Best Recovery Fluid: Chocolate Milk Instead of Sports Drinks?

May 2, 2006 08:22 AM

By Jim Brown, Ph.D., Executive Editor, Sports Performance Journal (, Author, Tennis: Steps to Success

After your next tough match or challenging practice session, you may want to consider a surprising new sports drink to help refuel tired muscles: low-fat chocolate milk. The International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism reports that athletes who drank chocolate milk after an intense bout of exercise were able to work out longer and with more power during a second workout compared to athletes who drank commercial sports beverages.

"Our study indicates that chocolate milk is a strong alternative to other commercial sports drinks in helping athletes recover from strenuous, energy-depleting exercise," according to co-author Joel M. Stager, PhD, professor of kinesiology at Indiana University. "Chocolate milk contains an optimal carbohydrate to protein ratio, which is critical for helping refuel tired muscles after strenuous exercise and can enable athletes to exercise at a high intensity during subsequent workouts."

Stager and colleagues had nine cyclists bike until their muscles were depleted of energy, rest four hours, then bike again until exhaustion, three separate times. During the rest period, the cyclists drank one of three beverages:
1) low-fat chocolate milk
2) a traditional fluid replacement sports drink
3) a carbohydrate replacement sports drink

During the second round of exercise, the researchers found that cyclists who drank chocolate milk during the rest period were able to bike nearly twice as long before reaching exhaustion than those who consumed the carbohydrate replacement drink, and as long as those who consumed the fluid replacement drink. Researchers theorize that the combination of carbohydrates and protein found in chocolate milk is what helped enhance the cyclists' performance and suggest that flavored milk may be an optimal beverage for refueling muscles after exercise. The researchers also note that chocolate milk is a tasty and cost-effective alternative to many sports drinks.

In addition to its ideal combination of carbohydrates and protein, flavored milk contains seven other essential nutrients that are important for an athlete's health — including bone-building calcium. No other sports drink contains the nutrient package found in flavored milk.

© 2006 HMS Publishing, Inc.
Jim Brown will be contributing new content to this site on a monthly basis. If you have a question for Dr. Brown please feel free to email him at