Chocolate Milk: A Well-Balanced Recovery Drink

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By: Josh Staph

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A recent study presented to the American College of Sports Medicine reveals that low fat chocolate milk is an effective carbohydrate and fluid replacement recovery drink for hard training athletes.

Nancy Clark, MS, registered dietitian, a consultant to the Boston Celtics and the author of Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook says, "When people are living on carbohydrate and protein bars, drinks and solutions, they are not eating whole foods, and they are missing out on all the other health protective and performance enhancing nutrients that come with real food." According to Clark, chocolate milk has a perfect balance of nutrients essential for an athlete's recovery, including high quality protein, carbs, calcium, vitamin D, potassium and riboflavin. Each nutrient serves a specific function in recovery for an athlete.

Clark says that athletes should take in a 4:1 ratio of carbs to high quality protein an hour after training, which is when your body is most receptive to recovery nutrients. Taken alone, carbs or protein are not as effective.

"If you take in just carbs, it will refuel the muscles but not repair them," says Clark. "Protein will repair them but not refuel them. You want a foundation of carbs, because that is what gets stored as glycogen. Then, if you have a little bit of protein, it stimulates the production of insulin, which enhances the transport of sugar into the muscle to replace depleted glycogen."

Although carbs and protein are most prominent, additional benefits come from the lower profile nutrients. Vitamin D and calcium in chocolate milk help build strong and healthy bones. Calcium also helps muscles contract properly, aids in blood pressure management and may be helpful in losing body fat.

Clark says some studies show that when dieters consume calcium, more fat is burned and less muscle is lost in the metabolic process.

Riboflavin, which is a B vitamin, releases energy from protein, fats and carbohydrates during metabolism. Essential to muscle contraction, potassium aids in fluid and electrolyte balance.

All these nutrients, which are depleted through sweating and vigorous training, can be easily and inexpensively replenished. Clark recommends putting down 16 ounces of low fat chocolate milk within an hour after working out. This will provide about 320 calories, 52 grams of carbs, 16 grams of protein and 5 grams of fat.

For more health protective and performance enhancing tips, check out Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook (Human Kinetics Publishers, Third Edition, 2003).

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