Whether you are an endurance athlete or just interested in better health, new research supports drinking low fat chocolate milk after your workout. Chocolate milk can replace carbohydrates (“carbs”) and fluids that you lose when you exercise.
Chocolate milk has a near perfect balance of the nutrients you need in order to recover after a workout. The nutrients include calcium, carbs, vitamin D, potassium and riboflavin, each of which plays a role in your recovery.
Drinking 16 ounces of low-fat chocolate milk within an hour after working out will give you about 320 calories, 52 grams of carbohydrate, 16 grams of protein and 5 grams of fat.
Adding chocolate milk to your diet is good because milk is a whole food. Many endurance athletes do not eat whole foods. Instead, they fall into the habit of living on carb and protein bars, drinks and solutions.
When you do not eat enough whole foods, your body misses out on all the other nutrients that protect your health and improve your athletic performance.
If you are an endurance athlete, you should take in a 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein. This means for every four grams of carbs you eat, you should eat one gram of protein. You should do this within an hour after training, when your body is best able to absorb recovery nutrients.
You want a higher amount of carbs (the “4” part of the 4:1 ratio) because that is what gets stored in your muscle as glycogen. Then, if you have some protein (the “1” part of the 4:1 ratio), it starts the production of insulin.
More insulin helps to bring sugar into your muscles to replace the glycogen you use while exercising. Protein also gives the necessary building blocks (amino acids) to fix damaged muscles.
Taken alone, carbs or proteins are not as effective. If you take in just carbs, they will refuel your muscles, but they will not help to repair them. Protein will help repair your muscles, but it will not refuel them.
Steven T. Devor is Associate Professor of Sport & Exercise Sciences and Physiology & Cell Biology in the OSU School of Physical Activing and Exercise Sciences.