March 28, 2019

Chocolate milk vs. Protein Shakes

Ads everywhere talk about the need for protein. How many of you grab a protein shake on your way home from your workout or make yourself one with protein powder at home? What if you could take your milk, a glass, and some cocoa powder and make it at home. You’re not alone. We will use chocolate milk as an example as it is relatable for everyone.

We will start this off from a practical perspective and then get to the nitty-gritty. First and foremost the average protein shake either at a smoothie shop or even in bulk is relatively costly. Especially if you go to one of the smoothie places that up-charges you nearly $1.00 for added protein. The amount of money we all have spent on extra protein that your body many not necessarily need. What if I told you that you didn’t have to pay that extra amount to give your body the full recovery it needs?!

On a personal note, I played club volleyball growing up and my coaches were all very into healthy choices for us as majority of us were getting D1 offers to play college volleyball. This meant as high schoolers we were instructed with the most recent research on how to keep our bodies in the best shape for our body type and position. This is when I was introduced chocolate milk as a post recovery shake and I too thought my coaches were crazy. Upon being told to drink a 6-8 oz glass after practice and tournament games, I was unsure so little high school me researched this and probably had a similar blank stare that some of you may have had when I first mentioned this topic. Some of you may have heard of this chocolate milk post-workout in the 2004 Summer Olympics when Michael Phelps made a claim that this is how he recovered and what he used as his post-workout and meet fuel.

Now where all your questions have stemmed from- the nutrition myth and why chocolate milk should be selected over a typical protein shake.

Why do you choose to drink a protein shake or any post-workout drink? We can break why we drink a post workout drink down into four simple categories.


2. Recovery

3. Building Muscle

4. Improved PerformanceBeginning with rehydration- When you complete any exercise particularly anything endurance based– whether it’s an intense workout at the gym, a long run, a Zumba class, Tennis, – rehydrating your body is important especially by doing so with essential nutrients lost through what you sweat out. Milk- whether low fat, skim, and even some other milks like almond have a great supply of electrolytes such as sodium and potassium among some smaller amounts of other trace minerals which are lost through sweat. Besides those, milk contains amounts of calcium and vitamin D that other sports drinks can’t match. In addition, when in the stomach, milk has a slower emptying pace so the nutrients get absorbed much more slowly.

Secondly, recovery- From a research study done at the The University of Texas at Austin College of Education’s Department of Kinesiology and Health Education reveals the importance of a naturally occurring protein and carbohydrates that benefit our post-workout selves. Some protein is needed to repair any micro tears that occur as well as the need to restore energy from carbohydrates. Chocolate milk is a good source of both carbohydrates and protein. In fact, the necessary amount we burn on an average workout can be recovered with the 4:1 carbohydrate: protein ratio that is found in chocolate milk. Our bodies only need so much protein a day and on average, most Americans over consume protein as there is protein in many foods you may not realize. This is why chocolate milk’s ratio of 4:1 replenishes what you burned without making your body have to do extra work to rid the excess protein you consume post workout.  

Next, Building Muscle- For generations, we have heard drink milk to grow big and strong and milk truly does more than just help muscles recover. From the same Texas at Austin Study, researcher Dr. John Ivy found that more muscle building and greater fat can be lost during training if chocolate milk is consumed after a workout. When working out our muscles go through aerobic and anaerobic respiration which is basically fancy ways to say burning the storage our muscles have with or without oxygen. Our muscles have stored sugar, we nutritionists call that glycogen, that we utilize upon working out. The carbohydrates from the chocolate milk (Yes sugar is a carb too) is replenished within the muscles by drinking chocolate milk.

Lastly, Improved Performance- I read a study based upon 9 cyclists who rode until they tired. On their breaks, few drank chocolate milk, few drank Gatorade, and the last third drank a brand of protein shake. The cyclist who drank chocolate milk was able to cycle 50% longer than the one who drank the protein shake… why you may wonder… The protein shake had the same ratio of carbs to protein, but yet research depicts that the gut is able to digest the sugars better in a naturally occurring drink like milk. This lead to the cyclists increased performance as well as Michael Phelps.

So am I telling you never to buy a protein shake again? Absolutely not- but what I am here to tell you is the “need” for a Protein shake is in fact a myth and you can recover what your body needs with chocolate milk. 

Nutrition & Diet , , ,
About Geoff Rubin