Chocolate milk is my favourite recovery drink. If you ask me it comes close to a perfect recovery drink and that is not only because it has chocolate in it!
Why you want Protein
A hard training causes muscle damage that has to be repaired. To rebuild the muscles you need the proper ‘building blocks’, amino acids, which make up protein. So the logical way to improve the recovery process is to have some protein after exercise.
However, for optimal recovery, you need more than just protein. Energy (fuel) is stored in your muscles and liver as glycogen. After a hard training the glycogen stores will be quite low, if not completely depleted. The faster you regenerate these stores, the faster your recovery will be. To refill your glycogen stocks you need carbohydrates because consuming these enhance your insulin production. Insulin is a hormone that, among other things, transports glucose from your blood into your muscles and liver, where the glucose gets converted into glycogen. It also influences the protein synthesis in your muscles. A greater insulin response will deliver a quicker muscle recovery so carbohydrates are important!
Research shows that recovery drinks/food with a mix of both carbohydrates and protein can almost double the insulin response, resulting in a higher glycogen synthesis and amino acid absorption rate to improve recovery. The magic mix of carbohydrates to protein seems to be a ratio of 4:1 or 5:1. That means 4 to 5 grams carbohydrates for every gram of protein. More protein isn’t necessarily better. In fact, research shows that more protein can even slow the process of glycogen replenishment, having a negative effect on recovery time.
The well-known bowls of yoghurt with fruit/muesli are recommended for a reason. The yoghurt delivers the protein and the fruit delivers the carbohydrates. The fruit also makes the yoghurt a bit sweeter and delivers some extra vitamins and minerals. Muesli or oats are other good ways to add some carbohydrates.
However, a bowl of yoghurt with fruit is not always very practical. The dressing room of your local sports club isn’t the nicest place to sit down and eat a whole bowl of food.
These are the moments that chocolate milk is perfect! The milk delivers the protein and, because it’s chocolate milk instead of normal milk, it also contains some extra carbohydrates. As luck would have it, chocolate milk approaches the ‘magic mix’ of a carbohydrates:protein ratio of 4:1 almost perfectly.
Chocolate Milk Moments
Even if you are in a hurry, don’t feel like it or have some other social obligations after training, recovery is important. Here my chocolate milk moments to kick start the recovery process:
- Nothing beats coming home after a wet and/or cold training to a warm mug of chocolate milk! (No, this hasn’t got anything to do with being in a hurry but it is my favourite chocolate milk moment).
- In the dressing room, or on the way out of your sports club. It’s really easy to have a bottle of chocolate milk to sip on, it can easily be taken with you and is ready to use.
- When there is somewhat of a social obligation to drink something at a bar or cafe after the training, order some chocolate milk! While you are enjoying your chocolaty goodness you can tell your mates that you are already working on your recovery (note that you lose your credibility if you order it with whipped cream though).
- Just because you can. Chocolate milk tastes nice and is good for you after training. Need I say more?
Written by Sophie van Bakel
- Rick Kattouf, Strategies for Optimum Recovery, 10 Maart, 2015, trainingpeaks.com/blog
- Pritchett, K., Prittchett, R, Chocolate milk: A post-exercise recovery beverage for endurance sports, Med Sport Sci. 2012;59:127-34,
- Effects of recovery beverages on glycogen restoration and endurance exercise performance, J. Strength Conc. Res., 2003 Feb; 17(1):12-9
Note that these are the author’s interpretations and applications of research they have performed.