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Is Chocolate Milk the Next Sports Drink?

It all comes down to cows

(Meal Makeover Moms/Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0)
smithsonian.com

Got milk? That’s a question some athletes might be asking after future games and races, writes Andrew Amelinckx for Modern Farmer. Researchers at the University of Maryland have found that a drink made from Jersey and Guernsey cow milk outperforms commercial sports drinks by 13 to 17 percent.

In their experiments, researchers had 13 non-athletic men perform leg extension workouts, drink one of four recovery beverages, wait four hours and do the workout again. No matter the beverage, the men recovered the same degree of strength for their second workout. But in terms of muscle endurance, the milk drink gave them a substantial edge, while the other drinks couldn’t even outperform water.

This wasn’t just any cow milk, though, explains Amelinkx. It was a specially concocted chocolate milk called Fifth Quarter Fresh with high levels of protein, electrolytes, calcium and vitamin D. Given that regular milk was not part of the study, it’s impossible to say whether it would perform as well.

Most grocery store milk comes from Holstein cows, while Jersey and Guernsey cows produce milk that’s higher in protein. In order to keep milk fresh for a long time, pasteurizers also use high temperatures (usually over 200 degrees Fahrenheit). The high temperatures break down milk proteins, but Fifth Quarter Fresh is cooked at just 165 degrees and retains more of its protein.

Still, Amelinckx points out, there are some caveats. All of these studies were conducted in small groups, and in the case of Fifth Quarter Fresh, the product is also made by a University of Maryland start-up. Neither of these factors discount the result, but they’re worth considering.

Will you be reaching for chocolate milk after your next workout? It might be worth a try.

About Helen Thompson
Helen Thompson

Helen Thompson writes about science and culture for Smithsonian. She's previously written for NPR, National Geographic News, Nature and others.

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