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Why you should try chocolate milk after a workout

By Gabriella Boston February 3       The Washington Post

No gluten, no meat, no dairy: You know the story. The don’t-eat-any-foods-from-your-childhood diet has been in vogue for a while now, but one “bad guy” seems to be making a comeback, at least among athletes: milk.

“I think it’s great. Chocolate milk has a lot of benefits for muscle recovery,” says Ingrid Nelson, a personal trainer in the District. “It helps replenish the muscle tissue and actually gives you a shorter recovery time.”

So, chocolate milk over regular milk? Both are good choices unless they cause digestive issues, says Rebecca Scritchfield, a D.C. nutritionist.

But flavored milk — be it chocolate, strawberry or vanilla — has a more beneficial ratio of carbohydrates to protein for muscle recovery and rebuilding, Scritchfield says.

In other words, there is nothing magical about the cacao itself in chocolate milk; it’s the extra carbs — the sugars — that create the perfect potion.

Try chocolate milk after a workout. (Anonymous/PR NEWSWIRE)

“Milk alone may not be enough carbs or calories, but it can be enhanced to be adequate,” Scritchfield says.

The ratio to aim for is 4 grams of carbohydrates to 1 gram of protein, according to Joel Stager, professor of kinesiology at Indiana University and the author of several research papers on milk as a recovery drink for sports performance.

Nelson says that immediately on entering the body, milk creates spikes in insulin (in this case, these are good for you) that help transport sugar into the muscle, where it becomes glycogen. It also stimulates muscle protein repair and growth.

The amount of carb-infused milk recommended can range anywhere from 8 to 16 ounces depending on the intensity, frequency and duration of the exercise as well as the person’s gender, size and age.

So, let’s do the math on milk vs. flavored milk to reach the right 4:1 ratio.

An eight-ounce glass of 2 percent milk has 12 grams of carbohydrates and 8 grams of protein. Nowhere near the recommended 4:1 ratio.

That means — should you choose to make your own post-exercise milk drink — you would need to add about 20 grams of carbohydrates. For example, a small banana has about 20 grams of carbs. Voila! There is your flavored post-exercise sports drink.