Chocolate Milk for Endurance Recovery – Why It’s Not Always Enough.

chocloate milk for endurance recovery

We have all heard about chocolate milk being the “perfect” endurance recovery drink after a hard workout. 

Many of these claims are due to two main reasons;

  1. Chocolate milk contains a good mix of carbs and protein, both essential macronutrients for optimal recovery following a run.  
  2. Another reason for the claims is that there have actually been studies showing chocolate milk aids in recovery.

First, let’s address #1. 

It’s true; chocolate has a good mix of carbs and protein. Often chocolate milk comes out to the right around the recommended carb: protein post endurance exercise ratio of 3:1 to 4:1. Additionally, chocolate milk contains electrolytes and is high in essential vitamins like calcium and vitamin D. There are, however, as I will address, additional nutrients to consider when talking about optimal endurance recovery.  Check out the nutrition facts for chocolate milk here.

Now, on to #2. Studies have shown chocolate milk to aid in the recovery process. But aid in recovery compared to what? Many studies I’ve found do not compare chocolate milk to an optimally formulated recovery beverage. Some of the studies often cited compare chocolate milk to nothing at all. That is to say, chocolate milk taken post-exercise is more effective than taking nothing. It goes without saying that ingesting chocolate milk as opposed to nothing at all post-workout will be superior. That’s far from groundbreaking news regarding endurance nutrition.  

Beyond that, the vast majority of studies left compared chocolate milk to carbohydrate beverages. 

Based on what we know about the nutrition in the 30-minute recovery window, it also shouldn’t surprise us that chocolate milk will win this contest every time as well. Optimal recovery requires a combination of carbs and protein, not just carbs.

Where chocolate milk misses the mark as an endurance recovery drink.

Remember, I’m talking about OPTIMAL recovery. How can we recover the BEST? Chocolate milk is a good, budget-friendly recovery drink. I’m not denying that. However, according to various studies on endurance recovery nutrition, chocolate milk does fall short in some areas.  

Leucine – Leucine is thought to be the most essential amino acid for stimulating protein synthesis and jumpstarting recovery following a hard workout. Studies have suggested that the optimal amount of leucine to take post-workout is about .05g/kg. That equates to about 3.5 grams of leucine for a 155 lb athlete. One cup of chocolate milk contains about 750-800 mg of leucine. So unless you’re drinking 5 cups of chocolate milk post-workout, you’re coming up short.  Leucine

Too much fat – Chocolate milk has about 8 grams of fat/per cup. 

Most athletes would need around 2 cups after endurance exercise to come close to the recommended amounts of carbs and protein. That’s 16 grams of fat or 144 calories from fat. Fat takes a back seat in the 30-minute recovery window to carbs and protein. 

Excess fat will slow down the absorption of the nutrients you need more at the time and can create an excess that could promote weight gain.

Glutamine – Chocolate milk contains about 1 gram of glutamine per cup. This is pretty good but likely insufficient to take advantage of all that glutamine offers. To improve recovery time, boost the immune system following strenuous activity, and improve endurance and power, 4 grams of glutamine is an excellent place to start.

Carnitine – Carnitine is effective for recovery from endurance exercise because of its ability to repair damaged muscles and reduce free radical damage. Carnitine supplementation not only benefits recovery but can also benefit endurance performance when taken consistently. While milk does contain carnitine, it only has about 8 mg/cup (whole milk), while studies suggest doses of 1000-4000 mg/day are most effective. Carnitine is most prevalent in red meats, making carnitine supplementation even more critical for plant-based athletes. Lastly, carnitine is thought to be depleted during intense and/or prolonged bouts of exercise, further adding to its appeal for endurance athletes.

Not Everyone Can Tolerate Chocolate Milk

When it comes to food intolerances, dairy takes the cake.  Lactose is the #1 most common food intolerance.  It is estimated that 65% of people have issues digesting lactose – a sugar found in milk.  This fact alone tells me that chocolate milk is not the best choice for endurance recovery.

When it comes to endurance recovery drinks, intensity and duration matter.

Something else to remember is that duration, frequency, and intensity matter regarding recovery. If you go out for a 30-minute recovery/easy effort, it is unlikely that you need much, maybe a glass of water and some protein. Generally speaking, immediate post-endurance exercise recovery is recommended if your endurance session lasts longer than 90 minutes, is particularly strenuous or high in intensity, or you train daily (or even twice/day).

Terminus - The best endurance recovery supplement


Summary of chocolate milk as an endurance recovery drink.

In summary, chocolate milk is a good, budget-friendly option for immediate post-endurance recovery (if you can handle it). I don’t believe it to be the BEST option for athletes that train daily or for bouts of exercise that are particularly strenuous or long in duration. I recommend an all-encompassing endurance recovery supplement for serious endurance athletes. If you’re looking for an endurance recovery supplement that checks all the boxes, check out Terminus Endurance Recovery Formula by Ultraverse Supplements. It has all the things mentioned above, plus a lot more. Learn about why Terminus is a fantastic choice for an endurance recovery formula here.






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