What is the key to a strong, energy-filled workout? Fuel-Workout-Refuel-Repeat. No matter if you are a stellar high school athlete, pro-football player or an exerciser training for your fist half-marathon, the message is the same: You need to fuel and refuel to train hard and recover appropriately. Most people have the fueling part down. Like you put gas in a car to make it go, you put food in your body to have energy to workout. That is a pretty easy concept. But what is the refueling component all about?
There is a two-hour window after a workout where your body does a better job of digesting and absorbing carbohydrate and protein to help you recover. Ideally you refuel with a carbohydrate-protein rich snack within forty-five minutes post-workout and then follow it up with a more balanced meal within the next hour and a half. Refueling in the appropriate window helps your body recover and get ready for its next workout. Think of “Refueling” as having three R’s: Replenish, Rebuild, Rehydrate. Replenish means you need to provide the body with carbohydrate to replace what you burned off in your workout. Rebuild means you need protein to begin resynthesizing muscle mass that was damaged while you ran, jumped and lifted weights. Rehydrate means you need to replace the fluid and electrolytes sweated out.
Though there are lots of food and drink combinations that can help you refuel, one of the best, nutrient-rich choices is low-fat chocolate milk! Why you ask? Well, let’s compare it to the “Refuel” recipe. Milk naturally contains some carbohydrate to help replenish tired muscles and when chocolate is added, it boosts the carbohydrate higher to speed up recovery. Chocolate milk is also a protein rich beverage. With one gram of protein per ounce, each sip contains the amino acids (building blocks of protein) you need to start rebuilding muscle. In addition, chocolate milk contains whey protein which is the highest in branch chain amino acids, specifically leucine. Research shows that leucine can independently stimulate muscle resynthesis making it ideal in post-workout nutrition. On top of that, chocolate milk is 90% water and packed with potassium which helps the body rehydrate and replace an important electrolyte lost in sweat.
A few other benefits come with low-fat chocolate milk too! It contains nine essential nutrients including calcium and vitamin D that help build strong bones and teeth. As a young person that nutrient combination helps you build bone and as an adult it helps you maintain bone mineral density. It also provides other B-vitamins which help convert food to energy. So whether you are 5 or 55, the nutrients in low-fat chocolate milk are essential to your body.
On top of great nutrition, low-fat chocolate milk is everywhere and very inexpensive! Many people fail to refuel after a workout because they don’t take the time to make a meal/snack or don’t want to by a $5 smoothie from the gym café or local smoothie store. Conveniently, low-fat chocolate milk is at the corner gas station, most fast food restaurants, in your or your child’s school cafeteria and easy to make at home. And guess what? People love it because it tastes great! So the next time you leave practice, are rushing from the gym to the office or just finished a marathon, grab some chocolate milk. From bone strengthening to muscle building, it is a great way to help your body replenish, rebuild, rehydrate and thus refuel after a workout.
-Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD
Amy Goodson, is the sports dietitian for Texas Health Ben Hogan Sports Medicine, TCU Sports , Dallas Cowboys Sports, Texas Rangers Sports & USA Track & Field Sports