Athletes: Chocolate milk is as effective as sports drinks

Bill passed along some good news for the little sports fans:

A "Healthy Living" article in the March/April 2007 issue of Midwest Living cites a 2006 study from Indiana University that found chocolate milk equal to or better than sports drinks at supplying energy and "refueling" muscles after exercise. It's also cheaper, has more nutrients and kids will actually drink it!


  1. Jim says

    I don’t know if this is an old wives tail or selective memory, but I lived in Augusta, GA for a number of years and it gets H-O-T down there. It’s so bad, that we were often barred from playing outside during the hottest part of the day (around 11 to 2).

    I also happen to love milk.

    I seem to remember that the heat + physical activity (we ran around all day long, it seemed) + milk often turned into some nasty stomach aches and upchucking.

    My dad (at the time a platoon sergeant with plenty of experience running PT in those climes) would admonish me for drinking milk when it was so hot out.

    Is that really a problem? Can milk “sour in your stomach” or will heat + physical activity + sports drinks (or water/cool-aid/what have you) still equal heat stroke and upchucking?

    Now, I’m curious.


  2. Gavin says

    Good lord. Just because a study suggests that sports-drinks are no more effective than chocolate milk doesn’t mean either one is good for you, or your kids.

  3. Dianna says

    I had a discussion with the product manager of Pedialyte (at Ross). Just happened to meet him at a social party. Now, granted, he is biased, but he said that sports teams buy Pedialyte by the truckload. The sports teams generally have a contract with Gatorade, so they HAVE to have a cooler of Gatorade in view, but then the athletes are chugging Pedialyte. The guy said that Gatorade is mostly sugar (disguises the nasty salt taste I suppose), which isn’t a real good thing for an athlete… Pedialyte is a lot less sugar and has a better proportion of electrolytes (according to this guy). So I can see that Gatorade and Chocolate milk both have gobs of sugar, and if this guy is right then Gatorade isn’t that great of a sports drink to begin with. I have read that a cup of milk only counts as 2/3 a cup of water, so in terms of fluid replenishment, I don’t think it’s better than water, although it may be better or as good as Gatorade.

  4. CJ says

    I believe the comments about Pedialyte (or generic), because of the lower sugar content. I used to cross-country ski competitively, and my sister competed in the 2002 Winter Olympics. When Gatorade first came out, it was NASTY as a “causual” drink – if you didn’t need the electrolyte repenishment – however, it was DELICIOUS if you’d just finished a 4 hour ski (or equivalent). The same thing was true for Powerbars (nasty taste as a snack, wonderful if you’d been working out). Now though, both of those things have a lot more sugar and neither is (IMO) all that tasty when you’ve been working out.

    In x-c skiing, a lot of competitions have 2 races on the same day. You’d need to replenish quickly, but not really have lunch. My sister used to drink SlimFast between races. It also has all the nutrients and electrolytes to replenish, but it doesn’t have as much fat and sugar as milk. And it doesn’t fill up your stomach like a “real” lunch. Of course, she would also drink a lot of “plain-old” water too!

  5. Kristine says

    Here’s a link to background on the research:

    As an exercise physiology major, I can fully believe that the protein/carb combination in chocolate milk would be a great recovery drink for athletes that are needing to restock their energy for more competition, either that day or the next. Of course, water is always good, too. But it’s nice to know that chocolate milk has some good qualities for athletes. Here’s some more benefits: (Quoted from this website…
    Here are some more reasons to replace sport drinks with chocolate milk:

    * Milk helps strengthens bones, and promotes a healthy weight.

    * The protein in the milk contains all of the essential amino acids for building or maintaining a lead body mass.

    * Milk provides you with the essential electrolytes.

    * Similar to a banana, milk as 10 times more potassium than most sport drinks.

    * A single glass of milk gives you 20% of the phosphorus needed each day, helping to strengthen your bones and generate energy in your cells.

    * Milk contains vitamins such as B-12, niacin and riboflavin, which are crucial in converting food to energy to fuel your muscles.

  6. pdx_mama says

    now that you’re ready to go out and buy a truckload of chocolate milk – i’ll let you in on my buying habits of the individual size boxed horizon organic chocolate milk…costco (when you want to stock up – i bring one w/everytime i pick up my dd from preschool) and starbucks (you know you want a latte anyway)
    go team!

  7. Elizabeth says

    My understanding from my M.D. husband is that drinking water and eating a banana is as good as Gatorade (and cheaper). I’ll ask him for the study to back that up.

  8. kate says

    I am a pediatric cardiologist and have researched the matter in the past. Lots of voodoo gets wrapped up in this by people marketing the stuff, and by people suspicious of them.

    First, the study with chocolate milk has to do with refueling AFTER exercise and how well the athletes were able to exercise 4 hours later. It does not recommend milk at halftime of the big game or in the middle of a marathon. When you are exerting maximally you want something that is easier to digest since your blood flow is going to more vital organs and exercising muscle than the gut.

    Second, water is adequate for all except the most elite athletes- kids in particular. However studies have shown despite the not great taste, kids/teens will drink more Gatorade-type fluids than straight water with exercise. As you say it tastes great when you really need it.Marathon runners have gotten themseleves into trouble however by drinking to much free water and diluting the level of sodium in their body- causes brain swelling. It has not been the front runners who are too busy to drink- it’s been those back in the pack who think all that water will help them run better, because that’s what they hear. Those guys can keep hydrate but they really do need a sports drink.

    Third, there is no magic in sports drinks. Gatorade is cheaper than the fancy amino acid drinks or Pedialyte- so we recommend it. I bet the teams using Pedilyte have a special deal with them. They have a marketing division too. Pedialyte is formulated specifically to replace fluids lost by diarrhea and vomiting so the composition is a bit different- it’s more like the IV fluids you are hoping to avoid…but not really much different from Gatorade. The sugar content of Gatorade is lower than juice or a soda. And all you really need is some sugar and some sodium and potassium.

    The sugar is actually in there for a reason. It facilitates more rapid reabsorption of water at the stomach! The sodium helps you retain fluid. That and potassium needs replacement for sweat. That’s really all you need in a sports drink for use during exercise.

    And I will now recommend chocolate milk after exercise! My patients will love that I can tell their parents it’s back by research. We use the nonspoiling organic mild boxes from Costco in our house too.

  9. chad says

    Growing up with one kidney, my doctors always told me you shouldn’t drink milk when you’re thirsty because it takes more water to digest milk, than it contains. You can dehydrate yourself.

  10. Emily says

    We find that chocolate milk is an absolute no-no for us – something about it makes my child unnaturally hyper. Haven’t compared his reaction with sports drinks, but if you’re thinking of trying chocolate milk, make sure your first experience isn’t in a restaurant (like ours was).