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Doctor's Orders: The Skinny On Chocolate Milk

By Dr. Phil Conway on September 27, 2013


Post exercise recovery nutrition and fluid drinks are very big business. Countless numbers of companies are pushing their own proprietary secret scientific solutions for post exercise recovery nutrition supplements or drinks that guarantee the athlete who uses it will be fully recovered and fueled up for their next sports event.

Hockey players are particularly exposed to ads showing Sidney Crosby following a three level sports drink system. Recently, there has been another big player entering the game, good old chocolate milk. There have been several scientific papers that suggest that chocolate milk is the perfect (or near perfect) sports recovery drink.

Sports recovery nutrition has two main goals.

First: to replenish the athlete’s depleted energy stores. Second: to provide the micronutrients needed for the body to metabolize into protein for strength gain and enhance endurance energy.

There is a golden window for the optimization of the post exercise nutrition and fluid drinks. The first 30 minutes following strenuous exercise, the body is metabolizing nutrients to repair itself at a very high rate. It is during this time that post recovery nutrition is so important. 

At around the two-hour mark post exercise, this window of nutritional recovery is closed. Scientists suggest that an ideal recovery drink should be easily absorbed, and provide both protein and carbohydrates in a 4 to 1 ratio. Surprisingly, chocolate milk meets this ideal ratio and for the most part is easily absorbed.

However, one of the most tantalizing aspects of chocolate milk is that it tastes good, is readily available, is not too costly and is perceived as being healthy. This sets up the likelihood of chugging several cartons of chocolate milk. In other words drinking way too much chocolate milk instead of providing post exercise recovery, there is now the risk of cause a severe insulin spike, possible weight gain and other health worries.

Most of the science and research associated with the development of post exercise recovery drinks and nutrition is completed on elite athletes, not young players. 

Common sense should prevail when drinking chocolate milk. Depending on the age and athletic ability of the athlete, let the intensity of the workout dictate the amount of chocolate milk to drink. 

A general rule is for athletes under the age of 13, a 250 ml carton is quite adequate.  For athletes over age 13, a 500 ml carton is plenty. If the workout is particularly difficult, further supplementation with some fruit, a light sandwich, and water to help with the recovery process.

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September 27, 2013
Categories:  Performance
Keywords:  Doctor's Orders

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