Got (Choc) Milk?

23rd August 2013

After a tough training session or match, our bodies are often left in a state of depletion – replenishing certain nutrients in this post-exercise period can be crucial in optimising our recovery. Particularly for players competing in tournaments who have may have several matches across a day or weekend, or for those working on conditioning programmes that require multiple tough sessions across a typical week, recovering properly after a session is crucial.

Squash pros often call this ‘backing it up’ – being able to put together not just one good performance/result, but being able to then back it up with another soon after. Many drinks and foods have been proposed as the ‘best’ method to optimise this recovery, but surprisingly enough it is humble chocolate milk that has been shown in research to match or even outperform many of the specialised formulas and products on the market.

The story goes that the benefits of milk as a recovery drink were apparently first spotted in a study looking at the best post-exercise rehydration beverage for cyclists, where milk was actually to be used as a control (the supposed ‘baseline’ standard to which the tested supplements would be compared to). To the researchers’ surprise, the control group using just plain milk outperformed their fellow participants who were on the more advanced electrolyte recovery drinks.

Subsequent studies showed similar results (a number of which are outlined here), to the point where basic low-fat chocolate milk is now a fairly well-established recovery drink for many professional athletes, including such notable figures as Mo Farah.

There are several proposed mechanisms for chocolate milks success as a recovery drink.

The most significant one, is the volumes and ratios of carbohydrate content to protein content in a standard 330ml-500ml serving – chocolate milk has an approximate 3:1 carb to protein ratio (chocolate milk has a slightly higher sugar/carb content than standard or other flavoured milk, hence the reason it is preferred), giving around 40-50g carbs to 12-15g protein. The carbohydrates (simple sugars) help replace expended energy stores and recharge our fuel supplies, while the blend of casein and whey protein in milk helps replenish tired muscles. In addition, chocolate milk tends to contain high levels of crucial nutrients such as potassium, calcium, and vitamin D. A further advantage to commonly available chocolate milks such as Mars Milk, Nurishment etc., is the pleasant taste and ease of consumption and digestion for most people (excluding those with dairy intolerance issues).

So if you’re looking for a quick, easy, and enjoyable post-session pick-me-up, chocolate milk is a great option.

Do remember, however, that taking in excess sugar as part of your diet is not recommended outside of this post-training window (within 2hrs, and ideally within 15mins for optimal benefits) – and probably not even then if your main goals from your squash are more general health and fitness related. If you train or play competitively however, a glass of chocolate milk after your match/training can be a great way to replenish your muscles ready for your next session.


Gary Nisbet

B.Sc.(Hons), CSCS, NSCA-CPT, Dip. FTST
SquashSkills Fitness & Performance Director

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