Chocolate Milk After a Workout: Is it Really a Good Recovery Drink?

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Drinking a glass of chocolate milk after a workout may be the last thing that comes to mind after a hard run. But, as it turns out, that glass of chocolate milk is more beneficial than anyone would’ve thought. 

Multiple recent studies state that chocolate milk is one of the best post-workout drinks, especially for runners.

These studies demonstrate that chocolate milk contains the exact ratio of carbohydrates to protein needed to help your muscles quickly recover from an intense workout. 

And that’s not the only benefit of a glass of chocolate milk after your workout. The studies show that it also helps replenish electrolytes lost while exercising, contains key nutrients like calcium and Vitamin D, and is usually cheaper than most post-workout drinks on the market.

Interested in finding out more about chocolate milk as a recovery drink?

Let’s jump in!

chocolate mile after a workout

OK, So Why Chocolate Milk?

There has always been evidence suggesting milk can be just as beneficial for refueling muscles and rehydrating after a workout as commercial sports drinks.

Now, recent research is adding to that body of evidence. 

Milk contains potassium, calcium, and magnesium, which are all lost in sweat.

What makes chocolate milk special is its ratio of carbohydrates and protein. These are proven to be the most beneficial for recovery.

Finally, because chocolate milk is nutrient-dense, you’ll find nutrients in it that you won’t find in traditional sports beverages.

Related: Should Runners Take Vitamin D For Recovery?

Advantages of Drinking Chocolate Milk After a Workout

chocoloate milk after a workout

First, you should know when your body can benefit the most from chocolate milk.

It is critical to replenish your body 30-60 minutes post-workout.

If not, your body may not be able to recover properly because it won’t have the proper nutrients.

Chocolate milk contains more carbs than regular milk, lending to a rapid recovery.

Other advantages to drinking chocolate milk after a workout, specifically low-fat chocolate milk are:

  • It helps build muscle – drinking 16 ounces of fat-free chocolate milk after a workout has been shown to help muscles repair and rebuild better than other popular sports drinks.
  • It replenishes muscle fuel – For your muscles to recover and perform at their best, glycogen needs to be replenished after every workout. 16 ounces of fat-free chocolate milk after a workout gives muscles a greater concentration of glycogen than sports drinks that only contain carbohydrates.
  • It’s rich in nutrients like calcium and Vitamin D, which are often lacking from runners’ diets.
  • Research continues to show that chocolate milk performs just as well, if not better than, drinks specifically manufactured for post workout recovery.
  • Chocolate milk is about a third of the price of your average recovery drink. 

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Recovery Runs

What Makes a Good Recovery Drink?

Chocolate milk after a workout

While chocolate milk does have many recovery drinks, it’s important to remember there are plenty of other options out there. 

If you’re lactose intolerant, vegan, or have other dietary restrictions, there are good recovery drinks out there for you. 

Just keep in mind that many drinks advertised as “recovery drinks” are not necessarily helping your recover. 

Here’s what you need to know when you’re looking for an effective option. 

The best recovery drinks have a 3:1 or 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio.

The goal of any post-workout drink is to contain enough carbohydrates to quickly refill your glycogen stores. 

The protein it contains should have most, if not all, of the amino acids your body needs to stop muscle breakdown and begin repairing itself.

You also want to be sure your post workout beverage replaces all the fluids and electrolytes lost during your workout.

Casein Vs. Whey

Many protein drinks are made of casein or whey. Both are milk components, but casein is the soluble milk component, while why is insoluble. In short, that means casein is slower for your body to digest, which helps your body absorb more before it gets digested. 

Plant Based Proteins

chocoloate milk after a workout

For vegans and dairy-free diets, vegetable proteins can be a great and effective substitute for dairy-based drinks. Some good proteins come from peas and any type of nut. 

Brown Rice Proteins

Brown rice is an excellent source of protein and complex carbohydrates, so we always recommend that runners eat plenty of it.

While brown rice does contain a bit of protein, it’s heavier on the carbohydrate side. So for non-dairy options, we’d recommend nut or pea proteins over brown rice. 

At the end of the day, whether you choose chocolate milk or a different drink at the end of your workouts – make sure contains the correct ratio of carbohydrates to protein.

Related: Protein for Runners, Explained

The Bottom Line: Is Chocolate Milk a Good Recovery Drink?

chocoloate milk after a workout

It’s pretty clear that chocolate milk is very effective as a post-workout recovery drink.

With that being said, chocolate milk is only recommended after an intense workout. 

Downing sixteen ounces of chocolate milk after a light walk will not help your body in the same way!

Nutritionists also consider it important to choose whole foods like chocolate milk over engineered sports products whenever possible because:

  • Price. Sports products from and other health retailers can get a little expensive, especially when you’re training for long distance races and need to consume many more calories than usual. 
  • Synthetic vs. Whole Foods. Diets can easily become complicated the more you veer away from “real” foods. Natural vitamin and mineral-enriched food sources are often a much more better choice than heavily processed or engineered fuels. 
  • Complete Nutrient Profile. Diets filled with powders and pills are lacking essential nutrients you can only get from eating enough whole foods.

Related: Half Marathon Recovery Guide

chocoloate milk after a workout

Chocolate milk, just like with anything else, does have a few drawbacks, which include:

  • It has to be kept in a cold place to taste good and so it won’t go bad.
  • It has a short shelf life compared to specially engineered sports products (You can’t stock up on gallons of chocolate milk ahead of time!).
  • It’s not portable like powders.
  • It can be difficult to digest, especially if your body doesn’t do well with dairy. 

So is chocolate milk a good recovery drink? Absolutely! 

But that doesn’t mean you have to implement it into your training plan. If you enjoy it and like to use it, then go right ahead. But if you struggle with eating dairy or it is difficult to get your hands on it for any reason, there are plenty of other good options that will do the trick. 

Whatever you decide to choose for your post-workout beverage, just make sure it is safe, your body tolerates it, and you enjoy it. 

Related: How to Make Homemade Protein Bars: 7 DIY Recipes for Runners

chocolate milk after a workout
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Mia Kercher is a hiker, cyclist, and runner. After finishing her first marathon in 2013, she continued the sport but found a new passion in trail running. She now explores the glorious mountains in Portland, Oregon.

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