Is Chocolate Milk Good for Workout Recovery?

Chocolate milk

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Milk, in general, has been used in research related to sports nutrition since the 1990s. In the early 2000s, chocolate milk began its spotlight in sports nutrition research. Today, studies continue to suggest that it helps promote muscle protein synthesis (growth). Further research also shows chocolate milk improves athletic performance, maintains cellular balance, and keeps the body hydrated.

Chocolate Milk Nutrition

Sometimes we can overthink sports nutrition when it comes to muscle recovery. It’s really not necessary to spend lots of money on ‘turbocharged’ muscle building drinks. Chocolate milk tastes delicious and according to evidence-based research is better post-workout than a carbohydrate replacement drink because of its carbohydrate-to-protein ratio and high micronutrient profile.

One cup of fat-free chocolate milk contains about 130 calories, 24 grams of carbohydrates, and 8 grams of protein. It also provides fluids and electrolytes to keep the body hydrated and in cellular balance. What makes it a superior recovery drink and under continued research studies are the ingredients.

High-Quality Protein

Chocolate milk contains approximately 8 grams of high-quality protein per 8-oz serving. Milk-based protein is high in leucine, one of the primary branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) linked to muscle protein synthesis (growth). 

Carbohydrate to Protein Ratio

Chocolate milk has a 3 to 1 carbohydrate-to-protein ratio. The American Council on Exercise indicates that this ideal combination is an effective way to restore glycogen levels (energy) after exhaustive workouts.  

Fluids and Electrolytes

Chocolate milk contains electrolytes potassium and sodium. Electrolyte balance is essential for optimal fitness. Sweating during hard workouts decreases our fluids and electrolytes. Chocolate milk provides these essential elements plus fluids keeping the body in balance, well hydrated, and rehydrated post-workout. 

Essential Micronutrients

Chocolate milk is a good source of calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium. It also contains vitamins A, B12 and D. These important nutrients contribute to strong bones, energy metabolism, electrolyte balance, healthy immune system, and improved vision.  

Chocolate Milk Benefits

Nothing fancy or expensive required after your workout to maintain lean muscle. Whether you’re endurance running, swimming, cycling or weight training, quality nutrition is vital to optimal performance and results. No wonder athletes are still building a better body with chocolate milk and you can too. Let’s take a look at the benefits of chocolate milk before and after a workout.

Fuels Your Body

Working out requires quality energy food. Chocolate milk contains an excellent combination of protein and carbohydrates. Studies have shown consuming healthy carbs and whey protein at night help with muscle recovery and next day workouts. The latest research recommends 30-40 grams of casein 30 minutes before sleeping to maximize muscle protein synthesis.

A study was conducted to prove drinking chocolate milk at night would prepare athletes for competition. Eight female endurance runners, aged 31 to 34 participated in a double-blind study and given chocolate milk or flavor matched placebo 30-minutes before bed.

The following morning, the women were given water only and each ran 10 kilometers or 6.2 miles on a treadmill. The participants who drank chocolate milk before bed had a faster trial time than those who consumed the placebo.

When consumed the night before, chocolate milk may be helpful to meet both hydration and nutritional needs of athletes on race mornings.

Improves Athletic Performance

Putting our best into a workout can feel like a challenge without restoring our glycogen (sugar). We can literally hit the wall and not want to continue when our nutritional tank is on empty. Chocolate milk is shown to be an effective way to restore our glycogen levels (energy) during exhaustive workouts.

Research presented at the annual conference of the American College of Sports Medicine examined chocolate milk for athletic performance. The study was conducted on elite swimmers working to exhaustion but had to perform again within that same day. Researchers set out to prove chocolate milk would supply quick energy for the athletes performing several exhaustive swim trials.

Participants included 6 male National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) swimmers who worked to glycogen exhaustion. The men were given chocolate milk, carbohydrate sports drink or calorie-free beverage immediately following their swim bouts and two hours post-workout. The swimmers completed three swim performance tests after recovering. Testing was repeated over three consecutive weeks.

Study results showed that swimmers who drank chocolate milk were faster by 2.1 seconds in a 200-yard bout compared to those who consumed the sports drink and calorie-free beverage. They also completed a 75-yard sprint faster by 0.5 seconds.

Builds Muscle

Hard workouts tear down our muscles. Proper nutrition and protein intake are important to repair and rebuild the damage. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recently reported, “because of its favorable carbohydrate and protein content, chocolate milk is indeed an effective recovery aid.”

A study reported in the Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine examined whole-body protein turnover (WBPTO) in endurance athletes after drinking fat-free chocolate milk. Whole-body protein turnover measures both muscle protein synthesis (muscle growth) and protein breakdown. The two-week randomized study included 6 moderately trained male runners in their early twenties.

The men were required to run for 45-minutes at a fairly quick pace. The participants were given either 16-ounces of chocolate milk or placebo carbohydrate equivalent. Blood and breath samples were collected from each runner during a 3-hour recovery period on days 7 and 14. The researchers were looking for leucine content, amino acid and building block of protein within the samples.

During the recovery interval, the men who drank chocolate milk showed greater leucine oxidation positive for muscle growth. They also showed less leucine oxidation disposal which means less muscle breakdown.

Research suggests that chocolate milk is a better post-workout aid for muscle growth over a carbohydrate recovery drink.

10 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S, Department of Agriculture. FoodData Central: Chocolate milk.

  2. Mitchell C, McGregor R, D'Souza R, et al. Consumption of milk protein or whey protein results in a similar increase in muscle protein synthesis in middle aged men. Nutrients. 2015:7(10):8685-8699. doi:10.3390/nu7105420

  3. American Council on Exercise. Pre- and post-workout nutrition for strength training.

  4. U.S. Department of Agriculture. FoodData Central: Chocolate milk, NFS.

  5. Dow K, Pritchett R, Roemer K, Pritchett K. Chocolate milk as a post-exercise recovery aid in Division II collegiate volleyball players. Women in Sport Phys Activ J. 2018;27(1):45-51. doi:10.1123/wspaj.2018-0012

  6. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Interactive Nutrition Facts Label.

  7. Kerksick, C.M., Arent, S., Schoenfeld, B.J. et al. International society of sports nutrition position stand: nutrient timingJ Int Soc Sports Nutr 14, 33 (2017). doi:10.1186/s12970-017-0189-4

  8. Miller EA, Gorman KA, Spicer MT, Eckel LA, Ormsbee MJ. Morning hydration status and running performance in female athletes following nighttime consumption of chocolate milk: 1839 board #184 may 28, 2 00 pm - 3 30 pm. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2015;47(5S):501-502. doi:10.1249/01.mss.0000477812.03203.73

  9. Stager, Joel M. FACSM et al.  Supplemental Recovery Nutrition affects Swim Performance following Glycogen Depleting Exercise, American College of Sports Medicine Annual Meeting May 28, 2014

  10. Colletto, Megan; Lunn, William; Karfonta, Kirstin; Anderson, Jeffrey; Rodriguez, Nancy FACSM Effects Of Chocolate Milk Consumption On Leucine Kinetics During Recovery From Endurance Exercise, Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise May 2010 - Volume 42 - Issue 5 - p 171 doi:10.1249/01.MSS.0000385584.36925.16

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By Darla Leal
Darla Leal is a Master Fitness Trainer, freelance writer, and the creator of Stay Healthy Fitness, where she embraces a "fit-over-55" lifestyle.