Fuel Up with Milk

You’ve heard that “milk does a body good.” But perhaps you didn’t know that milk is not only beneficial for healthy bones and teeth, but may be an effective post-exercise recovery beverage. Many of your favorite athletes, including professional football players and the USA men’s hockey and women’s ski jumping teams, refuel with milk after a strenuous workout, and for good reason…3 women with glasses of milk

Did you know that milk is nature’s sports drink? Naturally nutrient-rich and an excellent source of nutrition.

So what happens to the body during exercise and why is recovery nutrition so important?

  • When you exercise, you lose fluid in the form of sweat. The harder you exercise, the more fluid is lost. In addition to fluid, electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium, are lost as you sweat.
  • During exercise, your body relies on blood glucose and stored muscle glucose (glycogen) as fuel – or energy. This stored muscle glucose is often depleted after exercise and needs to be replaced, in the form of dietary carbohydrates.
  • Lastly, during activity, muscle is broken down. While this is a natural result of strenuous activity, future athletic performance in practices and games is largely dependent on how well our muscles rebuild and resynthesize new muscle fibers after a workout. Protein aids in this recovery effort.

Milk, both white and chocolate, provides key nutrients needed after exercise.

  • Milk is 90 percent water and a great tasting choice after practices and games. Milk’s fluids and electrolytes, including calcium, potassium and magnesium, rehydrate the body and replenish what is lost in sweat.
  • Carbohydrates in milk refuel muscles and replenish glycogen (energy) stores.
  • High-quality protein aids in muscle recovery and repair.
  • Calcium, vitamin D and phosphorus build and maintain strong bones.
  • Milk provides potassium to help ward off muscle cramping.
  • B vitamins in milk help convert food to energy.

Chocolate Milk, the Golden Ratio

Chocolate milk provides what many consider the “golden ratio” of carbohydrates to protein (three to four grams of carbohydrate for every one gram of protein) necessary for optimal recovery. While chocolate milk has more grams of carbohydrate per serving than white milk, thanks to the added sugar, both offer essential nutrients and either one can be an excellent choice post-workout.

Emerging research in adult athletes has demonstrated that one serving of milk post-exercise may help reduce muscle damage and improve muscle recovery – helping the body perform better during its next workout. In fact, research shows that drinking milk after a workout can be as effective as some sports drinks in helping the body refuel, recover and rehydrate after exercise.

fuel-up-with-milk-300x148A study by Thomas, et al. published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism in 2009 looked at endurance capacity following chocolate milk consumption compared with two commercially available sports drinks. Male cyclists performed a glycogen depleting exercise session and then four hours later performed a second cycling exercise. Immediately after the first cycling exercise, and again two hours later, subjects consumed either chocolate milk, a carbohydrate replacement drink or a fluid replacement drink. Consumption of chocolate milk resulted in subjects cycling 51 percent longer in the second exercise session than after the carbohydrate replacement drink and 43 percent longer than after the fluid replacement drink.

Improve your post-exercise regimen by refueling with milk within 30-60 minutes after a workout. Plan ahead and try these tips to get more nutrition in your post-exercise plan:

  • Sip low-fat or fat-free milk – white or chocolate. For most athletes, eight to 14 ounces will provide the right amount of carbohydrate and protein to refuel after exercise.
  • Blend together low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt, fruit and ice to satisfy post-workout hunger with a nutrient-rich smoothie. Check out this “Create a Smoothie” guide for inspired smoothie ideas.
  • Enjoy cereal, granola or oatmeal with low-fat or fat-free milk pre or post exercise.