Most people wouldn't guess that our childhood favorite, chocolate milk, would make an excellent post-workout snack, but it's packed with the ideal combination of protein to build muscles and carbohydrates to replenish glycogen in your muscles. Don't let the sugar content freak you out, either. The insulin boost will bump those glycogen molecules in there much faster. A glass of chocolate milk turns this tasty drink into a snack as good as, or better than, any protein bar.
Milk provides two different types of protein: casein and whey protein. Commonly found in protein shakes and powders, the whey protein gets into your muscles quickly after your workout. The casein protein is slow-acting, so it sustains its amino acid injection for the long haul after your workout.
The carb content of chocolate milk would likely scare away any Atkin's dieter, but the 5 to 25 grams (brand dependent) that chocolate milk provides, especially due to the sugar, will cause your insulin to spike, and encourage glycogen back into your muscles for recovery after your sweat session. Glycogen is the muscles' major source of energy. Replenishing should be the number one priority after a workout.
If at this point you haven't totally bought in, remember that the calcium content in milk helps strengthen bones. You may be putting a lot of pressure on your bones during those feet pounding sessions on the pavement. High protein diets can also draw calcium from the bones, and though you are doing right by your bones by lifting weights, you are likely losing a lot of calcium through your sweat. For women who traditionally don't get their recommended amount of calcium each day, chocolate milk is certainly right for you.
The sugar and sodium in chocolate milk will actually help with the insulin spike described above, and will make your body retain water that was lost during your workout. Some may need to avoid that spike (hypoglycemics and diabetics), but most fitness fans need it for optimal recovery and muscle repair.
To Buy or to Make?
There are many brands of chocolate milk out there that are premixed, refrigerated and delicious. You can find many brands that will certainly strike your fancy, from organic to traditional, light or vitamin enriched. You will likely find most types are made from 1% or 2% milk. On the other hand, making your own allows you to adjust the amount of chocolate used. The pre-made varieties tend to be relatively sweet. You can also save yourself a few calories and fat if you use skim or non-fat milk. In other words, is convenience or calorie content the priority to you?
If the thought of drinking milk after a workout makes your stomach churn, try adding ice to the drink. The colder the milk is, the less of that thick feel it has. Also consider switching to non-fat for your post workout drink. Non-fat is less creamy. Many say that it tastes diluted, so it goes down more like a protein shake would.