New Research: Chocolate Milk for High School Athletes


Tags: Research, Schools, Sports Nutrition, Built by Nature

“[Chocolate milk] gives me that fuel I need playing defensive line,” says Tyrone Crawford, NFL defensive tackle, “having the bones that I have and the strength that I have.”

And as it turns out, chocolate milk makes excellent fuel for high school athletes as well. New research shows that chocolate milk has a greater impact on performance than regular sports beverages when high school athletes drink it for recovery.

This was the first-ever field-based study measuring the effects of chocolate milk versus a typical sports drink on adolescent athletes. Previous studies all looked at adults, but never at the 7.8 million high school athletes in the nation – yet nutrition is especially important for these young athletes, whose bodies are still growing while also handling the heavy physical demands of athletics.

How Did the Study Work?

The Department of Kinesiology and Health Education at the University of Texas at Austin studied 100 participants, including a mix of varsity and junior varsity boys as well as female athletes with an average age of 15. The students trained four times per week for five weeks, with both free weights and field agility drills. They were randomly placed into one of two groups: those who would drink chocolate milk as a recovery drink, and those who would drink a leading sports beverage instead.

What Were the Results?

At the end of five weeks, the two groups showed significant differences in two particular areas: bench press and squats.

  • The athletes who drank chocolate milk bench-pressed an average of 3.5 percent more than they could before – whereas those who drank the commercial sports beverage actually decreased in bench-press strength by about 3.2 percent. That’s a net difference of 6.7 percent for those who drank chocolate milk versus a commercial sports beverage.
  • Both groups showed improvement with squats, but chocolate milk drinkers showed more, lifting 15 percent more weight than before – whereas commercial sports beverage drinkers only lifted 8 percent more. That’s nearly double the increase in strength for chocolate milk drinkers.

Why Does Chocolate Milk Make a Difference?

Both chocolate milk and the typical sports drink have carbohydrates to replenish the body. Both combine electrolytes and fluid for rehydration. But the typical sports drink lacks protein to rebuild muscles.

Milk naturally contains two types of high-quality protein: whey and casein. One is absorbed quickly and one is absorbed slowly, meaning your body reaps both short- and long-term benefits – and there’s a whole gram of protein in every ounce of milk, which combines with the carbs in chocolate milk for the ideal muscle recovery ratio.

What Else Should We Know?

Intense training, both on the field and in the weight room, can lead to overtraining. When the body lacks the resources to match physical demands, athletes are prone to fatigue, illness and injuries. One way to avoid overtraining is ensuring athletes get a recovery drink that accomplishes the three R’s: Rehydrate, Replenish and Rebuild. Chocolate milk covers all three in one cost-effective package.

Further studies may determine how other factors affected the UT results – things like technique, or foods the athletes are eating at home. However, the study supports chocolate milk as a recovery supplement for adolescents participating in intense training, so we can add it to the growing pile of research about chocolate milk recovery for all ages.

Learn more about chocolate milk and sports nutrition.

Presented as a poster at the Annual Meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine. Denver. May 2017.

About The Guest Author

Andy Cheshire

Head Varsity Football Coach, Concordia High School; PhD candidate

Coach Cheshire’s interest in sports performance began in high school through his own preparation as a multi-sport athlete in football, basketball and track. At the University of Oklahoma, he was a research assistant in the Sports Nutrition Lab while earning his B.S. in health & exercise science with distinction. In graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin, Coach Cheshire again focused his studies on sports performance and psychology while earning his Master’s degree. As a current PhD candidate, Coach Cheshire looks at how high school athletes recover from intense training, translating that work in his role as a Texas high school football coach to promote greater safety and performance for his athletes. Coach Cheshire is the head varsity football coach at Concordia High School in Austin; he started the program in 2014.