Athletes who drink chocolate milk during exercise or after a hard workout may recover just as quickly as they would with sports drinks, a research review from Iran suggests.
Previous studies have shown that what people eat and drink during intense exercise and afterward can impact how well their muscles recover and how rapidly their body replaces fluids and electrolytes lost during the workout.
Most studies assessing whether drinks with carbohydrates and electrolytes, or with protein, might aid recovery have been too small to draw firm conclusions about which beverages are the best option.
About the study
For the new analysis, researchers examined data from 12 small studies that compared how chocolate milk influenced several markers of exercise recovery, compared to a placebo drink or a sports drink.
Athletes did exercise tests - mostly running or cycling - and then researchers looked at recovery markers such as how long it takes to become exhausted during workouts, athletes’ perceived exertion levels, heart rate and levels of lactic acid and an enzyme known as creatine kinase in the blood, which both rise with intense activity.
Chocolate milk as effective – or more so – than sports drinks
Overall, the study found that chocolate milk lengthened time to exhaustion, and improved perceived exertion, heart rate or levels of lactic acid in the blood at least as much other beverages.
“Chocolate milk contains carbohydrates, proteins, fats, flavonoids, electrolytes, and some vitamins which make this drink a good choice for recovery in athletes,” said the lead study author.
In some instances, chocolate milk appeared better than alternative drinks.
Time to exhaustion with chocolate milk drinkers was almost 1 minute longer than with the placebo drink and about 6 minutes longer than with sports drinks.
Lactic acid levels, an indication of exertion, were lower for chocolate milk drinkers than for people who consumed placebo drinks, the study also found.
Even though this analysis pooled data from several smaller studies to get more robust results, it still included less than 150 people. Results from running or cycling exercise tests also might not reflect how chocolate milk would impact recovery from other sports.
Athletes can also probably boost recovery without chocolate milk, other experts noted. Any food that provides carbohydrate, protein, fluid and electrolytes and is well-tolerated will help promote recovery. Other popular recovery foods include cereal with milk, smoothies, sandwiches or soup.
The best choice for a workout recovery drink depends a lot on the individual athlete and the type of workout they do. For example, someone at the gym who runs for 20 minutes will likely do just fine with water. But a distance runner who runs 15 miles run will benefit from a recovery beverage like chocolate milk or a sports drink.
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.