Why Chocolate Milk Is an Effective Recovery Drink for Athletes

Why Chocolate Milk Is an Effective Recovery Drink for Athletes

There is a bit of math required when it comes to choosing the right recovery drink after a tough workout. First, there’s the 30 to 45 minutes after a workout that an athlete has to maximize both the timing and benefits for an effective recovery regimen.

Then there’s the ratio of carbs to protein to aim for when it comes to selecting sports recovery drinks. Athletes should aim for a 3:1 carb to protein ratio — a scientifically proven way to refuel exhausted muscles. Pre-mixed chocolate milk post workout provides this key ratio, giving it the protein advantage over water and some commercial sports recovery drinks.

Benefits of Lowfat Chocolate Milk After Strenuous Workouts:
  • High-quality protein to stimulate muscle repair and growth
  • A 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein scientifically proven to replenish muscle glycogen (muscle fuel) quickly
  • Replenishes tired muscles
  • Provides fluids and electrolytes —calcium, potassium, magnesium and sodium — to rehydrate and help replenish critical nutrients lost in sweat
  • Contains five bone-building nutrients: calcium, vitamin D, protein and phosphorus

Watch: Professional soccer player Kelley O’Hara shows how to recover from a workout and aid muscle recovery with the nutrients and high-quality protein in lowfat chocolate milk.

How to Help Promote Muscle Recovery After a Workout

Muscle soreness is a fact of life for an athlete. A great muscle recovery tip when you train hard is to drink lowfat chocolate milk post-sweat. Studies have found that those who drank regular or flavored milk after a rigorous workout experienced less exercise-induced muscle damage than those who drank typical sports drinks or water.1,2

After a tough workout, chocolate milk helps muscles recover quickly to their peak potential and helps replenish fluids and critical nutrients lost in sweat. Chocolate milk as part of proper post-workout nutrition can help to repair and rebuild damaged muscles. 20+ studies support the benefits of recovering with the high-quality protein and nutrients in lowfat chocolate milk after a tough workout.

In one  study, post-exercise muscle biopsies in eight moderately trained male runners showed improved muscle building after drinking 16 ounces of fat free chocolate milk compared to when they drank a carbohydrate-only sports recovery drink with the same amount of calories. This enhancement is a sign that muscles were better able to repair and rebuild.1

Post-Workout Nutrition with Chocolate Milk May Help Athletes Gain a Performance Edge

Some studies suggest drinking lowfat chocolate milk after a strenuous workout could help athletes boost power and even improve training times in their next bout of exercise later that same day, compared to when they drink a carbohydrate sports drink.

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found that following an exhausting ride, trained cyclists had significantly more power and rode faster, shaving about six minutes, on average, from their ride time in a time trial later that same day when they recovered with lowfat chocolate milk compared to a carbohydrate sports drink or calorie-free beverage.2

Additionally, researchers found that when six Division One collegiate swimmers recovered with reduced fat chocolate milk after an exhaustive swim, they swam faster in time trials later that same day. On average, they shaved off 2.1 seconds per 200 yard swim, and 0.5 seconds per 75 yard sprint, compared to when they recovered with a traditional carbohydrate sports drink or calorie-free beverage.3

Watch: Gain A Performance Edge

Chocolate Milk Post Workout: Why Does It Help Recovery?

Drinking lowfat chocolate milk after a workout is a great way for athletes to get proper post-workout nutrition and to begin the sports recovery process. Tough exercise regimens require athletes to pay close attention to dietAs part of a proper post-workout nutrition plan, it is imperative to replenish depleted muscles, and lowfat chocolate milk can help with that. Chocolate milk contains nine essential nutrients, including some not typically found in many sports recovery drinks.

There are many benefits of drinking lowfat chocolate milk after a tough workout, including:

  • High-quality, natural protein to repair and rebuild muscles.
  • The right 3:1 carb-to-protein ratio scientifically shown to refuel and rebuild exhausted muscles.
  • Electrolytes including calcium, potassium, sodium and magnesium.
  • Fluids to rehydrate.
  • B Vitamins for energy.
  • Calcium, vitamin D, phosphorus and protein to build and maintain strong bones and reduce the risk for stress fractures.
  • Vitamin A to support a healthy immune system and normal vision.
Scientific Studies Show How Chocolate Milk Helps Athletes’ Post-Workout Recovery

Athletes need to replenish electrolytes after their tough workouts. Drinking milk after exercise can help replace essential electrolytes that are lost in sweat, including sodium, magnesium and calcium.

In fact, drinking lowfat or fat free milk after exercise could restore hydration better than other popular post-exercise beverages, according to one study. The study compared the rehydration effectiveness after exercise of four beverages: lowfat milk, lowfat milk with added sodium, water and a sports recovery drink. While all beverages rehydrated participants equally, the researchers found that milk may be more effective than water or sports recovery drinks at maintaining hydration after exercise, likely due to electrolytes and energy (calories) in milk.4

In another study, researchers found that drinking fat free milk after exercise replenished lost electrolytes and rehydrated better than a sports drink or water. Seven healthy men exercised to dehydration three different times and then drank fat free milk, a carbohydrate-based sport drink or water. The amount of fluid they drank was individualized to equal 1.5 times the amount of weight they each lost during exercise (an indicator of their fluid losses). The research team then looked at markers of hydration and found that fat free milk replenished lost electrolytes and helped them rehydrate more effectively compared to a sports drink or water. Researchers noted additional benefits of rehydrating with milk are its natural protein for muscle building, and milk’s other essential nutrients, including phosphorus and vitamin A.5 For additional information, check out the National Dairy Council to learn more about the science behind chocolate milk and sports recovery.


1 Lunn WR, Colletto MR, Karfonta KE, Anderson JM, Pasiakos SM, Ferrando AA, Wolfe RR, Rodriguez NR. Chocolate milk consumption following endurance exercise affects skeletal muscle protein fractional synthetic rate and intracellular signaling. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2010;42:S48.

2 Karp JR, Johnston JD, Tecklenburg S, Mickleborough TD, Fly AD, Stager JM. Chocolate milk as a post-exercise recovery aid. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. 2006;16:78-91.

3 Stager JM, Brammer CL, Sossong T, Kojima K, Spanbaur D, Grand K, Wright BV. Supplemental recovery nutrition affects swim performance following glycogen depleting exercise. Presented at the American College of Sports Medicine, 2014.

4 Shirreffs SM. Watson P. Maughan RJ. Milk as an effective post-exercise rehydration drink. British Journal of Nutrition. 2007;98:173-180.

5 Watson P, Love TD, Maughan RJ, Shirreffs SM.. A comparison of the effects of milk and a carbohydrate electrolyte drink on the restoration of fluid balance and exercise capacity in a hot, humid environment. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 2008;104:633-642.