June 4, 2010 — Fat-free chocolate milk beat out carbohydrate sports drinks at helping to rebuild and refuel muscles after exercise, researchers report.

The combination of carbohydrates and protein in low-fat chocolate milk appears to be “just right” for refueling weary muscles, says William Lunn, PhD, an exercise scientist at the University of Connecticut.

“It’s not just a dessert item, but it’s very healthy, especially for endurance athletes,” Lunn tells WebMD.

The research involved eight male runners in good physical shape who ate a balanced diet for two weeks. At the end of each week, they took a fast paced, 45-minute run.

Following each run, the men drank either 16 ounces of fat-free chocolate milk or 16 ounces of a carbohydrate-only sports beverage with the same number of calories.

Post-exercise muscle biopsies showed increased skeletal muscle protein synthesis — a sign that muscles were better able to rebuild — after the milk drink, compared with the carb-only beverage.

Additionally, drinking fat-free chocolate milk led to a higher concentration of glycogen, or muscle fuel, in muscles 30 and 60 minutes after exercise, compared with the sports drink. Replenishing glycogen after exercise helps future performance, Lunn says.

The findings were presented at the American College of Sports Medicine conference in Baltimore this week.

While only men were studied, one would expect women to gain the same post-workout benefits from chocolate milk, he says.

While the studies were small, there’s no reason not to reach for fat-free chocolate milk after your next workout, says sports nutritionist Nancy Clark, MS, RD, of Healthworks Fitness Center in Chestnut Hill, Mass.

“Athletes can consider it an inexpensive nutritional alternative to engineered sports beverages for help with post-workout recovery,” she tells WebMD.

The studies were supported by a grant from the National Dairy Council and National Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Board.

This study was presented at a medical conference. The findings should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the “peer review” process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.

Ever thought about drinking chocolate milk after a hard workout? It may be more beneficial than you think. Dr. Charles Smith, UAMS family medicine doctor, said that some new research seems to suggest chocolate milk as good post workout drink.

Recent studies have shown that drinking chocolate milk after exercising is advantageous because of its protein content. Every cup of chocolate milk contains between eight and 11 grams of protein. Experts say that ideally you will want to consume between 15g and 25g of protein after a workout, which equals between 500ml and 750ml of chocolate milk.

Compared to plain milk, water or most sports drinks, it contains double the carbohydrate content, ideal for tired muscles. Its high water content replaces fluids lost from sweating and assists in preventing dehydration. In addition, it gives the body calcium, vitamin D, sodium and sugar, which help you retain water and regain energy. Milk also contains key nutrients that sports drinks cannot match.

UAMS’ Dr. Jorge Rodriguez, who is certified in treating sports injuries, said that he would tell his athletes about the study. “I would have them give it a trial if they wish. In addition, I would recommend consultation with a sports nutritionist.” He said though that generally for exercise under an hour, water is all that is needed.

Before you make the switch to chocolate milk, examine your workout routine. Chocolate milk is most helpful for athletes who need high levels of calories, carbohydrates and proteins to maintain their level of play.

To learn more about the personalized care provided by our doctors using state-of-the-art equipment and technology, please visit our medical services section.

Is Chocolate Milk Really the Best Post-Workout Recovery Drink?

Chocolate milk has long been touted as the go-to recovery drink. That’s because, post workout, you want a snack (or in this case, a drink) that gives you a dose of both carbs and protein. Carbs help replenish the glucose—the fuel your muscles need for energy—and protein helps rebuild and repair muscle breakdown.

Science likely started the hype around chocolate milk as a top provider for a carb-protein post-workout combo. One study found that the 4:1 protein-to-carb ratio helps with workout recovery and helps reduce muscle damage. Another study shows that drinking chocolate milk between workouts can increase your time to exhaustion, aka how long you last while breaking a sweat without feeling super tired.

But, while researchers back up the idea of sipping chocolate milk after exercise, they’re not positive about dosage or timing. Plus, it might not work for everyone. So, we asked a dietitian to weigh in on whether it should be your go-to treat after a sweat.

Should I drink chocolate milk post-workout?

“It depends on how long the workout is, what your goals are, and if you can tolerate the contents of chocolate milk,” say Angela Lemond, RDN, co-owner of Lemond Nutrition and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “If a person just ran five miles and they drank an eight-ounce chocolate milk, then that might be a decent recovery beverage to replenish electrolytes and help with recovery. Your body will use it in a proper way. If your workout is a 15-minute walk, then I’d say that you should just drink water.”

A good rule to keep in mind: Any workout you do for an hour or longer should have a follow-up recovery beverage or snack. Have you tried Aaptiv’s workouts yet?

What are the pros and cons of chocolate milk?

“The benefit of chocolate milk is that it’s an economical and easy package of carbohydrates, protein, and electrolytes,” Lemond says. “Water doesn’t contain anything other than fluid. The other popular recovery beverages typically have electrolytes, but no protein.”

You get everything you need to help your body recover after a sweat session with chocolate milk. However, not everyone can tolerate it, Lemond says. If you have any problems with the milk sugar (lactose), then this drink obviously shouldn’t be your top choice. And, choosing a milk alternative won’t provide the same benefits, as they don’t have as much protein. (They likely have very little).

Lemond suggests asking yourself three questions to determine if chocolate milk should be your drink of choice after exercise: How long and intense was my workout? What is my goal? Can I tolerate it?

Check out Aaptiv’s workouts from our top trainers. We have workouts based on how intense you want to get!

Are there alternatives to chocolate milk?

Short answer: yes. While there are tons of meal options to choose post-workout, another beverage that would do the trick is a smoothie with regular milk and one cup of mixed berries. Lemond says that this offers similar payoffs—providing carbs, protein, and electrolytes—but without the added sugars—and you even get a little fiber with it.

Health and Wellness

The Rules of Recovery Drinks

The recovery drink. It’s one of those things that we’re always told to use, but never too clear on the rules. What should I put in it? When should I take it? And for that matter, what is it?

“The recovery drink is generally considered anything that you take post-workout to speed up the body’s ability to recover,” says Sean Casey, a physical preparation coach and registered dietitian with UW Health’s Sports Performance Program. “That way, you’re more prepared going into your next training session.”

Recovery drinks are so popular, he says, because “you’re able to get food and nutrition into your system fairly quickly post-workout and it can be much easier on the stomach vs. solid foods. Plus it can assist hydration.”

For a recovery drink to be effective, it should contain protein, carbohydrates, and/or electrolytes, depending on your workout.

Carbohydrates and protein are the big ones. “Getting protein in right away can stimulate muscle recovery,” Casey says. It is consistent among all workouts.

Great sources of protein and carbohydrates for your recovery drink include bananas, berries, milk or Greek yogurt.

The amount of carbs one gets in the diet post-workout depends on the type of workout they are doing. “Let’s say if they’re just doing more of a general resistance training session, nothing super intense; I might do anywhere from 25 to 40 grams of carbohydrates,” Casey says. “But say they’re going out for a long run, that post-workout recovery might have closer to 80 grams of carbohydrates.”

And finally, replenishing electrolytes are necessary because “depending on how hot it is, we’re losing sodium and other electrolytes via sweat during the training session” Casey says.

Timing is also a great concern for many people in terms of when to consume a recovery drink.

“I’ve always found that the sooner you can get the post-workout recovery drink in you, the better you feel, the more prepared you are going into the rest of the day; especially if training twice a day,” Casey suggests.

But that isn’t a hard rule. It’s commonly thought that an athlete needs to get a recovery drink into his or her system immediately after a workout. However, “as long as you have it within that first 20 to 30 minutes, especially if it’s been 3-4+ hours since your last meal, you’ll respond really well,” Casey says.

But what about those of us who are not making our own recovery drinks? What drinks out there are especially beneficial?

“If looking for something basic, chocolate milk can provide benefit,” Casey says. “Tart cherry juice may also benefit muscle recovery by limiting inflammation. Although a certain degree of inflammation is required to stimulate muscle adaptation, too much of it can have negative consequences, especially if you are competing in an important event a few days after a workout.”

Casey says one common misconception is that you need high doses of protein – like 40 to 50 grams. For anyone making their own recovery drinks, Casey recommends 20 grams of high quality protein such as whey protein to maximize recovery.

But the greatest misconception, he says, is relying too much on recovery drinks for results.

“At the end of the day, you can have the best recovery drink in the world, but if you don’t have a workout that stimulates the need for a recovery drink, it’s not going to do you any good.”

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October 30: Join Sean at his upcoming class, “Cooking and Nutrition for the High School Athlete.” Teen athletes can learn how to properly fuel themselves for game day during this hands-on session. Register for the class

November 6: Middle school athletes have unique nutritional demands. Sean will work with attendees to create healthy snacks to fuel up for your game. Register for the class

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Date Published: 10/11/2017
News tag(s): sports performance, sean casey, sports, wellness

5 Recovery Drinks That Aren’t Sports Drinks

Whether you’re training for a marathon or regularly logging hard workouts every week, refueling properly is the key for staying healthy and maintaining energy. But did you know that your choice of post-workout beverage or snack may also have an effect on your ability to avoid injury and reduce muscle soreness and pain? It’s not just sports drinks and protein bars anymore; there are several more natural options available that are chock full of nutrients that can help you recover faster.

Chocolate Milk

If you’ve ever participated in a marathon or half marathon, it’s highly likely the post-race spread included chocolate milk. That’s no coincidence, as chocolate milk has long been touted as an optimal recovery drink.

“Chocolate milk has a beneficial carb-to-protein ratio when it comes to recovery, as well as provides key electrolytes for refueling after a workout, such as calcium, potassium, sodium and magnesium,” Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, a sports dietitian in New York City, says.

“Whole or two-percent milk also has protein that helps with the repairing and rebuilding process of muscle tissues, and the carbohydrates in milk aid in glycogen repletion after hard workouts,” Lauren Papanos, MS, RD, a sports dietitian and performance dietitian coordinator in the athletic department at UCLA, adds.

Tart Cherry Juice

Research has shown that tart cherry juice is beneficial in increasing blood flow during and after a workout, in turn reducing muscle soreness.

“Tart cherry juice is a great anti-inflammatory option that can help to mitigate training response if consumed one to two hours post-workout,” Papanos says.

Just be sure to opt for juices that are free of added sugar and made with whole fruits.

Coconut Water

Coconut water is high in potassium and magnesium, which can help reduce post-workout cramping, making it an ideal natural alternative to traditional sports drinks for replenishing electrolytes.

Beet Juice

Consuming beet juice before a big workout or race has gained popularity in recent years due to the fact that research suggests it might have a boosting effect on V02 max and performance . However, research has also shown that consuming beetroot juice after a workout can help speed up muscle recovery as well because its nitrate content aids in reducing inflammation.

Non-Alcoholic Beer

Beer is another common post-race party find that many runners might associate as simply a reward for finishing. However, non-alcoholic beers contain energy in the form of carbs, sugar and protein, plus salt and other vitamins in similar amounts to sports drinks. According to a study published by the Journal of Applied Physiology , any drink under two-percent alcohol by volume (ABV) is rehydrating, and anything above that is dehydrating. As a result, non-alcoholic beer or beer with a low ABV can help reduce inflammation in addition to reducing the risk of upper-respiratory tract infections after exercise, according to a study published by the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.

READ THIS NEXT: The Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar

Should You Drink Chocolate Milk After a Workout? It Depends

Nearly everyone can agree that eating or drinking something following a tough workout is essential—but exactly what you should be eating and drinking is often debated, and there are countless options on offer, from traditional sports drinks to alternatives like coconut water.

One drink which has been bandied about by fitness buffs for a while is chocolate milk. Why? Besides being tasty, it has a good combination of water, protein, and simple carbohydrates that all help replenish your body after particularly grueling physical exercise.

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A new review of research on chocolate milks’ efficacy was recently published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The analysis weighed chocolate milk against other beverages in post-workout recovery, concluding that the high-fat milk was just as effective as sports drinks and water in helping you come down from an exercise session.

The review considered how these drinks played into exertion rates, heart rate, lactate levels (which are a benchmark of how much lactic acid is in the body, a sign of how sore you’ll be), and creatine kinase levels, which is an enzyme that illustrates the extent of damage done to your muscles following a workout.

While water and sports drinks are tried-and-true recovery drinks, there’s one way in which chocolate milk actually has a bit of an edge—carbohydrate ratios.

A 2012 study published in Acute Topics in Sports Nutrition found that low-fat chocolate milk naturally contains a very desirable 4-to-1 carbohydrate to protein ratio, making it ideal for helping your body rebuild muscle after exercise. It also contains a slightly higher sodium content which helps with hydration.

But it’s important to note that many health professionals recommend carb and protein rich drinks like chocolate milk only after a hard, or intense workout.

What does that kind of exercise look like, exactly? Nancy Clark, R.D., tells Health that the easiest way to decide if you should be reaching for chocolate milk has to do with how long you spend working out in the first place.

More on essential fitness tips:

  • Our Very Best Post-Workout Meals to Boost Your Energy
  • The 10 Best Things to Eat and Drink Before, During, and After a Workout

Water is fine for any workout under two to three hours, Clark says—if you’re spending a good chunk of your day on a bike, running a marathon, or lifting in the gym, then chocolate milk could be the better choice.

Image zoom Shironosov/Getty Images

” has sodium and calcium, which we lose when we sweat,” Clark told Health. “It’s also got carbs to refuel and give energy, and the protein also helps to repair any damage.”

A glass of chocolate milk within the 20-to-30 minute period after your workout, which Health calls the “metabolic window,” can help your body maintain energy as the carbs and protein within chocolate milk aids muscles in recovery, says Leah Kaufman, R.D.

Unfortunately, a dairy-free, plant-based milk won’t achieve the same result—these beverages have a drastically different nutritional makeup, including lower protein and carb counts, as well as a lower calorie count.

If you’re looking for a substitute to chocolate milk, look for beverages (or foods!) that have at least a 3-to-1 ratio of carbs to protein, which can easily be attained with carb-heavy staples like bananas and high-protein additions like peanut butter or greek yogurt. You can add additions like these to our smoothie recipes that capitalize on this ratio for the best results.

The 3 R’s of Chocolate Milk Sports Recovery

As a registered dietitian, I get asked all the time, “What’s the best way to recover post-workout?” How you choose to refill your body’s tank after your last workout or team practice could have a huge effect on how well you perform at the next one.

You might be shocked to find the best way to recover isn’t an expensive supplement or sports drink; it’s actually an 8-ounce glass of chocolate milk. Here are the top three reasons why:

  • Rehydrate: Chocolate milk helps you rehydrate. Made of almost 90 percent water, nature’s sports drink also has the electrolytes you need after breaking a sweat during your exercise routine.
  • Repair: Chocolate milk helps you repair your muscles. With 8 grams of high-quality protein in every glass, you can build lean muscles. Not only is it a good source of protein, there are two different kinds: casein and whey. One is absorbed slowly, the other quickly – so one glass of milk provides both short-term and long-term benefits to your muscles.
  • Replenish: Chocolate milk helps replenish muscles. When you exercise, you use energy in the form of stored carbohydrates called glucose. If you don’t put more carbs back into the muscle after prolonged exercise, you might not have the energy to push harder during your next workout. The small amount of added sugar in chocolate milk achieves the perfect carbs-to-protein ratio to accomplish this.

For the best results, drink that glass of chocolate milk within 30 minutes after your workout. And to make sure you’re hitting all four hydration points during your day, check out this handy hydration graphic.

Press Release: Chocolate Milk Outperforms Sports Drink in Strength Test with Teen Athletes

So, you’re sitting in the office, at home reading a book, scrolling through social media, whatever you’re doing – and it hits you — like a monster truck.

If you don’t get creamy, dairy-rich milk chocolate to eat right away, someone’s going to get hurt.

Sound familiar?

Here’s a run-down of why you get cravings for dairy milk chocolate and how to satisfy them, as a vegan.

What To Do When You’re a Vegan Craving Dairy Milk Chocolate

Often cravings for chocolate indicate that your body is warning you of magnesium deficiency. Cacao and cocoa solids are high in magnesium, a common nutrient deficiency. However, milk chocolate comes with added sugar and dairy products, which aren’t doing your body any favors (despite what your taste buds may think!).

How?

Rather than digging into a sweet, creamy bar of milk chocolate, try opting for a healthier choice such as dark chocolate, a cacao power smoothie, or cacao nibs sprinkled over a smoothie bowl. Eating cacao direct from the source (such as cacao powder or nibs) will deliver more magnesium per serve, in comparison to milk chocolate which is diluted with dairy products, sugar, and other additives. (Don’t worry, sugar addiction lessens over time, with reduced sugar intake – you can win!)

Alternatives

Rather than eating chocolate, your cravings for magnesium can be satisfied with other foods – nuts (especially brazil nuts), seeds, sweet potatoes, squash, rice, kelp, oats, avocados, bananas, and leafy greens. Even coffee has reasonable-high magnesium!

Vegan Milk Chocolate

If nothing is truly satisfying your need for milk chocolate – there’s always a vegan version, which rivals the real thing! There are many different types of plant-based milk, of which chocolate can be made from – a common one is Coconut or Rice Milk Chocolate. You can find one example here.

Make your own

While experimenting with flavors, textures, and ingredients until you get the perfect balance for you can be fun, it may also be challenging and timely. Not to worry, the internet and cookbooks can be scoured for the perfect recipe, one example is here.

Just Buy a Bar of VEGO

When all else fails and you almost ‘cheat’ veganism; giving into a bar of dairy milk chocolate – stay strong and just buy a Vego bar. Seriously, you’ll be surprised how similar the taste, texture, and creaminess is. It should be noted however, Vego is not suitable for those with a nut allergy or those who aren’t a fan of hazelnut flavor.

What 5 Common Food Cravings Are Trying To Tell You

Like many of us, I grew up believing that when I experienced food cravings, it meant that I was deficient in certain vitamins. I am personally bedeviled by near-constant cravings, so I was long convinced that I must be so vitamin-deficient that my body was probably on the verge of shutting down (possibly in protest of my truly alarming processed cheese cracker consumption habits). However, if you think about it for a minute, that idea that you crave what you need doesn’t really hold up. If your body craved the nutrients it requires to run properly, why do we fiend for sugar so badly that we’ll fish a half-eaten donut out of the trash? Research backs this up. As Karen Ansel, MS, RD, CDN, told Huffington Post, “If cravings were an indicator of nutritional deficiency, we’d all crave fruits and vegetables … The fact that we all want high carb, high fat comfort foods, along with the research, is a pretty good indicator that cravings aren’t related to deficiencies.”

So if your body isn’t experiencing a critical cupcake deficiency, what’s the actual cause of food cravings? Recent research on the subject proposes that food cravings are often less about what is going on inside your body than what is going on inside your brain. We typically crave foods because they stimulate the release of certain brain chemicals that change or balance our moods when we’re feeling sad, stressed, or tired. That said, there are some physical factors at work, too. Sometimes, when we crave a certain food, it may potentially have to do with a certain mineral or vitamin deficiency, or an illness. But typically, there’s more to it than that — our cravings provide a window into our mood patterns and emotional struggles, in addition to an excuse to declare nine snack-sized bags of pretzels “dinner.”

Here’s what five different common food cravings are really about.

1. If You’re Craving Sweets …

What You’re Craving: Cookies, chocolate, cake

What You’re Actually Craving: Happiness, energy

Sugar can cause our brains to release serotonin — a chemical which makes us feel relaxed and plays a role in regulating mood. We stuff our snack-holes full of candy when we’re stressed or sad because it can put us a little more at ease. (This also explains the stereotype of women being obsessed with chocolate while dealing with PMS. The sugar in chocolate may be helping us cope with the depression that many of us experience in the run-up to our periods, though the association between chocolate and PMS is also likely the result of cultural conditioning.) Additionally, most of us psychologically associate eating sweets with feeling better. As Kimberly Snyder, CN, told Everyday Health, “Most of us grew up with sweets being presented as a reward. The very anticipation of a reward triggers the neurotransmitter dopamine in our brain, and studies show that regular binging on sugar stimulates dopamine.”

If you feel happy enough but are still mainlining brownies, it could also be a sign that you’re not getting enough sleep. According to Shape, when we’re tired, we sometimes crave simple carbs like sugar because they are “digested quicker than complex ones such as whole grains and beans, so the energy kicks in sooner.” Though you are probably conscious of the times you head for a fistful of candy because you went to bed too late the night before, keep an eye out for times when you have a sugar craving and a sense of tiredness that feels inexplicable — you could be spending enough time in bed, but getting low-quality sleep while you’re there, and waking up tired anyway.

All of that said, there are a few health conditions that cause sufferers to crave sweets, most notably type 2 diabetes and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). So if you’re feeling constant cravings that are accompanied by symptoms of PCOS (irregular periods, unusual body hair growth, adult acne) or of type 2 diabetes (increased thirst or hunger, frequent urination, patches of darkened skin, blurred vision), check in with your doctor.

2. If You’re Craving Salty …

What You’re Craving: Chips, pretzels, pizza, actual salt applied to other foods

What You’re Actually Craving: Catharsis, water, minerals, salt (because you’re addicted to it)

When I was a little girl, I was notorious among family members for ferreting out the salt shaker in any dining situation, filling my palm with sodium nubs, and proceeding to quietly lick the salt out of my hand like a tiny deer in an Urkel T-shirt and those sneakers that light up. My parents, due to either kindness or ignorance, never looked into finding out what the hell was wrong with me; if they had, they might have found that salt is one of the most confusing and contested cravings around.

Some experts think that when we crave salty snacks, we’re most craving the crunch that comes with heavily salted products like chips and pretzels. Snyder told Everyday Health that we crave these foods when stressed out because “runching down with your jaw is cathartic, almost like punching a wall.” Others think that craving salty food is, counterintuitively, a sign of thirst. According to Elizabeth Narins on Cosmopolitan, “Thirst is often masked as hunger. So a craving for salt, which helps your body retain water, could mean you aren’t drinking enough or you are losing water (through sweating, diarrhea, or vomiting) faster than you’re ingesting it.”

There are researchers who think we crave salt simply because, well, we’re used to eating so much damn salt already. A Huffington Post article touted a 2011 study which found that “salt was not only addictive, but it also affected our brains in a similar way to being addicted to cigarettes or hard drugs.” (The study yielded similar results regarding sugar).

And then there are folks who think those of us who are salt-crazy really are responding to a deficiency: Women’s Health noted a link between low-calcium diets and salt cravings, and claimed that “n animal studies, researchers have found that a lack of potassium, calcium, and iron causes test subjects to devour table salt.”

As someone who spent her childhood salt-licking years consuming pretty much nothing but chicken nuggets and strawberry yogurt, I would frankly buy most of these theories. None of them provide too much insight into your state of mind, alas. But if nothing else, a salt craving might be a good reminder to stay properly hydrated and eat a few balanced meals (and, if necessary, punch a wall lightly).

3. If You’re Craving White Bread, Rice, Or Pasta …

What You’re Craving: Bread, crackers, rice, muffins

What You’re Actually Craving: Energy, calmness

You may not know that we process both candy and carbs (like white bread, white rice, “regular” non-whole-wheat pasta — aka “the most delicious carbs”) in the exact same way. They all contain “simple carbohydrates,” which differ from the “complex carbohydrates” found in whole wheat breads and pastas, legumes, potatoes, yams, and corn. According to Joseph Colella, MD at Cosmopolitan, “Once a starchy food gets past the back of your tongue, your body treats it the same way as sugary sweets.” Which means that a bag of crackers over lunch has the same impact on your serotonin levels as that fistful of chocolate chips you had, uh, immediately before lunch.

So we crave the classic white bread carbs for the same reasons we crave chocolate, candy, or other sweets — we feel depressed, overwhelmed, emotionally exhausted, or physically exhausted (during the worst year of my insomnia, I have very little memory of eating any foods that were not wrapped in a flour tortilla).

And some researchers believe that our desire for foods that are dense with calories — be they pastas, candies, or nacho platters — are remnants of an earlier time, when human beings needed to hoard calories to engage in various vital caveperson-style activities (hunting, gathering, running away from predators, telling friends about how awesome you are at running away from predators, etc). Dr. Leigh Gibson, Reader in Biopsychology at Roehampton University, told The Daily Mail that “rom an evolutionary point of view, junk food cravings are linked to prehistoric times, when the brain’s opioids and dopamine reacted to the benefit of high-calorie food as a survival mechanism … Today, we still have the same chemical reactions to these so-called hyper-palatable foods … despite there being less of a nutritional need for them.”

4. If You’re Craving Meat …

What You’re Craving: Steak, burgers

What You’re Actually Craving: Protein, iron, vitamin B

I had a friend in college who stopped eating meat for three weeks — an experiment that culminated in her waking up in the middle of the night, going to a fast food restaurant, and eating a burger in car while in a semi-fugue state. She told me that she felt helpless against her cravings; I believed she was lying to me, and had just been trying to get out of participating in a vegetarian potluck I was organizing. But I may have been too rough on her — many doctors agree that meat cravings can be a sign of a protein deficiency, as well as a lack of iron or vitamin B in one’s diet.

However, if you’re a vegetarian, do know that feeling a meat craving doesn’t mean that your only option is hauling over to the drive-in window and eating a burger while huddled in the street like some common rabid raccoon. You can also take that craving as a sign to introduce more of those vitamins and proteins included in meat into your diet by eating more nuts, tofu, and dark, leafy vegetables. And for the record, my vegetarian potluck was lovely (we had some eggplant stir fry and watched The Big Lebowski).

5. If You’re Craving Dairy …

What You’re Craving: Pizza, milk, a wad of cheese the size of your skull

What You’re Actually Craving: Relaxation and/or vitamin A or D

Though a craving for dairy sweets like ice cream probably just means you’re craving sugar, and a craving for cheese or milk may just have to do with the responses we have to high-calorie food noted above, some medical professionals think that a milk craving is really a craving for L-tryptophan, which releases our old friend serotonin, as well as another soothing brain chemical called choline. Some doctors even think that dairy cravings could point to a deficiency in vitamin A or D. Finally! A certified medical reason to purchase quesadillas.

So if you feel a cheese craving, should you try to suss out what’s stressing you out, or just work on your night cheese? The call is obviously yours and yours alone. I’m certainly not saying you shouldn’t eat candy when you feel sad or white bread when you feel dead on your feet — that’s your god-given right! But when you feel that if you don’t get some gummy worms in you right now, YOU WILL DIE, it might also be a sign to take a second and think about what’s making you feel so crappy. Though gummy worms are truly fantastic, we have yet to engineer ones that will tell your parents to stop being super-judgmental or confer with your supervisor about reducing your workload. So the next time you get a craving, no matter what you decide to actually eat, take it as a sign to stop and think about how to make whatever is bugging you in life a little less awful.

Want more women’s health coverage? Check out Bustle’s new podcast, Honestly Though, which tackles all the questions you’re afraid to ask.

Images: Bustle; Giphy

What It Really Means If You’re Craving Milk

Got milk?

Sometimes nothing hits the spot quite like a glass of milk. You have a nice big fresh chocolate chip cookie maybe, and milk is the only answer. Or maybe you’ve just poured yourself a strong cup of black coffee and need just a little something to cream it up. What better than milk?

Or maybe you’re like my roommate who starts and ends every single day with a big ol’ glass of milk simply because it’s what she’s always done. Whatever the reason, sometimes milk is the obvious and only choice.

But sometimes you might find yourself craving milk entirely out of the blue. I, for one, am not a huge milk person, unless you count my coffee. So if I were to ever wake up dealing with a major craving for the stuff, chances are that something would be slightly amiss.

It turns out that I’m not the only one. Lots of people get cravings for milk out of the blue, and according to the wonderful world of science, there’s actually a few different reasons for it. Let’s break them down, shall we?

1. You’re actually craving sugar.

You think you want a glass of milk, but that’s not actually what’s going on. Instead, your body is all about getting some sugar. It makes sense since milk has 13 grams of sugar per cup.

You need this simple sugar to help keep your gut bacteria healthy, and it’s actually not a bad way to get the sugar that you crave.

2. You’ve got a vitamin deficiency.

Milk is boss. It’s known as a “complete” food because it contains 18 of the 22nd vitamins and minerals required to keep humans happy healthy, and, you know, alive!

It’s riddled with vitamin A, vitamin B-12, calcium, magnesium, and zinc, so the next time you’re craving milk, it might mean you aren’t getting everything you need in your diet.

3. You ate something spicy.

If you just chowed down on something super spicy, chances are you’re feeling like you could go for a glass of milk. That’s not just a random occurrence. Milk has fat in it, which means that it can temper the burning caused by capsaicin, the chemical that makes spicy things, well… spicy.

4. You’re addicted.

Foods that have the magical (and terrible for you) combination of fat and sugar can activate pleasure centers in the brain. When you suddenly stop giving your brain that fun sugar-and-fat tingle, it goes into withdrawal.

While milk doesn’t have as much sugar in it as, say, a mountain of candy, it’s got enough to get hooked.

5. You’re hungry.

If you’re craving milk and the other items on this list don’t feel right, ask yourself: Do I feel hungry? Well, do ya, punk? Because, as we mentioned, milk is a complete food, and it’s a quick way to curb hunger pains. So before you chug away, make sure you’re not just famished first.

6. You’re thirsty.

Guess what? Milk is 87 percent water. You know who needs water to live? You, probably. Unless you’re an alien reading this to pass the time while you destroy Earth. Though that’s probably unlikely.

It’s easy to confuse a thirst craving with a specific craving for milk. But if it’s truly water that you crave, go for a glass of water.

Rebecca Jane Stokes is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York with her cat, Batman. Her work focuses on relationships, pop culture and news. For more of her work, check out her Tumblr.

The Health Benefits of Regularly Drinking Chocolate Milk

As a kid, chocolate milk was one of my most favorite drinks. There was nothing better than a big glass of ice cold chocolate milk in the warm summer months. As I got older, I knew I had to leave the sweet treat behind if I wanted to stay slim and keep my health in place. Begrudgingly, I left this yummy drink behind as the years ticked by. I won’t lie; I missed it.

Luckily for me (and probably a lot of you as well!), chocolate milk has recently been touted as a drink with some healthy benefits. If you would like to add your favorite childhood drink back into the mix without negative side effects, check out these great reasons that chocolate milk deserves a spot in your diet.

Protein for Muscle Repair

If you want to add chocolate milk in a healthy way, then you should pour yourself a glass after a workout. This is when you may be able to see the benefits of the drink. For example, after a workout, your muscles are strained and torn. The protein that comes in chocolate milk is enough to help repair these damaged muscles and get them prepared for the next day’s workout. It will repair, build, and strengthen the muscles all while satisfying your sweet tooth and your stomach.

Carbohydrates for Energy

After a workout, you are probably pretty spent. This is because you used your energy reserves in order to complete your exercise routine. Chocolate milk contains a healthy amount of carbohydrates. These carbohydrates can replenish your energy reserve quickly. This means that you will be ready to complete your day with energy and even workout again if you so choose.

Rehydration and Electrolytes

During a workout, you obviously sweat and use up your water supply. Drinking a glass of chocolate milk can help to rehydrate the body and prevent dehydration, and it can also provide your body with electrolytes. Electrolytes help the body gain much needed energy and further help to prevent dehydration. These are what you normally get from a sports drink, but by drinking chocolate milk, you have a little more natural and much more delicious way to stock your body full.

It’s Delicious

Let’s not forget one of the best parts about chocolate milk: the taste! Chocolate milk makes you feel full, leaves a sweet taste in your mouth, and still brings some healthy benefits to the table. It’s a great post workout drink to add and keep in the mix. After your exercise routine, reach for a glass in order to replenish the body and satisfy your craving. Because it is so tasty, this is a drink and a routine that you can stick with!

Chocolate milk sometimes gets a bad rap, but it’s actually good for you! If you are a fitness enthusiast and need a good post workout drink, grab an ice cold cup of chocolate milk, and enjoy the goodness.

Image Credit:

Used under Creative Commons Licensing courtesy of Meal Makeover Moms

“When we are talking about working out, we are not talking 45 or 30 minutes and less,” said Kary Woodruff, dietitian for the LiVe Well Center in the Salt Lake Clinic.

Water is best if your workouts are less than the 45 minute threshold. But longer, and more intensive workouts, milk can help you heal faster and feel better. Here are four ways that milk helps.

Chocolate milk helps you rehydrate

Chocolate milk has four components that help: water, electrolytes, protein and carbohydrates. Because of these compounds, milk can help you rehydrate after a tough workout.

“Milk helps if you are working out in hot environments where you are sweating a lot,” Woodruff said.

There are sports drinks, like Gatorade or Powerade, that do have a strong punch of electrolytes – and a lot of sugar as well. A sports drink would put you over the daily recommended sugar intake alone. Milk has less sugar – even with the chocolate added.

Milk does a body good

Chocolate milk provides two different types of protein: whey and casein. The protein amino acids serve different purposes.

“Whey is a fast releasing protein so it gets into the blood pretty quickly,” Woodruff said. “Casein is more of a slow releasing amino acid.”

She said that the slow delivery of casein helps prevent any further breakdown of the muscle after the workout and helps repair the muscles post-workout.”

Use it to carbo-load

Carbohydrates are important for active lifestyles and especially with athletes. Carbs are energy sources that help your body perform.

“Milk is also a great energy source so you can use it like in a soccer game, going for a 45-minute run and mostly with any endurance activity, so there can be benefits from the carbohydrates,” said Woodruff.

Using milk post-workout helps your body recover faster and get ready for the next workout.

Chocolate versus regular milk

You can drink regular milk over chocolate milk if you prefer. There is a place for the chocolate if you are someone who is exercising or competing more than once a day. Much like a Ragnar relay race or perhaps a softball tournament with multiple games played per day.

“It matters with the chocolate if you don’t have a lot of time to recover,” Woodruff said. “When you don’t have a full 24 hours to recover, in those cases, we find that recovery nutrition is extra important.”

Carbohydrates and protein are important with recovering through nutrition. The body’s energy storage need to be restocked to get you ready for the next event.

RELATED: The 4 R’s of Recovery Nutrition to Enhance Your Performance

“So we restore that muscle glycogen, which allows us to recover quicker, if there is a ratio of 4 to 1 of carbohydrate to protein,” Woodruff said. “Regular milk has about a 1.5 to 1 ration of carbohydrate to protein. So chocolate milk has the benefit of an extra carbohydrate to help with faster recover.”

For lactose intolerant or vegan athletes, research has shown that these benefits are also found to a degree in chocolate soy milk as well.

To learn more about eating well and sports nutrition in your daily life, visit http://www.intermountainlivewell.org.

Drink milk after workout

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