ride’s mid-point in Centralia (at Centralia College) and at the finish in Portland.