April 24, 2014

Busting the Chocolate Milk Myth

Chocolate milk has become many gym-goers favorite post workout drink, but is it really as beneficial as it is advertised to be? I don’t think so!

The Myth: Recent Studies have shown that drinking chocolate milk after exercising is advantageous because of its protein content. Compared to plain milk, water or most sports drinks, it contains double the carbohydrate content, ideal for tired muscles. Its high water content replaces fluids lost from sweating and assists in preventing dehydration. In addition, it gives the body calcium, vitamin D, sodium and sugar, which help you retain water and regain energy.

The Facts: Good advertising can sell anything, and the chocolate milk campaign proves it. Most people like chocolate, so naturally most people like chocolate milk. However, it was not until the sugary beverage was deemed a “smart post-workout choice” that health conscious individuals jumped on the chocolate milk bandwagon. Oh, what millions of dollars in marketing can accomplish!

Though advertising and research insists that chocolate milk is beneficial, there are three main reasons why I disagree:

1) Milk – Maybe Not so Good!

It’s commonly thought that dairy products are good sources of calcium; however, they may not be the best source. Cow’s milk is rich in phosphorous, and when combined with calcium can actually prevent it from being absorbed properly. The protein in milk may also cause calcium to leach out of the bones. When you consider that many dairy cows may have been injected with antibiotics, leading to antibiotic resistance, it may not be the best calcium source for our families. Bovine growth hormones, while illegal in Canada, are still used in some countries to yield more milk per cow. Another factor to consider is that many people are sensitive to cow’s milk, not just to the lactose in the milk but the protein in milk itself, which may lead, for example, to gastro-intestinal problems, allergies and eczema and general low grade body inflammation.

In some aspects, organic milk is a better alternative than regular milk, but there is a concern over the pasteurization process. When milk is pasteurized all the important enzymes are destroyed and, without these enzymes, milk becomes difficult to digest, placing added stress on the pancreas, which may lead to diabetes.

2) Sugar, sugar!
A serving of chocolate milk contains 6-10 teaspoons of sugar per serving. And most bottles of chocolate milk contain 2 servings—YIKES!  Simple sugars like the ones found in your chocolate milk, cause acid imbalances in the body, and also contribute to poor nutrient absorption, a weakening of the immune system, and even nutrient losses. While chocolate milk may be better than plain carbohydrate sources for athletes, it is not worth the excessive calories or sugar for those trying to lose weight.

3)The Source
The most widely cited article I could find about chocolate milk and exercise recovery was Chocolate Milk as a Post-Exercise Recovery Aid And guess who sponsored said research–the Dairy and Nutrition Council. Hmm, big surprise there! After reading the above-mentioned study it became clear that the so-called benefits of chocolate milk do not apply to average gym-goers.  The study consisted of a mere 9 participants all of whom were elite athletes. Obviously this was done on purpose, as use of  “average” people would not have rendered the same results.What’s more is that the vast majority of studies pushing the use of chocolate milk as a post workout recovery beverage examined athletes performance after having the recovery beverage shortly after an initial workout. I seriously doubt that the average person is going to the gym, having a recovery beverage, and then doing another workout. Most people, at best, are not working out again until the following day.  The clearly biased study concluded that chocolate milk is indeed advantageous post workout (for elite athletes), but no more effective than a sport’s drink such as Gatorade.

The Verdict: Chocolate milk is fine as an occasional treat, like cookies and chocolate bars. However, the people benefiting the most from you consuming chocolate milk post workout are those in the dairy industry, not you.

Opt for a protein shake and a banana after your workout and your body will love you for it.

What kind of healthy snack or beverage do you consume after a workout? Leave a comment below!