Hopefully by now you know one thing about me (Coach Jess): I HATE chocolate milk as a recovery food. I hate that triathletes are drinking this stuff thinking it’s healthy because it’s being marketed to death in top magazines, at expos, and at races by pro athletes and the dairy industry. Chocolate milk may indeed be equally good at restoring muscle glycogen as sports drinks or better at it than water (duh) but it doesn’t mean it’s a good, healthy, optimal recovery food.

If you are a pro athlete without any weight to lose and at the very top of your game (like the people marketing chocolate milk to you) then maybe chocolate milk makes sense as an easily accessible recovery drink. But if you are an age-group athlete, not at your goal weight, or care more about your HEALTH than your exercise performance, you have no business drinking chocolate milk. How it escapes people’s attention that this is a processed JUNK FOOD is beyond me but boy does it get me fired up!

So now comes a new study finding NO CHANGE in performance in a cycling time trial or muscle glycogen recovery between high carbohydrate sports supplements and food from McDonald’s. The cyclists ate the same amount of calories and were matched for macro-nutrients. Here is a chart of what they ate:

So my question is: do you still understand that McDonald’s food is an unhealthy choice and that it should not be eaten on a regular basis? Or does this study make you feel like McDonald’s food is now good for you? IT IS NOT GOOD FOR YOU just because it restores muscle glycogen!! JUST LIKE CHOCOLATE MILK! Somehow we have all forgotten that chocolate milk is not a part of a healthy diet. It may help you recover from a workout, but again…that does not make it healthy. Same with McDonald’s. Need to eat something really, really convenient and accessible after a super tough workout? Eat McDonald’s – or any other fast food. Or drink chocolate milk. But don’t choose those foods if you have access to real, healthy food choices if you care about your overall health. 
I have some problems with the language of this write-up from the ISSN, but I think it deserves to be shared. In particular:
  1. Nobody is recommending that fast food be an integral part of your daily food/beverage intake.
  2. In the context of acute exercise, it may indeed help. So why choose supplements? Convenience.
  3. I mean do you really want to stick burgers and fries down your pants and eat them later?
  4. Or would it make more sense to eat that sugar-filled energy bar that’s in a wrapper and won’t give you the runs while you run?
  5. This study doesn’t apply to those whose primary goal is to look puuurrrrty.
See that last point? I think it deserves to be emphasized here. Most of us age-groupers love triathlon but aren’t winning races. We care a lot about our weight and how we look and it’s that regular athlete that needs to stop falling for the chocolate milk marketing. 
So chocolate milk ads are in every magazine.  Coca-Cola is now a big sponsor of a tri team.  I wonder how soon we will see McDonald’s cycling kits on athletes?

One thought to “Still drinking chocolate milk? You can now add McDonald’s to your plate.”

  • Don Muchow

    It's a shame the author has such a bug up their nose about why some foods are bad and some foods are good. Food is food. You have to understand, for instance, that chocolate milk (the subject of the article) is basically simple carbs, mostly sugar, and fat with some protein.

    Now, before anyone gets all crazy, let me add that I'm a serious ultramarathoner and multimarathoner AND a type 1 diabetic. One thing MY body does at the end of long events — and I can verify this by measuring my blood glucose and using a CGM (continuous glucose monitor) — is basically dump a lot of glycogen into my system. Why? I don't know. I'm not a sports nutritionist. But I can tell you that 400 mg/dl blood sugars an hour after a perfectly normal and level-blood-glucose 50K or 50 miler are not uncommon. My personal experience after experimenting with various recovery regimens including some that are protein rich and low carb, carb rich and low protein, and both carb and protein rich, is that drinking chocolate milk stops this process (provided that I deliver an adequate amount of insulin — usually 50-75% of the normal dose for the milk.

    Is it a great recovery drink for non-diabetic, slightly or significantly overweight recreational athletes? I have no idea, and I don't question the author's point. But for this fit, at-target-weight type 1 endurance athlete, it does just fine.

    The lesson: the world is rarely made up of absolute good and evil. And that includes chocolate milk.

    As Cookie Monster says, it's a "sometimes food". But sometimes it's just what I need.

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