Chocolate milk may be the best recovery drink

Strenuous physical training to boost performance depletes the body of water, electrolytes (sodium and potassium) and minerals (magnesium, calcium, zinc) through sweating, uses up stored sugar or glycogen in muscles, and breaks down muscle. The ability to replenish these nutrients and rebuild muscle is fundamental to a racer’s ability to train hard every day and succeed in competition.

Low-fat milk may be a better choice than sports drinks or soy protein beverages for replacing lost fluids after endurance exercise and for helping to repair and rebuild muscles after strength training. A study showed that, after exhaustive exercise, athletes who drank low-fat milk, compared to those who drank water or a commercial sports drink, retained substantially more of the fluid consumed during a two hour recovery period. Thus, low-fat milk promotes retention of fluid after heavy exercise.

Other studies have shown that low-fat or fat-free milk, compared to a soy protein beverage, is an ideal choice for muscle repair and muscle gain after strenuous weight lifting. After one session of weight-lifting and twelve weeks of training, consumption of milk increased muscle building and the overall gain of muscle more than the other drinks. The reason for the advantage of milk over the other products may be related to the nutritional content of milk and how the nutrients work together to enable recovery after heavy exercise.

Low-fat milk is a nutritional power house. It consists of 90% water, so it is a good source to replace fluid lost in sweat. Low-fat milk also contains calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D to build strong bones, and B vitamins to produce energy. A pint of low-fat milk provide substantial amounts of potassium and sodium, both of which are lost in sweat during exercise. Low-fat milk also is an important source of the key proteins, whey and casein, which contain leucine, an amino acid (building-block) needed to make new protein. Whey is absorbed very quickly and coordinates the process of building muscle protein. Casein plays another essential role by slowing the breakdown of muscle after exercise. Sugar content of low-fat milk also is high.

Low-fat chocolate milk offers additional benefits because it has a greater carbohydrate or sugar content than low-fat milk with slightly more fat. The principal carbohydrate in cow’s milk is lactose or milk sugar. Low-fat chocolate milk contains carbohydrate and protein in a proportion greater than 3 to 1, which is the optimal level to refuel tired muscles with carbohydrate after heavy exercise. The presence of protein in milk is vital because it speeds the uptake of sugar into exhausted muscles by directly increasing insulin levels in blood. A study found that men who drank low-fat chocolate milk during the 2-hour recovery period after one bout of strenuous exercise improved their time to exhaustion by 52% in a second consecutive exercise test as compared to some commercial sports drinks. This important finding, although preliminary, suggests that low-fat chocolate milk can be useful in assisting people to recover from one session of strenuous exercise to the next.

Compared to other after-exercise recovery beverages, low-fat chocolate milk provides needed nutrients to refill body fluids, replenish muscle energy stores, and rebuild and renew tired muscles. Additional research is underway to confirm and extend the findings that low-fat chocolate milk is an effective after-exercise beverage for adults engaged in all types of physical activity.



  1. Fixup said

    That’s old news. I’m sure I read that some time last year.

  2. Wislon said

    I also find a cold bottle of beer helps me recover mentally and no research is needed to validate this claim. Beer may be useless for recovery but as I only ride once a week and dont race who cares…

  3. leopard said

    Would drinking a bottle of semi skimmed and eating a bar of chocolate have the same effect????????

  4. Eric said

    No milk for me, am a raw foodist. A large banana smoothie works just as fine.

  5. Fixup said

    you can get raw milk

    • Milkmaid said

      It’s illegal to buy and/or sell raw milk. Morons.
      I am not sure that Milkmaid is right about this as it seems that I can buy raw milk (not that I would want to) from a farm less than twenty miles from my home. I believe the container must show the message “This milk has not been heat treated and may therefore contain organisms harmful to health”

  6. Tariq said

    WOW.. talk about citing sources???

    How come no one ever asks for the sources?

    “A study found…”

    “A study conducted in late august…”

    Good point Tariq, all I can offer in my defence is that this is a blog for cyclists and cycle racing fans not scientists. I guess some readers will have tried chocolate milk and if they like the taste and go OK on it that is all that matters. I like the fact that it is available everywhere and is cheap.

  7. Tariq said

    I’m not doubting that it’s a beneficial after workout drink, and that’s why I am curious to read more.
    I have tried Googling but no luck. My vague recollection is that the paper was from a Uni in England and I think it was in the midlands.

  8. Pauld said

    Hey greenjersey, Yes you really should quote your sources, this has the added benefit of making your article(s) more credible and hence more popular!

    I like the sound of the carbo-protein combination and am trying it (as well as taking a protein drink) so thanks for the article still!
    Paul D

  9. I completely disagree with this idea that chocolate milk is the best — it’s obvious that strawberry milk is the best plus it gives you one of your essential 5 a day fruits.

    Of course when strawberry milk can’t be produced because the strawberry haven’t grown yet there is always banana milk which strangely is available throughout the year, I guess they get the bananas from different countries.

    Toffee milk is horrible and the plant that they get the toffee from is not sustainable as they cut down lots of the Amazon forest to grow toffee trees so I wouldn’t advice people buying toffee milk.

    I wonder if anybody has any idea exactly how much milk I Should drink after a ride is 4 pints of milk enough ? As I still feel tired after a ride the next day and I worry that I am not replacing my body with enough protein after the ride.

  10. Francis Koh said

    don’t believe it completely. some are advertising gimmicks.

  11. JOhn said

    I have beedn drinking chocolate milk for about six months now, formerly a fat guy. Started exercising nearly two years ago, have lost a total of nearly 100 pounds, from 265-270 to 170 at 6’2″, In the past six months, I have put on about 5-6 pounds of lean muscle, I attribute my success to the chocolate milk. After trying various so called high quality whey proteins and recovery type drinks, I found that for at least my own benefit, If I drink 8ounces, or so of chocolate milk after a work out my soreness and recovery was cut by near 70%, do I still have muscle soreness, yes, do I feel nearly as exhausted no. My results have been great and I am a huge fan of chocolate milk!!! Nice post!

  12. J.L.O. said

    Does Nesquik and fat free white milk mixed work as well as the low fat milk mentioned in the above article?

    John do you use store bought pre-made chocolate milk?


  13. J.L.O. said

    Also, will chocolate milk slow down weight/fat loss? Dairy items are discouraged in my weight loss plan.

  14. I regularly cycle a 35 mile round trip to work 2x per week.
    I never tried milk as a recovery drink just relying on water during, tea and coffee in the office.

    So, as a totally unscientific test, for a two week period I’ll have a pint of semi-skimmed milk (from the canteen) when I get to the office and see what happens.

    So far, my average journey time to and from the office is on average 1 hour 25. And due to the regularity of the journey, I know how I would expect to feel during any set of conditions, temperature, wind, time etc.

    Riding to the office is no biggy but the ride home is the critical one where I expect to see a difference having gotten up at 5:30 am ridden, done a days work and then ride home. I’ll keep you posted.

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