In some studies, drinking chocolate milk immediately after a strenuous workout is one of the best ways to recover quickly-better than sugary sports drinks like Gatorade.
However, nearly all the research on chocolate milk and exercise has looked at serious athletes, like mountain climbers, college soccer players, triathletes, and trained cyclists. No studies have found a benefit of chocolate milk for those who jog daily or who work out at their gym a few times a week lifting weights or running on a treadmill.
What's in chocolate milk that might help after a workout of intense physical activity? Chocolate milk's na
turally occurring sugar (lactose) is half glucose, its protein speeds up glycogen synthesis in the body, and its electrolytes (like potassium and, to a lesser extent, sodium) help you rehydrate.
A typical low-fat chocolate milk has roughly four times more carbs than protein, which may be a good ratio to rapidly replenish glycogen stores in muscles.
When you're inactive or moving slowly, your body gets energy mostly from burning fat (assuming you haven't just eaten). But for more intense activity (brisk walking, running, cycling, etc.), you can't burn fat fast enough to get all the energy you need. So if you're, say, running for several hours, your body is going to rely more on the carbs in glycogen for the extra energy it needs.
Glycogen is essentially a long chain of glucose (blood sugar). The body converts glucose to glycogen in order to store the glucose in muscles and in the liver. But we don't have much glycogen, especially compared to our vast stores of fat.
So during an intense, prolonged activity, you can run out of glycogen. That's what marathoners are talking about when they say they "hit the wall."
In more seriously trained athletes, let's say a triathlete, they might do a run in the morning and a swim or bike workout later in the afternoon. So it really becomes crucial for them to restore their glycogen reserves quickly. This is where chocolate milk comes in.
Can you get the carbs and protein from something else in your next meal? Probably, if you eat soon. You restore glycogen more quickly if you eat the carbs and protein within an hour.
I'm not an Olympic athlete. Should I drink chocolate milk post workout?
Most of us aren't running marathons or cycling competitively for two hours and then doing another intense activity within 24 hours. Do we need a recovery beverage like chocolate milk? Not likely.
And if you're taking that brisk walk to lose weight, you don't want the 170 or so calories in a cup of chocolate milk...or any extra calories, for that matter.
Bottom Line: Unless you're doing prolonged, intense exercise on successive days, or more than one strenuous workout on the same day, you don't need to drink chocolate milk post workout to recover.