Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sweet Relief

Can Chocolate Milk Help Student Athletes?



The debate over whether chocolate milk is good for you has reached a fever pitch. Nationwide parental groups are pressuring school districts to ban flavored milk in an effort to fight obesity. This summer, the Los Angeles Unified School District banned flavored milk after the LAUSD superintendent appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! with British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.

Meanwhile, endurance athletes have begun choosing chocolate milk as their recovery drink of choice. Several studies support this choice, finding that chocolate milk is better than sports drinks at boosting endurance and helping muscles recover after intense workouts.

What’s a parent to do?

“While it’s true that there are more calories in chocolate milk than in unflavored milk of the same kind, you can get really good tasting chocolate milk that doesn’t have a lot of extra calories,” said Ronald Kleinman, MD, physician-in-chief of MassGeneral Hospital for Children and chief of the Pediatric Gastrointestinal and Nutrition Unit.

There is chocolate milk on the market that’s only 30-45 calories more than regular milk, he said. Those 30 extra calories may be worth it for parents who have children who refuse to drink unflavored milk.

“We know that milk is very nutritious and that chocolate can have some beneficial effects,” Kleinman said. “If you can flavor it without getting the extra amount of calories I think it’s a great idea.”

As for feeding chocolate milk to student athletes, he said most of the studies involved adult endurance athletes so the effects on children are unknown. Giving student athletes low calorie chocolate milk after a workout won’t harm them.

“The most important thing is that children get enough liquid to drink while they’re doing sports, whether it’s water, a sports drink, or flavored milk. That’s the first priority,” Kleinman said.

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