Study examines benefits of chocolate milk after exercise

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A recent UT study found that the proteins and carbohydrates in chocolate milk make the beverage an excellent post-workout recovery drink.

Photo Credit: Thomas Allison | Daily Texan Staff

Chocolate milk offers the same recovery benefits as many commercial workout supplements, UT researchers say.

John Ivy, a UT professor who led two studies through the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education, said participants first completed a rigorous three-hour workout. Some were given low-fat chocolate milk immediately after while others were given common carbohydrate sports drinks or a calorie-free beverage. The athletes consumed another dose of the beverages two hours later and then completed a cycling time trial to evaluate the effects of chocolate milk on their post-exercise recovery.

“Participants performed much better when they received chocolate milk versus receiving a carbohydrate supplement or if they didn’t receive any supplement at all,” Ivy said. “They were able to finish the time trial much faster.”

Ivy said the amount of chocolate milk each athlete needed to consume varied depending on their body weight, but the dosage amount was typically between eight and 14 ounces. He said while some people believe increasing protein intake alone optimizes recovery after a workout, combining proteins with carbohydrates is more effective.

“Chocolate milk has a great carbohydrate to protein ratio, and so we thought that would be a food we could use for recovery rather than having to use a lot of the supplements that have been developed for that purpose,” he said.

Ivy said other types of milk such as plain low-fat milk or soy milk are not as effective in achieving these benefits because they lack the carbohydrates found in chocolate milk. His book "Nutrient Timing" explores the impact that the timing of supplement intake has on athlete recovery. Ivy said athletes achieve the most benefits by consuming chocolate milk immediately following a workout and then again two hours later.

Engineering senior Christine King said she tries to replenish her body after her Texercise classes by eating food high in protein within an hour after working out.

“I haven’t tried using chocolate milk after a workout yet, but I’ve heard that it has all the nutrients and things that you need to refuel,” King said.

Robin Merket, a physician at University Health Services, said she has found consuming a combination of carbohydrates and protein after a workout promotes muscle healing and growth.

“After working out we also recommend that people hydrate themselves no matter what to replenish hydration that they lose through sweat,” Merket said. “Most people may not want to eat solid foods after vigorous exercise, but chocolate milk can provide a good replacement for receiving those vital nutrients after a workout.”