Chocolate Milk: Is It Good for You? 4 Benefits & Potential Downsides

Chocolate milk contains calcium, protein, and vitamin D. It’s also high in calories and added sugar which can increase disease risk when consumed in excess.

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Science-based and reviewed

Published:
May 20, 2024
April 25, 2023
— Updated:
April 26, 2023

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Chocolate milk is a beverage often associated with childhood, but chocolate milk might also have some nutritional benefits for adults and could be beneficial for post-workout recovery. Keep reading to learn more about the nutrition packed into this nostalgic beverage, its potential benefits, and possible downsides. 

Chocolate Milk Nutrition Facts 

Chocolate milk has a similar nutritional profile to regular unsweetened milk in terms of vitamins and minerals. However, because it is made with sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup and sugar, it is higher in calories and carbohydrates. 

Chocolate milk also contains slightly less zinc, selenium, iodine, magnesium, and vitamins A, B1, B6, and B12 than regular cow’s milk.1

Milk is a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids the body must obtain from the diet. It is high in leucine, an amino acid involved in muscle building and repair.2

Milk is also a good source of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a type of omega-6 fatty acid found in meat and dairy. Some studies suggest there may be some health benefits associated with omega-6 fatty acid intake. 

There are many different types and brands of chocolate milk, but on average, one cup of chocolate milk contains1

  • Calories: 206
  • Protein: 8 grams
  • Carbs: 26 grams
  • Sugar: 24 grams
  • Fat: 8.4 grams
  • Calcium: 21% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Vitamin D: 16% of the DV
  • Riboflavin: 31% of the DV
  • Potassium: 9% of the DV
  • Phosphorus: 20% of the DV

The glycemic index (GI) of chocolate milk is low, making it ideal for people who are conscious of their blood sugar levels. The GI of chocolate milk ranges from 35 to 55, depending on the type and brand you choose.

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Chocolate Milk vs. Regular Milk 

Chocolate and regular cow’s milk have a similar nutrition profile. The main difference between regular cow’s milk and chocolate milk is the carbohydrate, sugar, and calorie content. 

Chocolate and regular milk provide the same nine essential nutrients (calcium, protein, vitamin D, phosphorus, vitamin A, riboflavin, vitamin B12, pantothenic acid, and niacin). But because it’s sweetened, chocolate milk contains 1.5 to 2 times more sugar than unsweetened cow’s milk. 

How Much Sugar is in Chocolate Milk?

There are about 25 grams of sugar per one-cup serving of chocolate milk, with about 12 grams naturally occurring from lactose in milk and 13 grams of added sugar.1

Leading health organizations agree that most people can enjoy some sugar within the recommended daily amount, especially from nutrient-rich foods like chocolate milk.3

Chocolate milk provides important nutrients like calcium, protein, and vitamin D and may benefit health. However, when consumed in excess, it may contribute to unwanted weight gain and may increase your risk of certain chronic diseases. 

Like any other food, chocolate milk is best consumed as part of a balanced diet consisting of various food choices from different food groups. 

If you want to drink chocolate milk but want to reduce its calorie and sugar content, add sugar-free chocolate syrup to regular cow’s milk. You can also try adding chocolate protein powder to cow’s milk. 

4 Benefits of Chocolate Milk

Rich in vitamin D and other nutrients

Chocolate milk is high in vitamin D, calcium, protein, and phosphorus. It also contains other nutrients, including vitamin A, B12, potassium, zinc, choline, magnesium, and selenium.1 

Supports strong bones

Chocolate milk contains nutrients necessary for building and maintaining strong bones and may protect your bones as you age. Many studies have shown a link between milk and dairy intake and reduced risk of fractures and bone diseases.4

May aid in weight management

Research shows that consuming fat and protein together helps you feel full, which may help regulate appetite and decrease overall calorie intake. 

A diet rich in protein may aid in weight management. Studies suggest that people who consume more protein can lose body fat while preserving lean muscle mass. Chocolate milk is a good source of protein.5

May reduce the risk of other diseases 

A 2021 meta-analysis of 41 studies showed a relationship between drinking milk and health outcomes. Evidence suggests drinking approximately one cup of milk daily was linked to a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, colorectal cancer, metabolic syndrome, obesity, and osteoporosis.5

Is Chocolate Milk Good for You After a Workout?

Chocolate milk may be a good way to recover from your workout. 

Chocolate milk is high in carbs, and protein replenishes the sugars, fluids, and electrolytes lost during a hard workout.6

Chocolate milk is often pushed as a great recovery drink, but most research on chocolate milk and exercise is done on athletes who exercise more frequently and intensely than the average person. The benefits of drinking chocolate milk for workout recovery in the average gym-goer are unclear.

The nutritional benefits that chocolate milk provides are not exclusive to chocolate milk. Other studies have found that many carb and protein-rich beverages can help boost post-workout recovery.7

What is recovery nutrition?

When you exercise, your muscles use up glycogen stores. Glycogen is the body’s preferred fuel source, especially during high-intensity workouts. Muscles then become partially depleted of glycogen. Sometimes the protein in your muscles might also be broken down and damaged.

After a tough workout, your body replenishes glycogen stores and restores those muscle proteins. Giving your body the right nutrients after you exercise can support this process. It is especially important to eat carbs and protein after your workout.8

This helps decrease muscle protein breakdown, increase muscle protein synthesis (growth), restore glycogen stores, and enhance recovery. 

Experts recommend eating shortly after your workout for the most benefit. 

Benefits of chocolate milk for athletes

Provides fluid and electrolytes for hydration

Sports dietitians recommend that athletes and active people consume fluids, electrolytes, and other nutrients after a strenuous workout. Chocolate milk naturally provides many of the same electrolytes (calcium, potassium, sodium, and magnesium) added to sports beverages. 

It’s rich in protein for lean muscle gain and repair

The high-quality protein in chocolate milk may increase muscle gains and help boost recovery. Chocolate milk is also a good source of leucine, an amino acid needed for muscle protein synthesis.

It provides a good carbohydrate source to replenish energy stores

A meal with protein and carbs post-workout will enhance glycogen storage and muscle protein synthesis. Consuming a ratio of 3 to 1 (carbs to protein) is a good way to achieve this. Chocolate milk provides this optimal carb-to-protein ratio. 

Chocolate boosts the carbohydrate supplied to muscles and liver

Chocolate milk contains more carbohydrates than regular cow’s milk, increasing the amount of carbs available to supply energy to the muscles and liver. 

Easier to tolerate a beverage versus food after a workout

Some people tolerate beverages post-workout better than food. You may feel nauseous or not have a big appetite after a strenuous training session. Chocolate milk can provide a solid dose of recovery nutrition without eating food.

Potential Downsides of Chocolate Milk

Chocolate milk contains added sugars. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, intake of added sugars should be limited to 10 percent of total calorie intake to support health.

The American Heart Association (AHA) has a similar recommendation, suggesting that women and children consume less than six teaspoons of added sugar per day while men should aim for nine teaspoons per day.10

One cup of chocolate milk usually has about 11 to 17 grams of added sugar or 3 to 4 teaspoons, more than half the recommended amount of added sugar for the whole day. 

Consuming too many added sugars is linked to weight gain and increased risk of chronic conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and even certain types of cancers. It has also been associated with acne, dental caries, and an increased risk of depression.11,12,13

Chocolate milk should be consumed in moderation and in balance with a variety of other foods. 

5 Non-Dairy Chocolate Milk Alternatives 

If you have a dairy allergy or are lactose intolerant, many plant-based, non-dairy chocolate milk alternatives exist. However, some options are better than others in terms of nutritional profile.

Chocolate almond milk

Creamy and rich but not too thick, Almond Breeze’s chocolate milk strikes the perfect balance of cocoa and sweetness. If you like your chocolate milk extra chocolatey, this is the one for you, with its rich, indulgent taste. The downside is that it only has 1 gram of protein per serving. 

Chocolate oat milk

Chocolate oat milk is a non-dairy chocolate milk that is super rich and creamy. However, it only provides 3 grams of protein per serving. 

Bored Cow chocolate (animal-free whey)

Bored Cow uses Perfect Day’s animal-free whey to replicate the taste and texture of traditional cow’s milk with no animal involvement. It provides 11 grams of protein per serving. Anyone with a milk allergy should avoid drinking Bored Cow because it contains whey.

Chocolate soy milk

Chocolate soy milk offers 9 grams of protein per serving but is high in sugar and calories, with 20 grams of added sugar. 

Pea protein chocolate milk

Chocolate milk made from pea protein provides 8 grams of protein per serving. Ripple’s pea protein chocolate milk has 40 percent less sugar than regular chocolate milk and 50 percent more calcium than cow’s milk. 

The Bottom Line: Is It Healthy?

Chocolate milk provides the same nutrients as cow’s milk, but it comes with added sugar and calories. These added sugars can make it a good post-workout recovery drink because the carbohydrates replenish glycogen stores in the muscles, while the protein helps muscles recover. 

Chocolate milk can provide some nutritional benefits that help muscle and bone health, but when consumed in excess, it may contribute to unwanted weight gain and other health conditions, including heart disease. 

Chocolate milk is best enjoyed in moderation as part of a balanced diet. 

Learn More About Healthy Nutrition with Signos’ Expert Advice

Signos is a great resource for expert advice on nutrition and healthy eating. Signos has a team of registered dietitians who compile evidence-based nutrition information to help you improve your health and wellness. Check out the resources here.

Signos CGM empowers you to improve your health by keeping track of your diet, exercise, sleep habits, and blood sugar. Knowledge is power, and a CGM can give you specific information about how your habits affect your health. 

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About the author

Victoria Whittington earned her Bachelor of Science in Food and Nutrition from the University of Alabama and has over 10 years of experience in the health and fitness industry.

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