Sorry, Kid … Chumps Drink This

As I’ve sat for many hours over the last three weeks watching the Tour (I’m sorry, I can’t help it … how many hours have you spent watching Game of Thrones??), I am slightly stunned at USA Swimming’s commercials flashing kick-ass swimmers telling us that “Winners drink chocolate milk.”

Oh, the power of marketing partnerships!

I know many of us remember a parent or two tell us, “drink your milk.” My mother certainly did, especially for her two skinny little runts and despite her own lactose intolerance.

That expanded to the chocolate milk craze. First, it was an easy way to get kids to drink up … what young little taste buds could not rejoice in the sweet, chocolatey stuff? Second, it happens that loading milk up with a bunch of sugar and chocolate flavor brings its ratio of carbs to protein to 3-4:1. That just so happens to be the widely accepted range offered by most sports nutritionists and dieticians to optimally replenish glycogen stores in the muscles and get the process of protein synthesis rolling post exercise (some experts suggest a ratio as low as 2:1 and others as high as 5:1, but the greatest consensus falls in the 3 – 4 range).

Oh my gosh, a “real food” that falls perfectly in the recommended range of optimal post workout recovery!!!

Are we f-ing stupid or what?

Let’s first remember where the “drink milk” messages originated. The USDA – responsible for US based agricultural efforts (no, not our health) – is certainly a big one. Shocker. And of course the Dairy Council and any numbers of dairy proponents and iterations of those agencies. Shocker #2. Besides, it seems sound. Milk comes from cows, mammalian babies from piglet to human depend on it, it’s merely liquid and yet gives us fat and protein and lots of calories … who could argue with schools replacing soda machines with those dispensing brown moo?

Hence the generations of milk drinkers. Advertising works. That’s why companies spend billions of dollars on it. And, as the popularity of non-dairy milk has grown in recent years, the “drink milk” campaigns (after a period of relative silence) have arrived again with gusto, evoking deep nostalgia with all those cute people sporting retro white moustaches. (Think demographics for a moment: Those old enough to remember those early, white-moustache commercials now have kids and grandkids they are happy to pour milk into. After all, their parents did it and they turned out OK.)

The chocolate milk people like to point to all their studies that show drinking chocolate milk post workout results in improved recovery. That’s not surprising since the control groups are most often consuming (1) nothing or (2) sports drinks. Not enlightening. We already all know that fueling post workout is important to improve recovery.

These results are a lot like Chris Froome congratulating himself for beating a 10-year old in a bike race.

We haven’t even mentioned who funds the research. But never mind. Because the “scientific research” is all a red herring.

Even if the chocolate milk people were able to produce studies to compare the results of those consuming chocolate milk post workout to a truly whole food and nutrient dense option post workout (they won’t because they don’t want to), we’d still only be part way there.

For much of the nutrition research fails to address the longer term consequences of stuffing ourselves with foods that contribute to inflammation (chocolate milk is a good candidate), ultimately contributing to risks of chronic disease and aging poorly.

Enough with the chocolate milk. The right slogan should be, “Chumps drink chocolate milk.” And USA Swimming should be embarrassed as shit to be touting its benefits.

All this old school advice, including that which focuses on individual macro- or micronutrients rather than the totality of nutrients (and additives and chemicals added to our food) might explain why so many highly trained, highly skilled athletes get fat and look terrible a few years out of their sports.

Guess what else has a “perfect” ratio of carbs to protein? A Big Mac and large fries (3.8:1).

Happy fast fooding.

PS in case you want to know: Big Mac carbs = 47 g and protein = 24 g, large fries carbs = 67 g and protein = 6 g.

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