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Is Chocolate Milk Really the Best Post-Workout Drink?

Whether you've been working out for months or just started getting into a routine, you might be wondering what the best thing is to eat or drink after a workout.

Most doctors will recommend a healthy balance between fat, carbs, and protein immediately following your workout. You might have heard many athletes and dedicated gym goers tout that chocolate milk is the best post-workout drink to ingest, but is that really true?

Listen in as Dr. Mike shares whether or not you should be consuming chocolate milk post-workout, as well as some other post-workout drinks that can help you recover while feeding your muscles.

RadioMD Presents:Healthy Talk | Original Air Date: April 29, 2015
Host: Michael Smith, MD

Anti-aging and disease prevention radio is right here on Radio MD. Here is the author, blogger, lecturer and national medical media personality, Dr. Michael Smith MD with Healthy Talk.

Dr. MIKE: Is chocolate milk really the best post-workout regimen? Now, as I think about this, literally seconds before starting live on the show today, I decided I really didn't like that word the "best". I think we use that too much in the health industry – best diet, best food, best workout, best supplement, you know, whatever. I think we all have to just admit that we're different. We're different people. We have different goals.

So, let me restate the question .
"Is chocolate milk really a good post workout regimen?"
And when you say it like that, yes, it is. I was in New York recently doing some lectures and stuff and I saw a local news channel, you know, they have the morning shows, Good Morning New York or something like that, and they had a health segment about chocolate milk and the benefits and one of the parts of that was as a post workout regimen. I thought, "You know, I have heard that before." I may have even answered a listener's question about this before just real briefly like, "Yes, it is a good post workout regimen." But I thought, "Why don't I looking in to this little bit more? What does the science really say?" I mean, I can't help it. I am a scientist, I am a data nerd. I've said that before. So, I thought, "What does the research really say about chocolate milk?"

So, I started looking at it and just to summarize, it is good. It has a good amount of protein; the chocolate part of it brings some needed carbs for tired muscles. Yes, I mean, overall the research shows that it is good for muscle recovery. Not necessarily muscle pain. That's different. I am going to talk about that if I have time. So, the research is pretty good. Using chocolate milk post workout, it does seem to be a good thing to do for your muscles. The best summary of all these came from a Dr. Charles Smith. He's from the University of Arkansas. He is the director of the fitness and science center there. He is a family physician.

He says, "Recent studies have shown that drinking chocolate milk after exercising is advantageous because of its protein content. Every cup of chocolate milk contains between 8 and 11 grams of protein." He goes on to say that, "This is ideal and you'll want to consume between 15 grams and 25 grams of protein after workout which equals between 500 mls and 750 mls of chocolate milk."

So, when I read that and I started thinking about this even when I was looking at the research, why chocolate milk? Why not just milk?

I mean, milk alone by itself just regular whole milk now has some good fat and some good protein in it. It even has little bit of sugar. Why does it have to be chocolate? Why do I have to add chocolate to this? So, I went on and did some further digging in to Dr. Smith's research and found a little statement he made about," compared to plain milk or most sports drinks, chocolate milk contains double the carbohydrate content, ideal for tired muscles." So, it does seem like adding the chocolate is really about the carbs.

The milk itself is the base and it's about the good fats and the good protein. Chocolate milk has a nice, high water content that replaces fluids lost from sweating and assists in preventing dehydration. In addition, it gives the body calcium, vitamin D; sodium and sugar which help you retain water and regain energy. Milk also contains key nutrients that sports drinks cannot match. So, yes, chocolate milk is pretty good.
I think Dr. Smith goes on to say something interesting here. He says that "before you make the switch to chocolate, examine your workout routine."

Listen. If you are walking 30 minutes a day--which is good. There are a lot of benefits to just walking 30 minutes a day. I don't think you have to end that up with a 500 ml or 750 ml of chocolate milk. That's you don't need to. What we are really talking about here is chocolate milk is a good post workout drink for people who are really working out pretty hard.

You know, we are talking about hitting the gym, lifting those weights; the calories, the carbohydrates; the proteins are going to really help to maintain a high level for athletes. You know, people who are serious about this. I'm active every day. Yes, I am going to talk about my dog. It's my show and I can talk about my dog all I want--Edie. She is so awesome. She is a border collie. So, my exercise is just taking her out every day.

And that's what I do. I am sorry. I'm not a gym guy. But I'm out, active with her, running around. We walk, we run, we play catch. She loves the tennis balls, the sticks, she is a big lizard hunter. Anyway, so I am active with her at good hour but I don't need it. It's not technically a workout. I don't need to be drinking chocolate milk after an hour outside with Edie. So, this is really about people who are serious in the gym.

Other things, though, again, I'm going to ask this question, does it have to be chocolate milk after a workout? What about sweetened almond milk? Listen.

Almond milk has a lot of protein, a lot of calcium, lot of Vitamin D, has the calories, has the carbs, has some fat. I mean why not that? Why not some sweetened almond milk? That might be something too. When we say chocolate milk, what kind of chocolate milk are we talking about here? When I was a kid, maybe this is why I like this topic so much because I did. I remember drinking a lot of chocolate milk. It was just whole milk. We didn't really have 1% or 2%. I don't remember any of that. If it was in the stores, my mom never bought it. It was always whole milk and it was the Hershey syrup which, really, technically doesn't even look like chocolate. It's a darker color and I don't know. Is that what we are talking about here? Just using Hershey syrup?

Maybe it would be better, too. So, I found a recipe. Take dark chocolate chips. Slowly melt them. Remember, I'm not a chef guy, so I don't know all the words, but double boiling system, where you have water in one pot and then you put a smaller pot on top of that. They do that on the Food Channel. I watch the Food Channel.

That's how you melt the chocolate and most of the time when I watch them, when I watch real chefs do this: they add some butter to it. That's probably fine. There's nothing wrong with some saturated fat. But I also saw a recipe we can add coconut oil to that. And that sounds good! That would be awesome chocolate milk. I should try that. So, dark chocolate chips, a little bit of coconut oil or butter and then add that to a whole milk. I think that would be helpful.

By the way, talking about this as a post-workout regimen, it is whole milk. You want the fat, you want the protein, your 1% - 2% doesn't just strip fat but also strips some of the protein components as well. So, you are going to make sure that it's whole milk.

What are some other things that athletes like to do that you might be interested in post- workout if drinking chocolate milk is not your thing or maybe you want to do it in combination with stuff. A lot of good research for branched chain amino acids after workout. That's leucine, isoleucine and valine. There are whole protein powders out there that include the BCA's (the branched chain amino acids) or you can actually do powders that are just the BCA's—the leucine, isoleucine and valine. I saw an interesting study using pea protein--pea as in P-E-A, the green peas. A lot of good protein in green peas. So, there are pea protein supplements and that also seems to be really good post-workout.

If you've got sore muscles, what are you going to do for that? Probably the best thing is glutamine, a glutamine powder. A good friend of mine who is a marathon runner--he actually does what are called "super marathons", like 50 miles or something. He's crazy. Anyway, he does glutamine at night after a workout and that helps. Tart cherry extract is good for the muscle pain and curcumin or curcumin and ginger combination for reducing inflammation in the muscles. There you go.

This is Healthy Talk on RadioMD. I'm Dr. Mike. Stay well.