Among the myriad of supposed health tricks, miracle foods and key tips to muscle recovery and fitness as a whole, chocolate seems like a natural antonym. The delicacy is often on the other side of the health barrier, with dieticians and wellbeing experts warning of the dangers of too much sugar or fat in the system.
However, following a handful of recent studies, it seems that chocolate – in particular, chocolate milk – has the ability to aid in muscle recovery and general stamina control. There are a number of reasons for this recovery effect, namely: the chocolate’s ability to balance carbohydrates, protein and fat of the milk; which in turn has more electrolytes than standard water or most brand name sports drinks.
Differing from other post-exercise sports drinks, chocolate, or chocolate milk, additionally delivers an important calcium boost which has been scientifically proven to help with overall muscle, cartilage and joint health.
It is thought that a natural amount of flavonoids (a metabolite found in many plants, cocoa included) inherent in chocolate can suppress the influence of creatine kinase – an enzyme which plays a part in muscle damage. That being said, this has yet to be peer reviewed, or quantified, and remains under the watchful gaze of researchers, currently.
However, reaching for the chocolate as soon as your exercise is over is not for the casual runner or cyclist, argues Joel Stager – a prominent voice in the field. The underlying recovery benefits of chocolate are best suited for regular exercisers, or those who specialise in endurance, long distance or lengthy workouts. These sustained activities will best witness the quick recovery factor of chocolate’s protein and carbohydrate cocktail.
Nevertheless, it is pertinent to note that chocolate, in any of its forms, is not the most ideal form of muscle recovery. Aside from other supplements, or drinks available for post-workout replenishment; chocolate is a snack-food (one which arguably requires refrigeration, note) and can’t truly contend with a hearty, healthy meal full of nutrients and legitimate protein.
Certainly a brilliantly useful, manageable and temporary snack – chocolate, or chocolate milk does aid in muscle recovery – but is not the ideal, permanent solution.
Stager, J. M. et al., (2006). Chocolate Milk As a Post-Exercise Recovery Aid. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, Vol 16, pp78-91.
Platkin, C. S. The Diet Detective: Is Chocolate Milk Good for Muscle Recovery? Available: http://www.active.com/nutrition/articles/the-diet-detective-is-chocolate-milk-good-for-muscle-recovery?page=1