8 Reasons Chocolate Milk Is Literally the Best Recovery Drink (Yeah, I Said It)

POPSUGAR Photography | Maria del Rio
POPSUGAR Photography | Maria del Rio

There are some aspects of your childhood that should be staples in your wellness routine. Take naptime, for instance. Science says naps are good for you, and grown-ups deserve a little downtime as much as kids do. Playtime outside? Absolutely should be part of your self-care and health regimen. And of course, what healthy lifestyle would be complete without chocolate milk? Yeah, we said it.

Listen, chocolate milk is one of the best recovery drinks you can have post-workout (assuming you can consume dairy, of course). Ever wonder why volunteers hand you a little carton at the end of a race? Rumor has it SoulCycle instructors have a private stash of Horizon organic chocolate milk for after they teach classes, too. There are tons of reasons it can help your body — but we decided to ask some experts.

1. Provides Healthy Carbs and Protein

Registered dietitian Lisa Hayim, MS, RD, noted that chocolate milk "is the perfect combination of protein (from the milk) and easy-to-absorb sugar/carbohydrates (from the chocolate)" that makes it an ideal recovery drink.

"During a workout, especially a strength-training workout, the body breaks down amino acids," she told POPSUGAR. "Amino acids are the building blocks of protein," and you need to replace the protein you lost during a workout. "That is why chocolate milk is a favorite among athletes."

As for that protein? "An eight-ounce glass of milk has the same amount of protein as two tablespoons of peanut butter," said health coach, fitness competitor, and Got Milk? ambassador Lauren Salaun — that's eight grams, if you're counting!

2. It's Easy to Digest

"Within 30 minutes after your workout, you need lean protein that is easy to digest," Salaun. Getting your protein in liquid form makes this process even easier, she says. "The liquid gets into your body, and your body can absorb and process it really quickly; it's an easy way for your body to digest."

3. Keeps Your Lean Muscle Tissue Healthy

Hayim explained a little more about what's going down in your body during exercise. "During a workout, the body reaches for stored carbohydrates to use as energy; the stored form, known as glycogen, is stored within muscles and the liver." OK, got it. Carbs = glycogen, and it's in muscles and liver.

"Chocolate milk gives your muscles exactly what they need so your body isn't eating away at muscle fiber after a workout."

Depleting the energy stores in our muscles can eventually lead to muscular breakdown. "If we run out of energy during a workout, the body will start to break down muscle (for protein to turn to energy), which is usually counterintuitive to our goals," said Hayim. "After a workout, you want to restore the muscles with the energy you took out so that you can recover and prepare for the next workout."

Salaun echoed this: "The additional carbs from chocolate milk give your muscles exactly what they need so your body isn't eating away at muscle fiber after a workout."

4. Has Magnesium For Muscles

Speaking of protecting those muscles . . . There's a reason we crave chocolate when we have PMS cramps — our bodies instinctively know that chocolate has magnesium, which relieves cramps. Perfect for muscular recovery and repair, right?

5. Gives Extra Hydration

You could have a protein bar to get nutrition after your workout, but chances are, you're slightly dehydrated. Hayim told POPSUGAR that one of the benefits of chocolate milk post-workout is its hydration abilities.

6. Rich With Bonus Vitamins and Minerals

Because milk is a whole food, you'll reap a lot of nutritional benefits in addition to the macronutrients. "On top of having an excellent carb to protein ratio, it's a good source of calcium, phosphorous, and vitamin D," said Hayim.

7. You Might Perform Better in the Gym

Science says you might want to swap your Gatorade for chocolate milk. "There have been studies with athletes drinking low-fat chocolate milk after training, and they found that they had performance edge over athletes who drank sports drinks," Salaun told POPSUGAR. The study she's referencing is a 2011 University of Texas Austin finding that reported "postexercise CM supplementation can improve subsequent exercise performance and provide a greater intracellular signaling stimulus for PRO synthesis compared to CHO and placebo."

8. It's Damn Delicious

We don't want to paint with a broad brush here, but chances are no one would have to twist your arm to get you to swig some chocolate milk, right? No protein shake required, no sports bars . . . just a cold glass of a childhood classic. And you get to reap all the benefits.

Make it even tastier — Salaun shared her post-workout chocolate milk "shake" with this supersimple recipe (and it "tastes just like a milkshake!"). Blend the following ingredients and let the recovery begin:

  • One banana (freeze it ahead of time if you want your shake more like ice cream!)
  • Two tablespoons of almond butter or peanut butter
  • One tablespoon of cacao powder (or unsweetened cocoa powder)
  • One to one and a half cups of milk
  • Half cup ice
  • Optional: one teaspoon raw honey to sweeten (you can also blend in one to two pitted dates!)