Monday, May 17, 2010

Why is the Running Room promoting chocolate milk?

A few of my readers forwarded me an email they received from the Running Room this week. They received the email because at some point they had signed up for clinics or races at the Running Room.

The email's subject line was, "Recharge with Milk" and it contained the graphic up above which in turn is not linked to a Running Room website, but rather to the Dairy Farmer's of Canada's site extolling the virtues of chocolate milk.

Research has shown that eating foods inclusive of both carbohydrates and protein post heavy workout may in fact help with recovery, but it's important to focus on that word heavy.

A stroll is not a heavy workout. A short jog or run is not a heavy workout. A heavy workout is an extended or intense bout of exercise.

Chocolate milk is certainly not a magical post workout choice, it's just a post workout choice inclusive of carbs and protein.

Chocolate milk, for those of you who don't read my blog regularly, has drop per drop double the calories and double the sugar of Coca Cola. It's a liquid chocolate bar.

The Running Room does not sell chocolate milk in its stores.

The Running Room is a trusted resource for Canadian runners and walkers and is often the location of choice for beginners who may never have run or walked for exercise. This general mailing, out to everyone who's signed up for anything at the Running Room, is an abuse of the public's trust because consuming chocolate milk post stroll, walk, light jog or short run is going to do more harm than good for the average beginner.

The container in the advertisement is a 500mL container of 1% chocolate milk. It contains 15.5 teaspoons of sugar, 400mg of sodium and 360 calories, 40 calories shy of what you'd get from a litre of Coca Cola.

Chugging a litre of Coca Cola post walk, jog or run doesn't strike me as the best caloric plan. If you're concerned about weight, as many walkers and runners are, you'd best be sure to only drink that chocolate milk if you've walked more than 70-80 minutes or run more than 30.

If you're walking or running to lose weight, best to pass altogether and stick with water for re-hydration.

I wonder how much the Running Room got paid by the Dairy Farmers of Canada to effectively sell them their email directory and in so doing, sell out.

[Hat tip to blog reader and soon to be mom Jesse who was first out of the blocks with this unfortunate campaign]

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  1. Almost as bad a Goodlife having posters all over their locations in January - on the doors when you entered, on the mirrors in the changerooms, etc. I was floored to see it. :(

  2. As far as I can tell, the research done on milk post-exercise was done with resistance training. And how it got from normal milk to chocolate is beyond me.

    Great post Yoni!

  3. Amanda Schroter3:00 pm

    You have only focused on some of the negative aspects of chocolate milk. As a runner who consumes it after a run, I think it's important to focus on the positive as well.

    In the last couple of years, scientists have evaluated chocolate milk as a post-exercise drink and have identified several reasons why it may be an effective recovery aid: chocolate milk contains a combination of carbohydrates and protein to help replenish glycogen stores in exhausted muscles after exercise, and it provides fluids to assist with rehydration, and contains electrolytes, such as potassium and other minerals like calcium, that are lost in sweat. A growing number of high-performance athletes and their coaches across Canada are making chocolate milk part of their training regimen. These include some of Canada’s foremost male and female cyclists, swimmers, triathletes, runners, and varsity football and rugby players.

    While many people believe that a sports drink is all that’s required after a workout that may not be the case. Recent studies suggest that drinking chocolate milk following vigorous activity helps to speed up recovery and recharge the body for its next workout. The research indicates that a protein-carbohydrate combination beverage (such as chocolate milk) may be a more effective post-workout recovery beverage than a carbohydrate-replacement beverage (such as a sports drink). In these studies it was demonstrated that individuals who consumed a protein-carbohydrate beverage after an exhaustive workout had faster muscle glycogen replenishment, and increased time to exhaustion, resulting in significantly increased performance (21-55 per cent) during their next workout.

  4. Amanda Schroter3:12 pm

    Sorry, one more thing. If you went to their website, it acknowledges that chocolate milk is high in carbohydrates and sugars and it is recommended more for vigorous activity/serious athletes.

    More casual runners could use regular white milk and still get the protein needed for muscle recovery without the additional carbohydrates.

    It also compares milk with different energy/recovery drinks and shows its benefits.

  5. Dear Amanda Schroter,

    As I mentioned in the post, chocolate milk is not magic, it's just a combination of carbs and protein.

    As I also mentioned in the post, for heavy duty runners, there's nothing wrong with choosing chocolate milk.

    It may also interest readers that your comment is not in fact your own but rather is almost entirely plagiarized.

    Part of your comment came from a fact sheet put out by the International Dairy Federation and part from an advertorial by the Dairy Farmers of Canada.

    While I certainly welcome comments, plagiarizing promotional materials from the milk industry to pass off as your own isn't encouraged.


  6. I run a business that caters to military personnel who work out a gym next door. I've noticed that my chocolate milk sales have increased by about 400% in the past year, and most of my customers say that they are buying it for the post workout benefits. Most of these people only workout casually, and they believe that the chocolate milk will increase the results of their workout. I only sell the 500ml size, as sadly none of them will buy the smaller size. Also, I sell chocolate milk 5 times more often than white milk.

  7. Anonymous5:01 pm

    You might want to check out this article that is linked to Yahoo Canada today (saw it when exiting my email account).

    I'm sure you'll find it as disturbing as I do.

  8. Anonymous, I notice the article you've mentioned was written by the editor of Men's Health magazine.

    Do you expect more from the editor's of Men's Health?

    I certainly don't.

    Hard to think of a more junk science filled rag than Men's Health.

    Talk about a serious waste of trees.

  9. Mavis McConnon2:12 am

    You should replenish protein and carbs within 10-30 mins of your runs, but simple sugars added to milk nutrients are not the way to go. You can eat FOOD after workouts instead of processed stuff like chocolate milk! Try whole fruit and non fat dairy yogurt, or nuts and fruit...anything but HFCS.

  10. A buddy mine, who goes to the gym 4x / week and can't seem to lose his gut, was quite happy to tell me that Goodlife was giving away chocolate milk. This was at one of their Halifax locations.

    I'm glad I cancelled my gym membership last year. Those places want you to stay fat.

  11. So then is skim milk a good choice for rehydration and muscle recovery? I always wondered why the chocolate?? It didn't really make sense to me.

    I am curious because my co-worker and I were just discussing what's best to eat after a cardio workout and if it's different than a weight lifting workout. Thanks for your insight!

  12. Hi Roxanne,

    Skim would certainly be a superior choice in my books, though as mentioned, with just light exercise, water is plenty fine.

  13. Anonymous10:27 am

    When I told my nutritionist that I was very hungry all morning when I biked to work (a 50 minute bike ride), she suggested drinking a small carton of regular milk or chocolate milk upon arrival. I have started doing so and feel much less ravenous (the chocolate works better than the regular).

    I'm no scientist, but my understanding is that there has been research on chocolate milk as a recovery drink.

  14. Anonymous8:04 pm

    I've recently started to increase my running mileage and now go for runs for one hour or more once a week. I am hoping to lose weight, and therefore trying to find ways to recover from long runs without consuming a lot of refined sugar. I try to get the protein and carbs I need for recovery from whole wheat bread and regular soy milk. In all the online info on post-workout recovery I have come across, I haven't found a rationale for the notion that large amounts of refined sugars, like those found in chocolate milk, would be needed to recover sufficiently from a workout. Am I missing something?

  15. Last year when I was training for a marathon I found that after my long runs I was feeling faint. I tried drinking chocolate milk, vega sport and other methods, but it didn't seem to help. Guess what helped me? Ice cream. Yep - cookies and cream ice cream.

    I don't see anything wrong with that ad. If you cannot tell that the Running Room is a business and trying to sell you stuff, or that clicking the ad didn't take you to the RR site OR that emails from businesses often contain ads then you're probably a little naive and need to learn a little bit about Internet norms.

    Yoni - just because some people think chocolate milk works, this doesn't make them wrong. I understand that you're a doctor - but even medical professionals don't have all the answer. Often doctors will simply tell you to stop running or that Marathons are not reasonable, etc... This isn't necessarily so.

    Saying that chocolate milk is good for you is just as relative a statement as saying "Crossfit is good for you". Yes - it is if you're already in incredible shape. It isn't if you're just looking for a new casual workout. By the same token CM isn't good for everyone - and

    Sometimes the effect of your post-workout meal is just psycho-somatic. So if chocolate milk or ice cream or beer works for you and seems to help you recover for your next workout, I say go for it. For me - whatever I was doing helped me achieve my goal time. If you want to lose weight and you're not, that's a different story. However your belt buckles may be a better indication of fitness than the scale.

  16. Many of us can't even digest milk properly since we've long ago lost the ability to produce those enzymes we had when we were babies. But for those that can bottoms up. Everything in moderation -- best way keep from gaining weight.

  17. Anonymous4:56 pm

    I have tride everything from Whey Protein powders, juice, sports drinks, hemp protein powder, Clif bars, and now milk and in my opinion (I do not work for the dairy industry and until recently hadn't drank a glass of milk for about 15 years) 1% Milk (not chocolate) is the best thing I have tried post-run. I usually run an hour or longer and I find a cup of milk is easy to drink and get some needed carbs and protein and then move on to stretching and making a good meal within an hour or two. I have zero stomach problems with milk but I know some people do. The reality is everyone has to find their own "recovery" methods through experimentation and ignore all the "carbs are evil/good, milk is evil/good" crap on the net.