After a long run, cycle, or other endurance sport, what’s your drink of choice? Water? Juice? A sports drink? What about a tall, icy cold glass of chocolate milk? Though it may not be your first choice now, chocolate milk just might be your new secret ingredient for sporting excellence!

Did You Know?
Chocolate milk was invented in the 17th century by British physician Hans Sloane. It was first sold as medicine.

What happens when you play an endurance sport? As soon as you begin moving, you also begin using energy. Energy comes from the carbohydrates, fats, and proteins that you eat everyday. That cereal you had for breakfast? It was broken down by your body into tiny units of sugar called glucose, fructose, lactose, dextrose, and pretty well anything that ends in “-ose”. Your muscles take these units of sugar, and break them down even further to create the energy you need to move. Inside your muscle fibres, you’ll find a starch called Glycogen. Glycogen is a wonderful thing, because it stores the most readily available sugars to use for exercise. The more glycogen you have, the longer and harder you can exercise before you use your glycogen up.

Did You Know?
Carbohydrates (aka: sugars) get their name from the chemical elements that make them up: carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen.

Many athletes use sports drinks during and after a period of exercise to improve their performance: to run longer, cycle further, and play harder. One of the most popular kinds of sports drinks to help you recover after your sport of choice is a “carbohydrate replacement” drink, which is loaded with sugars to help you replenish your glycogen. Another popular kind is a “fluid replacement” drink, which doesn’t have as much sugar, but helps you replenish the fluids and electrolytes (like sodium and potassium) you lose when you sweat. It might surprise you that chocolate milk has remarkably similar carbohydrate (sugar) and protein content as many “carbohydrate replacement” drinks. In several studies, chocolate milk has been shown to be just as, if not more, effective than most sports drinks at replenishing your glycogen. Even better, milk naturally has plenty of electrolytes, making it a powerful “fluid replacer” as well.

Why is this important? When you exert yourself in any sport, you want to perform well, but you also need to be able to recover quickly, so that you can perform well the next time. Drinking chocolate milk after exercising to help build back up your glycogen supply, and therefore ability to recover, might just give you the edge you’ve been looking for!

Learn More!

Chocolate Milk – The Better Energy Drink

Got Milk?

References

Karp, J., Johnston, J.D., Tecklenburg, S., Mickleborough, T.D., Fly, A.D., Stager, J.M. 2006. Chocolate Milk as a Post-Exercise Recovery Aid. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. 16: 78-91

Roy, B.D. 2008. Milk: the new sports drink? A Review. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 5 (15)

Thomas K., Morris P., Stevenson E. 2009. Improved endurance capacity following chocolate milk consumption compared with 2 commercially available sport drinks. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. 34 (1). 78-82.

Article first published March 7, 2011

Kerry Hollingsworth

I'm a young professional, enthusiastic about all things science and education. I have an (Hons) B.Sc in Forensic Science and currently work for an educational publishing company. While every science is worth studying, I hold a special place in my heart for genetics, evolutionary biology, biological anthropology, biochemistry and space science.


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