On the weekend, I was speaking to a parent who has a son attending a topflight football academy.
He asked me my thoughts on recovery immediately after training/competition. He had been advised to provide his son with a popular store-bought chocolate drink ladened with sugar and which contains carrageenan,an extract from a red seaweed widely used in the food industry, mostly as a thickener and gelling agent and can be harmful to health by causing inflammation and digestive issues. My mind was blown! Why recommend a substance that is only going to fan the flames of inflammation already taking place within from physical exertion?
Getting a recovery drink or snack in 30 mins post physical exertion is necessary for the stimulation of muscle protein repair and the reduction of muscle soreness. Some individuals would rather drink than eat....so
If I look at the research on milk from a performance nutrition standpoint, it supports the use of milk as part of a post-workout nutrition plan. If I put on my integrative sports nutrition hat, it becomes apparent that most of the research fails to consider two important factors that I speak about all the time: individuality and quality.
Many players (no matter their age) cannot tolerate milk – either due to lactose intolerance or casein sensitivity.
A better alternative to the use of milk, if it cannot be tolerated would be Keffir, a fermented milk rich in probiotics. It contains relatively low lactose levels and may be an option for those who are lactose intolerant. I feel Keffir would be a great option over milk or chocolate-flavoured store-bought based milks due to its gut-health benefits and we know how important the gut is to health, performance and recovery.
The use of Keffir has been shown to improve glucose metabolism and attenuate the effects of muscle soreness after high-intensity exercise.
If using milk, the milk should be of good quality. Organic and grass-fed milk would be best as it provides high levels of conjugated linoleic acid which has health benefits. Several studies have also demonstrated that grass-based diets increase precursors for vitamins A and E, omega-3s, as well as the body's internally produced potent antioxidant, glutathione.
From a performance nutrition point of view, milk seems to be the ‘perfect’ recovery drink. But there needs to be integrative thinking when applying same to an individual player and their nutrition.
Individuality is key, in my mind, health MUST come first before performance, a glass of cow’s milk may not be suitable for everyone. If it is a suitable option, I believe we should encourage players to seek good-quality milk or use kefir.
Homemade Chocolate Milk
400ml 2% milk or Keffir
1Tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp honey
Pinch of salt
If using semi-skimmed milk - the above provides 19g carbs and 13g protein.
If using keffir - 23g carbs and 16.2g protein.
Protein can be increased with the use of protein powder. Glutamine, collagen and BCAA's can be additions to aid with gut health repair, muscle repair and energy repletion.