By Jim Morris, The Canadian Press
It used to be their guilty little secret. Who knew it was good for them?
After a hard workout, Olympic champion Simon Whitfield and other top Canadian triathletes would sit around and pour back a few cartons of chocolate milk.
“We have been doing it for years, thinking we were rebels,” Whitfield said with a chuckle during a recent telephone interview from Victoria. “Being the endurance geeks that we are.”
Turns out studies have shown drinking chocolate milk actually benefits an athlete’s recovery. That’s important while training for a gruelling sport that combines swimming, cycling and running.
“It has ended up being just the right composition,” said Whitfield.
“Replenishing your carbohydrates stores and supplementing with protein after a workout is the best way you can recover for the next workout. We basically have just justified something we have done for a long time.”
That’s why a few glasses were raised in celebration when Triathlon Canada recently signed a sponsorship deal with the B.C. Dairy Foundation. Part of the agreement will see the refrigerator at the Victoria-based national training centre stocked with chocolate milk.
Kurt Innes, high-performance director for Triathlon Canada, said drinking chocolate milk helps the body rehydrate and rebuild muscle that has been sapped of energy during rigorous exercise.
“It has the right blend of carbohydrates and protein in a very cost effective package,” Innes said in an interview. “It makes it a no-brainer for us. There are a lot of other after-market products that are fabricated to meet this purpose.
“Chocolate milk is, in our opinion, one of the better, if not the best, most effective and cost-effective products.”
During the 2004 Athens Olympics, American swimmer Michael Phelps used to consume an instant breakfast drink between races.
Some of the studies purporting the benefits of chocolate milk have been partially funded by the diary industry. The results have been published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism.
A recent study at McMaster University in Hamilton found women who drink two large glasses of milk a day after their weightlifting routine gained more muscle and lost more fat compared to women who drink sugar-based energy drinks.
That study appears in the June issue of Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise.
There’s also a social side to the milk-drinking thing. Gathering for a couple of chocolate cool ones has become a Wednesday afternoon tradition.
“You have to like the people you are training with,” said Whitfield. “We train hard. Having a fun element to it, that you look forward to and enjoy the company, is an important part of it.”
Of course, put any group of athletes together and competition happens. With a couple of cartons under their belts, the senior triathletes often challenge the juniors in drinking contests.
“I’m sure the rugby team watches someone chug beer,” said Whitfield. “We sit around and try and egg on juniors to drink litres of chocolate milk.