Turns out moms were right all along: Milk really does do a body good... at least after hitting the gym. Studies show that downing low-fat chocolate milk after a tough workout provides the optimal mix of carbohydrates and high-quality protein Postexercise carbohydrate-protein supplementation improves subsequent exercise performance and intracellular signaling for protein synthesis. Ferguson-Stegall, L., McCleave, EL., Ding, Z., et al. Exercise Physiology and Metabolism Laboratory, Department of Kinesiology, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research May 2011; 25(5): 1210-24. . Plus, it tastes so good Chocolate Milk Photo: shutterbean

In three related studies, researchers compared the recovery benefits from drinking low-fat chocolate milk post-exercise to plain water and sports drinks. In high-endurance athletes, the results showed that a post-workout chocolate milk fix can result in:

  1. Improved performance: Trained cyclists had significantly more power and rode faster, shaving approximately 6 minute from their ride when they recovered with low-fat chocolate milk instead of water or a sports drink.
  2. Quicker exercise adaptation: Compared to those who guzzled other recovery drinks, chocolate milk drinkers had twice the improvement in the measure of aerobic fitness and adaptation.
  3. Better body composition: Chocolate milk drinkers gained more muscle and lost more fat during training, with a 3-pound lean muscle advantage at the end of the 4.5 weeks over athletes who drank a sports drink Postexercise carbohydrate-protein supplementation improves subsequent exercise performance and intracellular signaling for protein synthesis. Ferguson-Stegall, L., McCleave, EL., Ding, Z., et al. Exercise Physiology and Metabolism Laboratory, Department of Kinesiology, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research May 2011; 25(5): 1210-24. .

The reason? Compared to plain milk, water, and most sports drinks, low-fat chocolate milk packs double the carbs and protein. The 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein is ideal for replenishing tired muscles (of course, make sure it's actually "low-fat" without loads of extra sugar) Chocolate milk: a post-exercise recovery beverage for endurance sports. Pritchett K, Pritchett R. Department of Nutrition Exercise and Health Sciences, Central Washington University, Ellensburg, WA, USA. Medicine and Sport Science. 2012;59:127-34. . A more recent study supported these claims, demonstrating that non-fat chocolate milk resulted in improved muscle recovery compared to a carb-only beverage Chocolate Milk & Endurance Exercise Recovery: Protein Balance, Glycogen & Performance. Lunn, W.R., Pasiakos, S.M., Colletto, M.R., et al. Exercise Science Department, Southern Connecticut State University, New Haven, CT; Departments of Nutritional Sciences and Kinesiology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT; and School of Health Sciences, Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, MI. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 2011 Sep 7. [Epub ahead of print]. . Milk also packs enough water content to keep athletes hydrated post-sweat session. The final straw: additives like calcium, sodium, and sugar help the body retain water and regain energy. Not bad for a childhood favorite.

Originally published on June 6, 2011. Updated September 2013.

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