You’ve just finished a tough workout and it’s time to let your muscles – and your body recover. If you worked hard, you burned through your muscle glycogen stores, broke down fat and even some muscle if you exercised for a prolonged period of time. Not only that – you also lost critical electrolytes such as sodium, chloride, and potassium. To recover, some people reach for a sports drink to replenish those all important carbs, protein, and electrolytes. But are these expensive drinks the best choice when it comes to a sports recovery drink? You may be surprised at the answer.
After working out, hold off on the fancy sports drinks and reach for a glass of chocolate milk instead. A study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism showed that chocolate milk was as effective as sports recovery drinks like Gatorade for replenishing fuel stores and replacing electrolytes after exercise. They tested this on cyclists by giving them either a sports recovery drink, Gatorade, or low-fat chocolate milk after they had cycled for four hours. When they did a second round of cycling, the group that drank the low-fat chocolate milk was able to bike fifty percent longer than those who drank the sports recovery drink – and about the same amount of time as those who drank Gatorade.
There are lots of advantages to using low-fat chocolate milk as an exercise recovery drink. Not only does it have a carbohydrate-protein ratio that rivals that of sports recovery drinks, but it’s also a good source of calcium that many people don’t get enough of. Chocolate is also a good source of flavonoids – natural antioxidant compounds that help repair the free radical damage that occurs with high intensity or prolonged exercise. On top of that, it also contains vitamin D – which up to seventy-five percent of Americans are deficient in. Chocolate milk is also much less expensive than most sports recovery drinks which is a big help if you’re on a budget.
The only real drawback to using low-fat chocolate milk as an exercise recovery drink is the lactose it contains. Many people have problems digesting the lactose found in milk. When lactose isn’t broken down properly, intestinal bacteria have a field day with it which causes bloating, cramping, and diarrhea – symptoms most people can live without. If you have problems digesting lactose, look for lactose free chocolate milk which is now available at many grocery stores.
The bottom line? Skip the expensive sports recovery drinks and sip on low-fat chocolate milk after you exercise. It tastes good – and it’s even better for you after a tough workout.