I bought the sports drink – I’m an athlete.

I bought the T-shirt; I saved the whales” — it’s an old joke about superficial support for an environmental cause.  Theses days, there a plenty of similar examples of superficial participation in a healthy lifestyle, by purchasing special products.  Energy bars, supplements and sports drinks make it easy to create a healthy façade.  A recent report from market research firm Datamonitor shows that this is a real and growing trend.   This group of consumers is described as “lifestyle users”, non-athletes who consume sports nutrition products for the healthy lifestyle image.  In other words “I bought the sports drink.  Therefore I’m an athlete.”  Datamonitor warns that the real athletes are likely to reject products that are consumed by anyone and everyone, so the report advises that marketing campaigns for athletes focus on the more scientific attributes of the products.  

Datamonitor is probably not tracking sales of chocolate milk as a sports drink.  Maybe they should.  The recent deluge of research on chocolate milk as a recovery drink is a great example of using the scientific marketing approach to increase sales to athletes.  Until recently, chocolate milk was just so ordinary.  Kid food.  But now it has major scientific cred, thanks to a string of studies (many funded by dairy groups) showing that drinking chocolate milk after strenuous exercise helps with recovery.  And it turns out to be true.  Yet another study presented at the American College of Sports Medicine conference sums up the good news.  2 cups of lowfat chocolate milk:

  • enhances protein synthesis for muscle repair and muscle growth
  • enhances muscle glycogen replenishment (muscle glycogen is the on-site storage form of muscle fuel)
  • prevents post-exercise muscle break-down

Why does chocolate milk do this?  The protein is available for muscle repair and the carbohydrates are used for glycogen synthesis.  A protein-only drink would not enhance glycogen storage.  A carb-only drink would not help with muscle repair.  What about the chocolate part?  No one has shown that chocolate does anything except make it taste good.  It’s conceivable that you could drink sugar-sweetened milk and get the same effect.  Or use some other foods and beverages that provide roughly the same mix of protein and carbs, such as fruit yoghurt, crackers and cheese or a mix of nuts and dried fruit.  You could use chocolate soy milk, but be careful to check the label for protein content.  Some soy milks are not as high in protein as cow’s milk.  You should find one that has about 8 grams of protein per cup.

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