Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Chocolate milk... sugary treat or recovery drink?

Chocolate milk.  I have been hearing for the better part of a year that chocolate milk is a "perfect" recovery drink.  After hearing people like Jamie Oliver talk about the evils of flavored milk, I know I found this to be confusing.  Are we saying chocolate milk, the sugary twin of regular milk, is good now?  What is this new world I live in where chocolate milk and whole eggs are now nutritious?  Who can sort this out for me?

I was listening to a Jillian Michaels' podcast this morning on my commute, and she was totally trashing chocolate milk.  In her opinion, the "chocolate milk as a recovery drink" movement was concocted by the dairy industry, and is complete bull.  What struck me is that she was ripping it a new one without a second thought.  This made me realize: I've been assuming it's crap without really doing any research into it. 

Here's what Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, has to say about three reasons why chocolate milk is special:
#1. Its ideal 3 to 1 ratio of carbohydrate grams to protein grams, which appears to enhance glycogen replenishment into the muscles post workout. Regular milk has a carb to protein ratio of about 2 to 1.

#2. It contains whey protein, which is digested and absorbed quickly, getting essential amino acids circulating in the blood stream soon after consumption. Whey protein is thought to enhance the building and repair of muscle. Twenty percent of the protein in milk is whey protein.

#3. It also contains the protein casein, which is digested and absorbed more slowly than whey protein and sustains amino acids in the circulation many hours after consumption. Casein is thought to reduce the amount of muscle breakdown. (Magee, 8/17/11, Chocolate Milk vs Recovery Drinks: Which One Comes Out On Top?, http://blogs.webmd.com/healthy-recipe-doctor/2011/08/chocolate-milk-vs-recovery-drinks-which-one-comes-out-on-top.html)
 So, I can see how chocolate milk might have a post-workout benefit.  But is chocolate milk right for everyone?  I personally like to have have a handful of almonds and some coconut water, because I don't eat refined sugar and coconut water is great for replacing electrolytes.  (Another favorite post-workout snack is a cup of greek yogurt with some crushed walnuts, pomegranate seeds, and a drizzle of honey... yum!!).  In my own opinion, chocolate milk might be best suited for those who just completed a really vigorous workout and need to supplement without putting a bunch of food in their stomach.  If you just ran a marathon, you're probably not ready to chow down solid food immediatley after.  But you'll need to replace some energy (calories), and also start repairing muscle.  So perhaps a bottle of chocolate milk will aid in doing that. 

If you just went to the gym, did a half hour on the eliptical, and lifted some weights, I'd probably suggest going with a more substantial snack post-workout.  I'm not saying you didn't go to the gym and do work; but chance are good that you a) didn't burn 3,000 calories, and b) are going to be hungry soon after your workout.  Know that an 8 oz serving of low-fat chocolate milk has roughly 190 calories; you don't want to undo a good workout with just a beverage.  Plan ahead for a post-workout snack that will fuel you, fill you, and try to eat it within an hour of working out (when the muscles absorb the most nutrients and energy is replaced most efficently).  Yes- you should eat something after you work out, even if you're trying to lose weight.  Refeuling is part of training.

All of that said, if you choose chocolate milk, be wary of what you are buying.  This is not permission to drink a bottle of Nesquik after your workout.  Opt for 8 ounces of low-fat, organic, chocolate milk to avoid hormones and antibitotics, as well as any other garbage many chocolate milks have.  And remember, not everyone agrees with the idea that chocolate milk is a recovery drink.  "Chocolate Milk as a Post-Exercise Recovery Aid" (http://oakbrooksc.com/docs/stager_chocmilk_study.pdf) is probably the first study you'll see if you Google this topic, and the nine men (what, no women?) followed in this study were all elite (ie high-performance) cyclists.  Also, some say that this study was funded by the Dairy Council.  So, choose what's best for you and your training, but know that chocolate milk is probably not best for everybody. 

Oh- and more on why whole eggs actually ARE amazing another time.  Until later...

6 post-workout snacks from Fitness magazine.
Trainers reveal some of their favorite post-workout snacks in Shape magazine.
Post-workout snack ideas for vegans!

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