With all their added sugar and chemicals, it’s no wonder a lot of athletes have grown skeptical about sports drinks. But despite all the attention the sports drink brands get, when it comes to helping athletes at all levels recover, the unsung hero is real milk. Research shows that drinking milk to help your post-exercise recovery and rehydration is just as effective, if not more so, than drinking commercially-available sports drinks. Milk’s nutrients—protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and water—are rapidly absorbed and metabolized by the body to produce energy during activity and to replenish nutrient stores after it. That’s because milk is a great source of carbohydrates. As any pasta-eating marathoner will tell you, carbs consumed within thirty minutes after exercising are transported to muscles for immediate use, or stored as glycogen for the next activity.
Just as importantly, milk’s vitamins and minerals can increase muscle growth. Most dairy foods contain vitamins A and D—vitamin A maintains healthy tissue growth while vitamin D helps the body utilize minerals such as calcium and phosphorus. And the minerals found in milk—calcium, potassium and magnesium—help maintain strong bones, proper muscle functioning and fluid balance.
As if all that wasn’t motivating enough, there’s chocolate. That’s right, chocolate. While providing all of the nutritional benefits of plain milk, the additional carbohydrates from sugar in chocolate milk (or for that matter, strawberry milk), are easily absorbed and metabolized. Recent research has found that these delicious drinks are not only effective recovery aids after prolonged exercise, but that they can actually improve your performance in future exercise bouts. To start a winning streak, just add milk.