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Milk vs. Sports Drinks continued...

The findings suggest that chocolate milk has an optimal ratio of carbohydrates to protein to help refuel tired muscles, researcher Joel M. Stager, PhD, Indiana University kinesiology professor, tells WebMD.

But the most puzzling result of the study, experts say, was why Endurox -- which has the same carb-to-protein ratio as the chocolate milk -- fared so poorly. Researcher Jeanne D. Johnston, MA, tells WebMD it may have to do with the different composition of the sugars in the milk. Another theory is that the sugars in the milk may be better absorbed in the gut than those in the Endurox.

Edward F. Coyle, PhD, a researcher on exercise and hydration at the University of Texas, tells WebMD the trial would have been stronger if the researchers had also tested the effect of flavored water or another dummy (placebo) drink.

The study was partly funded by the Dairy and Nutrition Council, an industry group. Coyle says that the study's reliance on industry funding is not unusual in the world of sports research, as federal funding for such research is hard to come by.

A Cheaper Alternative?

While rapid nutrient replacement may not be important for casual exercisers, it can make a big difference in performance for competitive athletes who work out vigorously once or twice a day, says Roberta Anding, a sports dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

Anding has long recommended chocolate milk for young athletes who come to her practice at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston. For children and teenagers from lower-income families, it doesn't make sense to spend serious money on sports drinks when they can get milk as part of a subsidized lunch program, she tells WebMD. The only advantage of sports drinks, she notes, is that they never spoil.

Ayoob estimates that more than two-thirds of teenagers should be drinking more milk anyway because they don't get enough calcium in their diets. He also recommends milk for its vitamin D and potassium content. "For me, this is a no-brainer," he says.

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