That’s because it contains the ideal 3:1 to 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio – meaning mostly carbohydrates with some protein. Many endurance athletes mistakenly reach for pre-made protein shakes after a workout, which are truly meant for strength training athletes. Endurance athletes need more carbohydrate to replace the glycogen in their muscles after a long workout.
Note that says after a long workout – longer than 1 to 1.5 hours, depending on intensity. Sometimes people get a bit crazy reaching for recovery food or drinks after a 30 minute workout, when there’s really no need.
Some athletes have looked at me like I’m crazy when I suggest chocolate milk, because it obviously has added sugar. But that’s what gives it the ideal carbohydrate to protein ratio. For example, Nesquik Reduced Fat Chocolate Milk contains 29 grams of carbohydrate and 8 grams of protein per cup, for a carb:protein ratio around 4:1 (3.6 to 1 to be exact). Unflavored skim milk, on the other hand, contains 13 grams of carbohydrate and 8 grams of protein, thus giving us a carb:protein ratio of less than 2:1. While the regular skim milk would certainly be a healthier choice for everyday nutrition, for recovery we need that additional boost of carbohydrate.
The amount of chocolate milk that you should drink for recovery is based on your weight, but to give you an example – a 150 pound athlete would aim to drink about 2.5 cups of chocolate milk within an hour of a workout. It might sound like a lot, but that’s really just a tall glass plus a few extra sips.
If you’re going to drink chocolate milk as a recovery beverage, aim for the low fat or nonfat versions, as in that immediate post-exercise period you are most concerned about getting enough carbohydrate and protein, and you don’t want to “crowd out” those with too much fat.
And of course, this is by no means the only option – there are plenty of other recovery methods out there! You should find what works for you. But I think this is a nice practical option for many athletes, as it’s inexpensive and easy to find at pretty much any grocery store or convenience store.