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Chocolate Milk After Workouts continued...

They looked at maximum oxygen uptake, a measure of aerobic endurance. ''The improvement in maximum oxygen consumption was twice as great [in the milk drinkers] than in the carb or placebo group."

"We also found individuals receiving the milk tended to have a greater increase in lean body mass and greater reduction in body fat."

Ivy says he was not trying to do a head-to-head comparison against sports drinks on the market. He says that sports drinks meant for use after workouts typically do contain protein.

The chocolate milk tested, he says, has a better carb-protein mix than white milk. The chocolate milk used has about 11.5 grams of carbohydrates per 100 milliliters, 3.5 grams of protein, and 2 grams of fat. The carbohydrate drink he tested has 15 grams of carbs, 2 grams of fat, and no protein.

Calories Count, Too

Jennifer Schmit, a spokeswoman for Gatorade, did not comment directly on the research. However, she says that a sports recovery drink made by the company does contain protein.

She notes that "it is important to take in 10-20g of protein within 30 minutes of exercise to start the muscle recovery process, as well as to replenish the carbohydrates and electrolytes lost during the workout."

The research findings make sense, says Barbara Lewin, RD, a sports nutritionist in Ft. Myers, Fla. She advises athletes on nutrition to improve their performance. She reviewed the findings for WebMD but was not involved in the research.

"I have been using it for a long time," she says. It's no surprise, she says, that the chocolate milk beat out the no-calorie beverage and the carbohydrate drink without protein. The inclusion of some protein in a post-workout drink does improve muscle repair and growth, she says.

"This doesn't mean that protein shakes are the answer because carbohydrate is extremely important in the recovery process and in restoring glycogen (the stored source of energy in the muscles). However, a food that contains a carbohydrate to protein ratio of 4:1 up to 5:1 does give more of an advantage than taking in 100% carbohydrate. This is what makes chocolate milk such an ideal choice. I usually recommend 1% or skim chocolate milk as the fat in the milk does not appear to provide any advantage.''

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