The Best Post-Workout Drink Isn't What You Think

Whatever your preferred method of working out, if it's anything more strenuous than channel surfing, chances are it's going to make you work up quite a thirst. It's important that you pay attention to your body's desire for a drink since exercise can be dehydrating. But by "drink," no, we don't mean "drink drink" as in adult beverage. Despite what all those "go for the gusto"-type beer commercials seem to indicate, alcohol intake directly after exercise can go a ways toward undoing all of that effort you just put in. In fact, according to this alarming article published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal PLOS ONE, post-workout booze "impairs maximal post-exercise rates of myofibrillar protein synthesis." Don't you just hate it when that happens? (If you have no idea what that means, the plain English translation seems to be something along the lines of, you won't build as much muscle as you would have had you not gone on a post-workout bender.)

So what should you drink to rehydrate after a workout? There are a number of sports drinks marketed specifically for this purpose, and of course there's always water (plain or fruit-enhanced). What you may not be aware, however, is that there's a growing body of research showing that one of the best post-workout drinks might be something more reminiscent of the elementary school cafeteria — would you believe it's chocolate milk?

What makes chocolate milk such a great post-workout drink?

Chocolate milk contains both carbohydrates and protein in abundance, both of which are necessary to get your body back on track after prolonged exertion. While plain milk will provide you with just as much protein and calcium as its more flavorful sibling, chocolate milk contains a lot more sugar, and sugar equals carbs, which equals needed sustenance for any high-level athletic performance. Physiologist Joel Stager, Ph.D., director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Indiana University, remarks that extra carbs probably aren't necessary to sustain the casual weekend golfer, yet they are beneficial to anyone engaged in an extended, sweat-producing activity like swimming laps, cycling, or long-distance running (via Shape).

But what about plain-water purists, who insist that good old H2O is all you really need to rehydrate? Well, they're just wrong — unless of course, we're still talking about those weekend golfers who'd likely be better off with a Hydro Flask than another happy hour at the 19th hole. For serious exercisers, however, the only thing water is going to do is replace lost sweat and not much else. Chocolate milk, with its protein, carbs, and calories, is going to do a lot more to replenish the muscles' energy stores.

If you fall somewhere in between elite athlete and occasional dog walker on the exertion spectrum, you could still consider chocolate milk as a post-workout beverage, but just be sure to take into account its calories and carbs and adjust your dinner plans accordingly.