Like millions of others, I thought the “Got Milk?” marketing campaign was highly effective in terms of increasing milk consumption (I still remember the iconic 1993 “Aaron Burr” ad and the corresponding peril of too much peanut butter). Unfortunately, we were mistaken. According to a February 2014 New Yorker article by Kirk Kardashian, milk isn’t as popular a beverage as others in a rapidly changing market. “The daily consumption of fluid milk – as opposed to milk-based products like cheese, yogurt, and butter – has steadily declined from .96 cups per person in 1970 to .59 cups in 2011.” The “Got Milk?” campaign is now gone for good, but the message it put forth endures.
“Got Milk?” is now “Milk Life,” and the emphasis is squarely on the significance of protein. In the words of Julia Kadison, the C.E.O. of Milk PEP, “A lot of people don’t know that milk has protein, so it was very important to make that connection between milk and protein.” Calcium is the typical association that people make with milk as it points to stronger bones, but as a distance runner, I’m intrigued with milk and the significance of protein from a recovery standpoint as running is a hard exercise on the skeletal structure.
If milk is good, chocolate milk undoubtedly makes it better. Chocolate milk. That’s a glorious combination – the cow from the farm meets Theobroma cacao (the cacao tree). “Got Milk?” increased the visibility of moo juice, so it’s not surprising that a new initiative, “Built with Chocolate Milk,” is doing the same for moo juice with a hint of cocoa. Case in point: Klay Thompson, an accomplished shooting guard for the Golden State Warriors. He’s a major face for the “Built” campaign. Here’s Thompson on his involvement with the project in a recent USA Today article. “I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like chocolate milk. I really enjoy it, because my diet and my training, you need to fill yourself with good proteins, good energy, and that’s what chocolate milk has.”
The taste of chocolate milk is delicious for sure, but what of the science as it pertains to recovery after an intense exercise like running? According to the “Built with Chocolate Milk” website, low-fat chocolate milk is comprised of protein for lean muscle development; vitamin A for a healthy immune system; electrolytes (e.g. sodium and potassium) to replenish what’s lost in sweat; and calcium to aid in strong bone density. Furthermore, three studies on the site show that men and women gained more muscle with chocolate milk than with a carb-only drink.
Although developing muscle mass is beneficial for those wishing to improve their physique, distance runners don’t typically see gains of this sort as extensive cardiovascular exercise tends to deplete muscle composition. However, runners still need to replenish protein just as they would with carbohydrates. An April 2013 Runner’s World article points out that the 4:1 carbs-to-protein ratio is the accepted measurement from a recovery standpoint after a long or hard run, but this is evolving. “15 to 25 grams of protein, regardless of the amount of carbs,” is sufficient, says Pamela Bede, author of the article.
In spite of the compelling “Built” campaign, it is possible to be built without chocolate milk, and many runners do opt for other foods or drinks to facilitate recovery after a run. But in conjunction with other high quality protein sources, chocolate milk is an excellent option to consider. I suppose that runners have a tendency to avoid too much protein as it can lead to weight gain, but a Runner’s Connect article reveals otherwise. “Protein, in and of itself, doesn’t increase muscle mass. Resistance training and a high protein diet make for more mass.”
Protein, carbohydrates, and calcium aside for a moment, what is the real draw of chocolate milk? What is the lasting appeal? Nostalgia. Memories of yesteryear. Days gone by. Childhood. A glass of ice cold chocolate milk and a peanut butter and strawberry jelly sandwich, cut diagonally. That’s my sandwich nostalgia. Maybe yours contains grape jelly. Is that not a slice of heaven? Nostalgia taps into good memories of the past. Is this a good thing though? In the words of Jeanne Moreau, “Nostalgia is when you want things to stay the same. I know so many people staying in the same place.”
Runners are a different kind of people though. They never stay in the same place. They move, one mile at a time, to the next place of interest. They traverse the world on foot over every rock, hill, crag, and crevice in their way. They are built for speed and endurance and agility and the ability to do it with great finesse. They are built to move continuously, and the right mixture of carbohydrates and protein coursing through the body make this remarkable process possible every time the shoes are tied.
Got (chocolate) milk?