A few months ago I got the conversation going about Chocolate Milk for recovery. And, as a fan of this approach, I was inspired to go to the store and get some chocolate syrup for this purpose. For months, I’ve been hooked on using milk with honey for recovery, but variety is the spice of life, and I was ready for some chocolate. I wanted an add-in chocolate, rather than a pre-made chocolate milk so that I could determine how much to put in myself, based on my own needs for recovery carbohydrates after riding. I assumed, naively, that I would be able to find at least one good option for dark chocolate syrup, made with only a few real-food ingredients, even if I had to pay a couple extra bucks to avoid cheap junk sugars, colorings, and chemicals.
I was wrong. We all know what happens when we assume.
It wasn’t a health food store, to be fair, but generally, my favorite grocer has a good variety of organic and healthy options. I was dumbfounded as I looked at the shelves over and over again, reading horrible lists of ingredients and nutrition labels. I do this for living, after all, and I couldn’t find a good one. Of course, I should have known where to start. In my own kitchen.
Recipe of the Week: Homemade High-Antioxidant Chocolate Syrup
- 1 1/4 C organic honey
- 1 C unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 C water
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
- Dash of cinnamon (optional)
Place honey, cocoa, water, and salt in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking to remove all lumps and mix thoroughly. Bring to a boil and allow to thicken, about 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and set aside to cool for 5-10 minutes. Stir in vanilla and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.
To make chocolate milk, add 1-2 Tbsp to 8 oz. dairy or soy milk.
Nutrition information: (1 Tbsp chocolate syrup) 30 calories, 10 mg sodium, 8 gms carbohydrates, 1 gm protein
For even more variety: Try real maple syrup instead of honey, add 1 Tbsp of pure mint extract instead of the vanilla, or add in some coffee with the milk for a recovery mocha.
- Cocoa is a concentrated source of antioxidants that reduce oxidative stress, fight free radicals, reduce inflammation, and improve insulin sensitivity. Click here for more details on the health benefits of cocoa.
- Organic Honey also contains antioxidants. What’s more, it provides the carbohydrates needed to replenish glycogen stores (the most crucial function of recovery) and natural enzymes that aide digestion and improve nutrient absorption. Take care to buy organic honey, though, as non-organic honey has been found to be little more over-processed and void of all the healthful benefits.
- Milk: As we discussed in my previous chocolate milk post, milk is certainly NOT the only good choice for recovery proteins. But, with both quick- and slow-acting proteins in whey and casein respectively, it’s a good choice. I realize there are many athletes who cannot tolerate or choose to not consume casein or dairy. One option would be to use soy milk instead, and if you tolerate whey, add a whey protein isolate to provide a quick-acting and an intermediate-acting protein. In order to spare muscles, you need to consume a carbohydrate source for default energy needs, and a protein source for rebuilding…most any protein source will help (although some are better than others). If you’re looking for an alternative to dairy milk, though, realize that coconut milk and almond milks contain virtually no protein.
- Fluids: No, this won’t work for your recovery fluid needs. While milk is technically a fluid, I tend to not count it toward fluid needs for athletes as the kidneys have to do quite a bit of work to filter out and use the proteins. Instead, consider any fluid it offers icing on the cake in terms of hydration and drink another fluid on the side for recovery (aim for 32 oz. per hour of your training minus your intake during your training).
While this information might not be groundbreaking, especially since we just discussed Chocolate Milk Recovery just a couple months ago, it certainly is an improvement over commercial chocolate syrup options – in the nutrition and deliciousness categories. And, although some of the benefits of the ingredients will be diminished with cooking, they will still far outshine the high fructose corn syrup-laden chemical chocolate concoctions at the store. So simple, I’m not sure why I didn’t think of it before. Hadn’t spent much time in the chocolate syrup aisle, I guess. This week, for recovery nutrition, let’s minimize the junk and keep it real.
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