Chocolate Milk as a Recovery Drink for Endurance Walkers

Fancy Formulas or a Chocolate Milk?

Darigold Refuel Chocolate Milk. Wendy Bumgardner ©

When I go out for long hours of walking for my marathon training, I have made it a habit to stop before the final mile at the local Dutch Bros. Coffee stand for their mocha "Dutch Freeze," a delicious slushee of milk, chocolate, and coffee. This decadent delight is actually just what the researcher ordered to replenish muscle glycogen and provide protein and other nutrients to help repair muscles.

Recovery Drinks

Carbohydrate recovery drinks provide extra carbohydrate plus protein, in a ratio of 4:1. Brand names include Accelerade and Endurox R4. Studies have shown that this combination can boost performance and reduce free radicals and muscle damage, vs. using a sports drink that only replaces carbohydrates and electrolytes.

Chocolate Milk for Endurance?

Researcher Jason Karp, M.S. of Indiana University tested chocolate milk vs. Endurox R4 recovery drink vs. a regular sports drink. The chocolate milk has the magic 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio, is cheap and tastes good. He used nine endurance cyclists who did an interval training workout, rested 4 hours drinking the chosen test drink, then worked out to exhaustion. Each rider was given each drink on three different days. The results - chocolate milk was as good as or better than the sports recovery drink and the regular sports drink for performance, heart rate, perceived exertion, and lactate levels.

A similar study of 13 cyclists in Britain found that the cyclists increased their endurance time by over 40% if using chocolate milk as a recovery drink rather than a carbohydrate replacement drink or a fluid replacement drink.

Chocolate Milk and Muscle Recovery

A study of soccer players measured creatine kinase as an indicator of muscle damage after a week of intensified soccer training using either lowfat chocolate milk or a high-carbohydrate recovery drink. The study from James Madison University was presented at the American College of Sports.
They concluded that post-exercise consumption of lowfat chocolate milk provided equal or possibly superior muscle recovery.

Another study of soccer players found that those who drank chocolate milk as a recovery drink vs. a carbohydrate-electrolyte sports drink had the same performance time on a run test, and the men had better results on an endurance test. They concluded that low-fat chocolate milk was a good recovery drink.

Drink What You Enjoy

After a long workout, treat yourself to whatever you enjoy drinking. I highly recommend the Dutch Bros. Brain Freeze, but you may prefer a frappuchino at Starbucks. Believe me, either tastes better than the Accelerade.

Cautions for the Lactose Intolerant

Avoid milk products before and during an endurance walk if you are lactose intolerant or think you might be. For many people the bloating, gas, and nausea that may be usually mild can be greatly increased during the stress of exercise. I avoid milk products for a full day before a long training walk or take Lactaid tablets with them.

Save the chocolate milk or mocha latte till afterward.

Got Chocolate Milk?
By 2014, milk producers have been supplying marathon, half marathon and other endurance events with chocolate milk at the finish line. One brand, Darigold, is producing their milk as Darigold Refuel Chocolate Milk, as a lowfat, lactose free product. It is ultrapasteurized for a long shelf life. Look for it and similar products from your own local dairies.

Sources: Karp, Jason R.; Johnston, Jeanne D.; Tecklenburg, Sandy; Mickleborough, Tim; Fly, Alyce; Stager, Joel M. FACSM "The Efficacy of Chocolate Milk as a Recovery Aid," Annual Meeting Abstracts: C-34 - Free Communication/Poster: Post-Exercise Nutrition. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: Volume 36(5) Supplement May 2004 p S126.

Thomas K, Morris P, Stevenson E. "Improved endurance capacity following chocolate milk consumption compared with 2 commercially available sport drinks." Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2009 Feb;34(1):78-82.

Gilson SF, Saunders MJ, Moran CW, Corriere DF, Moore RW, Womack CJ, Todd MK. "Effects of chocolate milk consumption on markers of muscle recovery during intensified soccer training." Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2009;41:S577.

Spaccarotella KJ, Andzel WD. "The effects of low fat chocolate milk on postexercise recovery in collegiate athletes." J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Dec;25(12):3456-60.

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