Is Chocolate Milk the New Gatorade?
Remember the "Saturday Night Live" skit from the '90s that introduced us to the Gatorade of the future, Cookie Dough Sport? Turns out, it might not have been that far off.
A new campaign by the National Dairy Council seeks to educate athletes about the benefits of drinking chocolate milk after a workout. The Got Chocolate Milk? campaign, which bears an uncanny resemblance to the SNL spoof, promotes the drink's restorative effects in an attempt to rebrand milk as "Nature's Sport's Drink" -- a title currently and equally dubiously held by coconut water.
Scientific reports appear to back the industry's claims: a 2006 study by Indiana University, a 2010 study by the University of Connecticut, and a 2011 study at the University of Texas at Austin each found that low-fat chocolate milk aided in recovery between workouts and the development of lean muscle over time. The scientists think the sugar in chocolate milk increased the concentration of glycogen, which fuels muscle growth and gets depleted during exercise, while the high protein content helped to rebuild muscles more effectively than carbohydrate-based sports drinks like Gatorade.
There's reason to be skeptical of milk taking a place on the sideline. Putting aside the obvious logistical issues of toting a perishable drink for hours of exercise, as the Week's Carmel Lobello notes, the majority of adults can't properly digest milk. Reports also suggest that the Indiana University study was partially funded by the dairy industry. And the studies only analyzed endurance athletes, such as cyclists and marathon runners, so there is little evidence to suggest that other types of athletes or average gym visitors would see similar gains.
Still, athletes and sports fans can expect the campaign for chocolate milk as the everyman's sports drink to continue, emphasizing the relative affordability of milk when compared with brand-name, laboratory-engineered beverages. (Although dairy prices have been rising this year, and Congress has yet to pass a farm bill that would protect them from going up dramatically under a 1949 dairy program.) The campaign is also an official sponsor of Team USA in the 2014 Winter Olympics, supporting men's hockey and women's ski jumping, as well as the Ironman competition. Last year, the dairy council made its Super Bowl debut with a Got Milk? ad featuring The Rock.
It might not actually matter. Milk consumption has steadily declined since the founding of the National Dairy Board in 1983, despite the $1.1 billion spent on national advertising. Milk may do a body good, but is it good business?