Background/objectives: Chocolate milk (CM) contains carbohydrates, proteins, and fat, as well as water and electrolytes, which may be ideal for post-exercise recovery. We systematically reviewed the evidence regarding the efficacy of CM compared to either water or other "sport drinks" on post-exercise recovery markers.
Subjects/methods: PubMed, Scopus, and Google scholar were explored up to April 2017 for controlled trials investigating the effect of CM on markers of recovery in trained athletes.
Results: Twelve studies were included in the systematic review (2, 9, and 1 with high, fair and low quality, respectively) and 11 had extractable data on at least one performance/recovery marker [7 on ratings of perceived exertion (RPE), 6 on time to exhaustion (TTE) and heart rate (HR), 4 on serum lactate, and serum creatine kinase (CK)]. The meta-analyses revealed that CM consumption had no effect on TTE, RPE, HR, serum lactate, and CK (P > 0.05) compared to placebo or other sport drinks. Subgroup analysis revealed that TTE significantly increases after consumption of CM compared to placebo [mean difference (MD) = 0.78 min, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.27, 1.29, P = 0.003] and carbohydrate, protein, and fat-containing beverages (MD = 6.13 min, 95% CI: 0.11, 12.15, P = 0.046). Furthermore, a significant attenuation on serum lactate was observed when CM was compared with placebo (MD = -1.2 mmol/L, 95% CI: -2.06,-0.34, P = 0.006).
Conclusion: CM provides either similar or superior results when compared to placebo or other recovery drinks. Overall, the evidence is limited and high-quality clinical trials with more well-controlled methodology and larger sample sizes are warranted.