Protein supplements have blossomed into a multibillion dollar industry as people have flocked into health food stores in search of the best post-workout nutrition options. Although I do recommend a protein supplement in some situations and I in fact use one myself, a childhood favorite may actually yield better results. Chocolate milk, with its unique blend of simple sugars, whey and casein protein, Vitamin D and calcium, and fats provides your body with a complete post-workout option that actually tops many leading protein powders.
Why it Works
Usually I advise people to stay away from simple sugars that digest extremely quickly, but after a tough workout, you have a small window of opportunity to keep simple sugars that your body can actually use. When you exercise, your body is pulling on its available energy and your muscles are sustaining very small amounts of damage. You know that your body needs high quality protein to repair your muscles, but it also needs energy – energy that has seriously been depleted. When you ingest simple sugars like those found in chocolate milk, you're providing your body with the immediate energy it needs to recover and begin repairing your muscles.
High Quality Protein
The protein you find in your whey and casein protein supplements is derived from milk, which means milk has the same protein in a more natural, less processed form. The protein you find in milk is about 20% whey and 80% casein, so you receive a good mix of fast and low absorption protein to sustain muscle building for up to eight hours!
Vitamin D and Calcium
Remember how milk is supposed to help kids grow big and strong? The same goes for adults – calcium keeps your muscles and bones strong to help prevent injuries, and Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium.
Contrary to popular belief, eating most fats will not make you fat, and high quality fats can actually improve endurance, help you to prevent injuries, help you build muscle by stabilizing your testosterone levels and more.
How to Maximize Your Efforts
These benefits make chocolate milk a great option to consume within 20 minutes of working out, but even a large glass of milk will only supply you with about 12 grams of protein. If you're serious about gaining lean muscle mass, you should be consuming as many grams of protein as your target body weight daily, so 12 grams alone probably is not going to cut it.
You have a few options. The chocolate milk will easily tide you over until you have time to make yourself a high protein meal to complete your post-workout nutrition. Also, I mentioned earlier that I do in fact use a protein supplement; I just do not use it as my immediate recovery drink. Instead, I take my protein shake with a side of fruit and whole grain carbohydrates about an hour after working out to complete my post-workout nutrition.
When Chocolate Milk May Not Work
If you're lactose intolerant or just do not like the taste of milk you should obviously steer clear of chocolate milk. Also, milk of course has to be kept cold, so it's not always the most practical option when you're going to be at the gym for a few hours. However, you can still work on getting a good combination of the elements that chocolate milk has by eating a variety of foods.
Eating some fruit or consuming a sports drink like Gatorade will help you get the simple sugars your body needs to begin repairing your muscles.
Try to find a protein supplement that has both whey and casein protein so your body has a sustained source of protein. BSN's Syntha 6 and Optimum Nutrition's Nitrocore 24 are both good options and they have some of the vitamins that milk has to promote muscle health.
A scoop of peanut butter or any nut butter will provide you with a lot of healthy fats to also promote muscle growth. Some protein supplements will also feature some good fats, though you should watch the scheduled fat content.