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U of M doctors: We now have a great excuse to drink chocolate milk

Photo: Team Traveller via Flickr

Now that we’re nearly a month into 2013, hopefully you are still enthusiastic about your exercise routine. But for those of you who might have fallen off the wagon so to speak, Health Talk may have some info that could entice you to jump back onboard.

If you haven’t already heard, it seems drinking chocolate milk after exercise could actually be good for you. Say what?!

Yes, it’s true. Drinking chocolate milk after exercise has been shown to help improve recovery time, improve endurance and build muscle. During exercise, your body loses water, carbohydrates and protein. Although drinking water is good for helping to replace water loss, it does not help replace carbohydrates and proteins that are vital for recovery.

“Drinking chocolate milk provides for optimal absorption of carbohydrates and protein and improves recovery time if taken within one hour or so after exercise,” said Grant Morrison, M.D., assistant professor with the University of Minnesota Medical School, Family Medicine and Community Health.

William Roberts, M.D., professor with the University of Minnesota Medical School, Family Medicine and Community Health, added: “Chocolate milk is generally cheaper at the same volume than most sports drinks and is pretty easy on the body to consume after vigorous exercise and can help you recharge for future competition and heavy workouts.”

While we’re on the subject of muscle recovery, if you think energy drinks are the way to go during exercise or athletic competition, Dr. Roberts strongly advises against them.

“Energy drinks seem to reduce performance for technical skills such as playing tennis or golf that rely on timing and coordination which are not the attributes that help most athletes.”

Energy drinks are not great before, during or after exercise or athletic competition. Many contain high levels of sugar, caffeine and “other” ingredients – B vitamins (vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and niacin), taurine, guarana, ginseng, Tibetan goji berry, green tea, yerba mate, ginkgo biloba, policosan’s, glucuronolactone, and vitamin C to name nearly a dozen – that many believe increase energy levels and improve alertness. However, none of these ingredients have proven performance-enhancing properties.

Sports drinks such as Gatorade may help performance in longer duration activities, but water is fine for most activities.

Drs. Morrison and Roberts recommend staying hydrated before and during exercise by drinking water and replenishing the body after with water and chocolate milk.

For more workout tips from Dr. Roberts, please check out this video.

Note: Dr. Roberts would not advise this strategy for fitness exercisers and those that are trying to lose weight but more for those competitive athletes burning a lot of calories throughout their workout and unable to maintain body weight and energy level between workouts.

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