Ironman triathlete fuel: what works best?

Mooooove over sports drinks, there’s a new fuel replacement drink in town. Maybe you’ve tried all the previously-hyped sports drinks and now it’s time to give the udder one a go.

It seems like every time you turn around lately there is another pro triathlete pitching the benefits of chocolate milk as the ideal replacement drink after those long, hard training runs and rides or after crossing the finish line of your latest triathlon.

The premise is that if you re-charge, re-fuel, and re-energize with chocolate milk immediately following a strenuous work-out it will speed your recovery and make your next work-out go that much smoother.

It seems odd that for decades chocolate milk has been available on the market yet it is only just recently that it is being hyped as a replacement drink after strenuous physical activity.

chocolate milk for endurance athletes

The Ironman fuel of the future?


Some 50 some years ago when I was a pre-teen, chocolate milk was considered a treat that you got to have once in a while.

I suppose because it had the word chocolate in it.

Here is what you can expect to find in a cup of low fat chocolate milk. Most super-markets sell a 2% fat chocolate milk and there is seldom an option to buy a low fat chocolate milk which would be 1% fat.

I’m assuming you might find the low fat variety in a health food store perhaps.

These figures are for one cup of 1% chocolate milk.

Chocolate Milk (Lowfat)
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 cup

 
Amount Per Serving
Calories.................from Fat 22
Calories.................158
 
% Daily Values*
Total Fat................2.5g 4%
  	--Saturated Fat 1.54g 8%
  	--Polyunsaturated Fat 0.088g 	 
  	--Monounsaturated Fat 0.75g 	 
Cholesterol...............8mg 3%
Sodium 152mg .............6%
Potassium.................425mg 	 
Total Carbohydrate........26.1g 9%
  	--Dietary Fiber...1.2g 	5%
  	--Sugars..........24.85g 	 
Protein...................8.1g 	 
 
Vitamin A 10% 		Vitamin C 4%
Calcium 29% 		Iron 3%

Just for comparisons sake, let’s have a look at some other choices.

So what about skim milk?

1 cup serving:

Calories.............90
skim milk for athletes

Will skim milk re-fuel you?

Fat..................zero cholesterol..........zero sodium...............140mg potassium............410mg carbohydrate.........12 grams fiber................zero sugar................11 grams protein...............9 grams

So if you are trying to replace potassium, sodium, and protein than there does not seem to be too much of a difference between chocolate and skim milk, but the difference in sugars and carbohydrates is huge.

There is twice the amount of sugar and a lot more fat and cholesterol in the chocolate milk as compared to skim milk that has zero cholesterol and zero fat.

How about chocolate soy milk?

one cup serving:

calories............150
fat.................4 grams
cholesterol.........zero
sodium..............100mg
potassium...........350mg
carbohydrate........23g
sugars..............19 grams
protein.............6 grams

For someone who is on a bit of a cholesterol watch than it would seem that chocolate soy milk might be an option. That being said, there has been lots of negative publicity about soy lately and be sure and do your homework.

chocolate soy milk for endurance athlete fuel

Is soy chocolate milk as good?


Many naysayers claim that soy milk will play Hell with testosterone levels, but maybe the naysayers are backers of chocolate milk? Sort of like the main naysayers of Coconut Oil were Canola Oil producers. Now coconut oil is nothing short of a super-food.

Back in the 1990’s I was on a long training ride and came across a dedicated biker who told me to try this supplement called Cytomax. He said few people had ever heard of it and the only way I could get it was via mail-order from the U.S.A. as it was not available in Canada.

He went on to say that among the hard-core road-biking fraternity this product gave new meaning to endurance when used in a long distance race. So I ordered some and went from a 12 hour Ironman one year to a 10:46 Ironman the next year.

Was it because of the Cytomax? No way of knowing for sure as I did a few things differently that year, but I do know it was gentle on the stomach, tasted great and was easy to assimilate.

You can buy it in Canada now but don’t be fooled. Many products are normally altered and butchered to meet Canadian standards and you might as well drink iced tea. Order from the U.S.A. and you will get the real deal.

Just as an aside, Cytomax is part of Chrisse Wellington’s nutritional arsenal and no word on whether she has joined the stampede over to chocolate milk. I may be interviewing her soon and will ask her.

Hard to argue with Chrissie’s choice of anything that gets her to the front of the pack on anything she does.

So lets see what’s in Cytomax.

Please Note: Nutritional content and ingredients may vary slightly between
Cytomax flavors.

cytomax for endurance athletes

Cytomax has produced positive results in many endurance sports.

Amount Per Serving
Calories..................90
Calories..................from Fat 0
Total Fat.................0g 0%
Saturated Fat.............0g 0%
Cholesterol...............0mg 0%
Sodium....................120mg 5%
Total Carbohydrate........22g 7%
Sugars....................12g
Protein...................0g 0%
Vitamin C (as Ascorbic Acid) 60mg 100%
Chromium (as Chromium Nicotinate) 50mcg 40%
Sodium (as Sodium Citrate) 120mg 5%
Calcium (as Dicalcium Phosphate, Calcium Succinate) 6mg 1%
Magnesium (as Magnesium Oxide, Magnesium Succinate) 14mg 4%
Advanced Carbohydrate System 22g
Potassium..................60mg (as Potassium Citrate, Monopotassium Phosphate, Potassium Succinate)

I remember about 30 years ago I was trying to gain more muscle and weight when I was trying to make it through to become a fireman.

I got a set of those vinyl weights by Joe Weider. For those who don’t know, Joe Weider was one of the top body-builders of his generation.

The set came with about 160 lbs. of weights and an instruction book from Joe.

In those instructions he said to do 3 or 4 sets of about 5-6 reps of heavy weight that I could just manage and increase the weight as I got stronger.

What I thought was really odd was that he said to drink one quart(yes it was a quart back then)of whole milk during the course of every single work-out.

I was about 148 lbs. at the start and wore a medium-sized shirt. In two months I was 165 lbs. and wore a large shirt. It blew me away. That 17 pounds was all muscle.

So before dismissing the benefits of milk I would give it a good try in your training to see how your body reacts to it.

As a matter of fact you should try several of the options I mentioned above and see what works best for you because we are not all created equal and all have different goals.

The thing I like about milk is that it seems to be closer to a food than a drink and perhaps that’s how athletes should view it.

Although I am not Ironman training these days I am lifting weights three times a week and running three times a week and I’m going to try all the different choices I mentioned as replacement drinks.

I am not saying the chocolate milk is not as great as claims make it out to be.

What I am saying is that you can read all you want about what THEY say about a product being good or bad, but who are THEY anyway?

The smart thing to do is experiment for yourself, then you don’t have to know who THEY are because you found out for yourself and you know what works and doesn’t work for you.

nutritional chocolate milk shake

Frozen banana and chocolate milk shake.


Give everything a fair shot.

In your training try chocolate milk for 6-8 weeks and see how it goes. Be sure to record the amounts you drink, when you drink it, weight gain or loss, how you feel when you after you drink it, and especially how you recover from your workout.

Then try something else like chocolate soy milk or Cytomax or anything you are curious about and record the information exactly the same way and then you can decide for yourself what works best.

As I mentioned earlier, you can almost look at chocolate milk as a food.

For example, here is my breakfast of choice lately……

Banana-chocolate smoothie:

–One banana that is frozen solid in one-inch pieces
–12 ounces chocolate milk(I use 2%)
–2 tablespoons of Virgin coconut oil
–2 egg whites

Basically it’s like having a chocolate milkshake for breakfast. The more frozen banana you use the thicker it is. It seems so decadent that it can’t be right, but apparently it is.

As you can see, I bumped up the quality fat and protein by adding egg whites and coconut oil.

healthy coconut oil

Cocount oil is an excellent high quality fat choice for athletes.


No kidding. It is a meal and I really don’t need any other breakfast to get me through the morning. It taste great whether you use soy chocolate milk or chocolate milk.

This might also be a great choice before or after a hard workout.

This brings me to one final point that has always mystified me.

THEY say that you should have your recovery drink(whatever it happens to be)within that supposedly magical within 30-minutes of a work-out to speed recovery.

THEY also say that a nutritional drink 30-minutes before a work-out will help fuel your workout.

Yet your body can’t possibly assimilate anything quickly enough to do you any good as it takes more like 90-120 minutes to make it’s way into your bloodstream.

If that’s the case shouldn’t you be taking on some power nutrition 90-minutes or two-hours before your work-out?

By the same token, if you are using chocolate milk for a recovery drink after a 4-hour bike ride, shouldn’t you start drinking it about 90-minutes before the end of your ride so it will really do you some good immediately after?

Now there’s food for thought.

I really don’t know who said it takes 90-120 minutes to assimilate nutrients into your bloodstream.

It may be the same person who decided everyone should drink 8-10 glasses of water a day.

My point is, it really doesn’t matter who comes up with the ideas, or the solutions, or the perfect answer for anything.

The best way to find out if something really works is to try it for yourself.

Then you will know from the best possible source if something really works or not.

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