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Get More For Your Money

October 6, 2009

A study published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism earlier this year has shed some light on the best way for endurance athletes to recover after exercise.  The study pitted fluid replacement (FR) drinks (such as Gatorade), carbohydrate replacement (CR) drinks (such as Endurox), and Mars Refuel (chocolate milk) to see which would help replenish muscle glycogen the fastest after exhaustion for cyclists.  Participants were given the recovery drink immediately after and at 2 hours following cycling till exhaustion.  The effectiveness was measured by a second bout of exercise 4 hours after the first where time to exhaustion was measured again.

chocolate_milk_in_glass.jpg chocolate milk image by coatlicue_2006

The results showed that those who ingested chocolate milk cycled 51% and 43% longer than those who ingested CR and FR, respectively.  They concluded that chocolate milk could be used as an effective means of recovery from prolonged endurance exercise.

Nutrition during tournaments is a big predictor of how long one can last out on the field in top condition.  Rapid nutrition replacement can make a big difference in performance for competitive athletes who work out vigorously once or twice a day, says Roberta Anding, a sports dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. For many players, money is also a big issue.  What could be a cheaper way to replenish your body than with chocolate milk?  Chocolate milk is almost a third of the price of Endurox and has shown to be more effective as a recovery drink.

The effectiveness of chocolate milk as a recovery aid is thought to be due to its carbohydrate to protein ratio (about 4:1, depending on the brand), which is very similar to the pricy Endurox.  So how did milk outperform?  The differing types of sugar in milk are theorized to be the deciding factor, as well as the higher fat content.  In addition, the calcium, sodium, and vitamin D content are an added plus of milk.  So ditch those expensive recovery drinks and do what your mother always told you: Drink your (chocolate) milk.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. UBER_IHUC permalink
    October 6, 2009 9:36 pm

    I drink chocolate milk after every practice… overall it is simply the best post workout drink. -UBER

  2. Chris Dahms permalink
    October 7, 2009 4:46 am

    This study says very little about the ‘optimal’ post workout shake; interpreting its results to adjust your post workout nutrition would be foolish.

    This study is a comparison of three ‘workout drinks’: Mars Refuel, Endurox R4 and Gatorade. There is no “plain old chocolate milk”.

    Go ahead, read the full text, I uploaded it here.

    Read the methods section, seriously.

    Nine “trained” male cyclists performed 3 trials seperated by a week that consisted of a glycogen-depletion trial (2 minute intervals switching between 90% max power and 50% max power), a 4 hour recovery period where the drink was consumed, and then an endurance capacity trial (70% max power to exhaustion).

    Great, so when you do your daily glycogen depletion workout, make sure to drink Mars Refuel instead of Gatorade or Endurox, so when you run yourself into the ground 4 hours later you can do it for longer, and maybe hurt yourself.

    God forbid you eat a meal in that 4 hour post workout window.

    In reality, the only thing you should conclude from this study is that the authors (Thomas and Stevenson of Northumbria University) are taking money from supplement companies.

    The research is pretty clear on protein requirements for athletes, and “optimal” post workout shakes.

    The rule of thumb for post workout shakes:
    protein – 0.6 gram per kilogram of lean body mass
    carbohydrate – 0.6 to 1.2 grams per kilogram of lean body mass

    As a final mental exercise, name all the olympic athletes, world record holders, and national or professional teams that use chocolate milk as a post workout drink.

    • Jelinek permalink
      October 7, 2009 1:24 pm

      I did read the entire study. The information that can be taken from it is that a carb:protein ratio of 4:1 is very effective at replenishing muscle glycogen for endurance athletes. During tournaments, athletes are running around for hours at a time. While is is not identical to the study, my thought is that chocolate milk would help in this situation as well.

      It was Mars Refuel in the study, and I changed the post to reflect that. Mars Refuel was classified in the study as chocolate milk and has similar protein, carb, and fat content that chocolate milk has. It’s really just Mars chocolate milk.

      The reason a shake/drink is more effective post workout is because it is digested faster and can therefore be absorbed quicker. Meals take much longer to digest, and by the time it all makes it into your bloodstream, the optimum window for use by your muscles is over.

      Mars did funding the study. However, it is very difficult to get federal funding for something like this. If every research article that was funded by a private company was thrown out, there would be nearly nothing to go by. It can’t be assumed that it was biased based on the funding.

      The 1:1 or 2:1 carb to protein ratio you listed is primarily for power/strength workouts. There is much of Ultimate that is power based, but the endurance factor is much higher at tournaments. For endurance athletes, a 4:1 ratio within 30-60 minutes following exercise is the recommendation.

  3. Chris Dahms permalink
    October 7, 2009 4:22 pm

    Sure, again, in reality, this study tells you nothing about post workout nutrition.


    Look at Table 2, both the “chocolate milk” and carbohydrate replacement drink are 4:1 carb to protein ratio, but there was significant difference in “apparent” glycogen re-synthesis rates.


    The Mars Refuel product is hardly close to chocolate milk, read the label it has added glucose and whey.

    In a nutshell, Mars Refuel has roughly 4x the carbohydrates regular 1% milk does.

    100ml of Mars Refuel contains 13.5g carbohydrates, 3.1g protein.

    100ml of Garelick Farms 1% milk (what I happen to have in the fridge) contains 5g carbohydrates and 3.3g protein.


    I am not suggesting throwing out privately funded research, just viewing it in the appropriate light.

    This study compares three commercial products, the conclusions that should be drawn are that Mars Refuel is more effective under the study protocol (explicit glycogen depletion followed by an exhaustion test 4 hours later) than Endurox or Gatorade.

    We have no idea about the quality of the whey added to Mars Refuel or Endurox R4, this may well be the most significant factor in observed differences between the outcomes in the endurance capacity trial.


    None of these post workout drinks had more than 20 grams of protein; this is far below the “recommended” post workout protein intake for any individual over 100 pounds.

    Based on my recommendations, these nine cyclists (average weight ~72 kilos) should have used a post workout shake consisting of around 40 grams of protein and 80 grams of carbohydrate.

    Adding 20 grams of glutamine (0.3 g/kg of LBM) to the shake, as well as some arginine, taurine, magnesium and r alpha-lipoic acid will also accelerate glycogen re-synthesis rates.


    You are doing a real disservice to the ultimate community representing severely biased and more importantly incredibly flawed research as evidence that chocolate milk is an “optimal” post workout drink.

  4. AMW permalink
    October 7, 2009 7:09 pm


    Skepticism is a good thing, and it’s important to clarify the caveats to studies like these, and to discuss their interpretations. I applaud your effort to dig deeper, but I have a few quibbles with your conclusions.

    I. Yes, the carb:protein ratio is the same, as is the total caloric content, but the fat content of MR is higher. This may be significant as far as effects on absorption go, as mentioned in the discussion section (and the original post).

    II. Um, chocolate milk has more sugar than regular 1% milk. That’s part of the point.

    III. Absolutely – any study funded by a company in which the results are favorable to that company’s product needs to be taken with a shaker or two of salt. The same caveat applies to a similar study that was published in 2006 (partially funded by the dairy industry). But in reading the paper I don’t see big red flags or “incredible flaws” in the experimental design – granted, I don’t know much about whey protein or how the “quality” of whey used could contribute to these effects.

    IV. The “optimal” post-workout drink will be different depending on the individual, the workout, and the goal of recovery. If your goal is to engage in another endurance activity a few hours after your workout (e.g. a bye between games), this study suggests that chocolate milk may work just as well as, if not better than, a more expensive alternative. No one should follow any online nutrition recommendations, including yours, without doing their own research and figuring what works best for them (i.e. chocolate milk would probably be a poor choice for a lactose-intolerant person, no matter how convincing the studies are).

    V. I think you overstate your concern a bit. I highly doubt this post is going to ruin anyone’s season.

    As for your “mental exercise,” I would bet that most olympic athletes and professional teams are being paid to drink certain things, or at least given free products by companies with a vested interest in promoting those products. I would put just as much faith in celebrity testimonials as I would in corporate-sponsored research studies.


  5. tim permalink
    October 8, 2009 2:42 am

    Chris I love the skepticism… but this information is not misleading.

    I can’t tell you what the research says… but I can say this.

    I went to the NSCA(National Strength and Conditioning Association)
    Sports Nutrition Symposium this past May.

    All the top Ex Physiologist and Nutrition researchers in the country
    came to speak.. the guys who wrote the text books…

    Jose Antonio
    Jeff Stout
    Bob Seebohar

    They all agree that chocolate milk does the job.

    -Simple sugars for glycogen replacement and to
    spike insulin for quick absorption into the cell.

    -Milk protein in a combination of whey and casein. Fast and
    slow acting proteins. The two in combination with one another
    is ideal.

    – “More bang for your buck” Nice article prof Jelinek

  6. Chris Dahms permalink
    October 8, 2009 4:49 pm

    I misspoke in my last post, the first study I cited “Chocolate Milk as Post-Exercise Recovery Aid” by Karp et al. used a 4 hour post workout recovery window, just like the original study referenced.


    The information presented is misleading; the original study referenced in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism did not study chocolate milk.

    I pointed out the same study was run in 2006 in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition, using actual chocolate milk, and found no significant difference between chocolate milk and Gatorade.

    I never claimed chocolate milk is not an effective post workout drink, rather it is simply not optimal.

    As for Antonio, Stout and Seebohar I do not see them recommending chocolate milk as an optimal post workout drink, simply that it is adequate.


  7. tim permalink
    October 10, 2009 3:38 am

    Fair enough Chris..
    Adequate and cheap for the Ultimate players budget.

  8. March 23, 2010 3:27 pm

    It’s pretty awesome having nutrition as my life. I always tell people when they ask me what kind of supplements to take. Start with the basics and get some whey protein as a body building supplement then if you want, try an EFA stack for weight loss. As always throw in a multivitamin.

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