Runners who aim to get stronger with each quality workout know the importance of recovery nutrition. A recovery nutrition plan is particularly critical after a long run or intense workout. Minutes/hours after a run, your body’s blood flow to the muscles is greater and presents a window of opportunity to fuel, restock energy, and repair working muscles. Recovery nutrition becomes even more essential for athletes who train twice a day or have a limited amount of time (6-24 hours) to recover.
The ideal recovery food/beverage contains carbohydrates to restore glycogen (muscle’s energy source), essential amino acids to promote muscle protein synthesis/repair, and fluids to rehydrate.
The number of recovery drinks on the shelves is endless, but is there a comparable, low-cost drink that you can easily find and also look forward to drinking?
The answer is sweet: low-fat chocolate milk.
Studies have been conducted on chocolate milk as a recovery drink and not only did athletes perform well, they performed better compared to other formulated sports recovery products. Low-fat chocolate milk has an impressive nutritional resume for recovery. It contains a nearly ideal carb to protein ratio of 3:1, both slow (casein) and fast (whey) digesting proteins for quick and sustaining protein fuel, and important vitamins and minerals that American’s diets tend to fall short in: calcium, vitamin D, and potassium.
While most formulated recovery drinks - like GU Recovery Brew - are perfectly suitable beverages, provide more flavor options, and may be more convenient at times than refrigerated chocolate milk, they are more expensive, even after selecting higher-priced organic milk.
As a sports dietitian, I recommend that my athletes drink about 10 oz. of low-fat organic chocolate milk after a hard/long workout to obtain 200 calories, 10 grams of protein, 33 grams of carbohydrate and 3 grams of fat within 30-45 minutes. Chocolate milk is not going to be appropriate for athletes with lactose intolerance or sensitivities.
So go ahead and sport that chocolate stache!
Jennifer McDaniel, MS, RD, CSSD