I’ll admit it.
A few years ago, when I heard a few of the world’s best triathletes talking about chocolate milk as the ultimate recovery drink, I jumped on the band wagon.
I loved the stuff. Still do.
According to the advertisement above, Chris Bosh (Miami Heat) and Apolo Ohno (Olympic speed skater) recover with chocolate milk as well.
5 km run, 60 minute session in the gym, 40 km bike ride…it didn’t matter. I would often grab a 500 ml carton of chocolate milk afterwards and chug it back in seconds. It sure went down smooth.
Some of the top athletes in the world were drinking chocolate milk to help them recover from their workouts, so why would I do anything different? Heck, even the media and not surprisingly, dairy companies also got on the bandwagon.
Chocolate milk is the new Gatorade! – Click to Tweet
My views and post-workout recovery tactics have since changed and I read an article the in the news a few days back, which prompted this post.
Pour Some Sugar on Me
For comparison purposes, a 355 ml can of Coke has 39 grams of sugar.
So after a typical workout a few years ago, I was dumping over 50 grams (500 ml carton of chocolate milk) of sugar down my throat! That’s 12 teaspoons.
Post Workout Recovery: What do we really need?
Chocolate milk is thought to have the best ratio of carbohydrates to protein for post-exercise recovery (3:1). Hard working muscles that are depleted of glycogen will be replenished by the carbs. The protein will help rebuild damaged muscle.
That is fine, but if I workout hard for 20 minutes, with a good sweat – do I really need chocolate milk to help me recover properly?
Sadly, the answer is no.
An interesting article about fueling for workouts was written by Gina Klata in the NY Times. The most important point made in the article to me was this:
“Moderate athletes need to eat and drink after a workout, she said, but a healthy meal with plenty of fluid is sufficient. Indeed, for most of them, the most common error is to eat too much.”
Over at Sweat Science, Alex Hutchinson wrote a post that made another compelling point:
“Top sports nutritionists now believe that post-workout refueling is vital if you’re working out twice a day — but for the vast majority of us, our next meal will be perfectly adequate for refueling.”
I would argue that 99% of the population is not working out twice per day and drinking chocolate milk right after a workout is not necessary.
Forget Losing Weight
For those of us looking to lose weight, drinking chocolate milk after a workout is pure sabotage. Losing weight is about calories (see my interview with Timothy Caulfield for more on this). Most people simply don’t need that many – especially when trying to lose weight!
Sugar packs a mean caloric punch. I took a look through the Got Chocolate Milk website and the word “sugar” is nowhere to be found. Of course.
Even on the page outlining chocolate milk’s liquid assets (emphasis on the “ass”, cause that’s what you’re gonna get if you’re not working out twice per day drinking the stuff), sugar missed the cut.
So when the media and companies tell us that chocolate milk is great for refueling, those looking to lose weight need to be skeptics.
Losing wight is a very complex process and I am definitely not an expert. I think it’s pretty safe to say however, that if you are trying to lose weight, lay off the post-workout chocolate milk!
What About the Kids and Chocolate Milk?
Children often fall victim to aggressive marketing. I was in my twenties when I got fooled by the chocolate milk recovery drink craze!
Sugar is a contributor to the health problems that are harming our kids. A New York Times article states that 71 percent of the milk served in American schools is flavored (i.e. chocolate, strawberry, etc.). So, children are already getting too much sugar! Let’s not fool them into drinking more after they do a bit of exercise.
When kids are told that it’s okay to drink 500 ml of chocolate milk after exercising, which contains more sugar and calories than a small bag of peanut M&Ms, we’re in trouble.
What message are we sending? Is there not a childhood obesity epidemic?
Looking back, I think I would have actually enjoyed the peanut M&Ms more – damn!
Unless you are an elite level athlete and/or training hard twice per day, you can recover and refuel adequately with some water and your next meal. Leave the chocolate milk recovery drinks to the pros.
What are your thoughts? We welcome comments below!