Raw Cacao Chocolate Milk for Recovery

Posted by Kelli Jennings on

Turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks. And this trick involves raw cacao.

I’ve found a new way to make chocolate milk (dairy or non-dairy). I use a bit of this chocolate milk in my coffee (healthy mocha!), I use it for recovery after riding, and it’s a daily treat for me kids.

The best part of this recipe? It’s easy, and we’re keeping the cacao raw.  That means that *this* chocolate milk is likely more nutrient-dense than your smoothie, that it contains a mineral vital to energy in an athlete (magnesium!), and it’s antioxidants are ready to help the body recover from oxidative stress. Add a bit of l-glutamine and you’ve got a top-tier recovery drink. Here’s the 411 on my high-antioxidant, muscle-sparing favorite recovery:

Recipe of the Week: Raw Cacao Chocolate Milk


  • 64 oz. milk (12 oz. for an individual recovery serving)
  • 1/3 cup raw honey or real maple (1.5 Tbsp for individual serving)
  • 1/2 cup raw cacao (1.5 Tbsp for individual serving; here’s the brand I usually buy)

Recovery add-ons after mixing (add these to 12 oz. cocao milk):

  • 1/2 scoop protein powder (if using non-dairy milk or want to increase protein)
  • 5 gm l-glutamine
  • 2 Tbsp collagen
  • 1 tsp ground ginger and/or turmeric (spice it up!)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon


Place all ingredients except add-ons in a blender. Blend well. The frothy foam on top makes for the best mocha coffee! Before drinking as recovery, add in optional add-ons in your individual serving (since I let my kids have occasional chocolate milk as well, I keep the extra powders and ginger out of the main batch).


With 2% Dairy Milk, each 12 oz. serving: ~300 calories, ~40 gm carbs, 20 gm protein, 6 gm fiber (before add-ons).


We’ve discussed chocolate milk for recovery, and what the research says, and what the research doesn’t say before. You can find that post here.

We’ve also discussed l-glutamine and ginger in regards to recovery in these links.

So, what should we discuss today? How ’bout raw cacao? Turns out it can boost the health and recovery of an athlete. Here’s how:

First, let’s get through the spelling. Cacao vs. cocoa. I’ll admit, I’ve used them interchangeably at times. But here’s the thing, if it’s “raw,” it *is* cacao. Raw cacao is simply the result of cold-pressing a cacao bean. Cocoa powder is the result of then roasting this powder at a high temperature. Both provide good nutrients, but raw cacao is superior. When you see all those health-benefit-touting studies on cacao and chocolate, cold-pressed cacao is usually the form they’ve studied. (I write cocoa in this title because most people spell it this way, and I don’t want “searchers” to miss it!).

Raw cacao contains dietary polyphenols.  These antioxidants reduce inflammation and make cells more sensitive to insulin.  Both of these factors are super-important to the athlete.

First, inflammation is an issue for cellular health, whole body health, and recovery.  When you think of inflamed cells, think of angry, out-of-control, destructive cells that simply do not function right.  When we eat foods and nutrients that are anti-inflammatory, they can calm these cells and create a balance in our bodies that responds better to all the chemical reactions and toxins we throw at it.  As hard-breathing athletes, we throw a lot of chemical reactions at our cells.  What’s more, by reducing cellular inflammation you may reduce fat storage, sluggish metabolisms, fatigue, chronic disease, and slow recovery.

Then, there’s the whole insulin-sensitivity issue. The more sensitive cells are to insulin, the healthier they are and less likely to store fat.  They “use” carbs better, when you need energy, and replenish glycogen stores more efficiently for that upcoming ride…yes, please.  When cells are resistant to insulin, they don’t respond well to blood sugar.  This promotes a whole host of problems, including out-of-control blood sugars, disease, and more insulin resistance.

Due to reduced inflammation and improved insulin-sensitivity, high polyphenol foods can improve Cardiovascular Markers such as LDL cholesterol, blood sugars, chronic inflammatory conditions, and even Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  And, in addition to polyphenols, this delicious cocoa recovery drink has other great nutrients to offer. Fiber, protein, l-glutamine, joint-healing ginger.

Cocao is also a good source of magnesium @ ~25% of the recommended daily value, or 100 mg. And, we all know I love some good magnesium (see why).

This week, the assignment is easy and rather tasty. Use the unsweetened milk of your choice, add a bit of raw honey and raw cacao, and voila, you’ve got a good base for an extraordinary recovery. The recovery “window” is real, so get it in within 30 minutes or so of your ride, and be ready to go again tomorrow. Muscles spared.

Fuel Your Adventure. Nourish Your Body.


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