As you walk, run, or ride for any extended period of time your body will begin to fatigue due to a depletion of your glycogen stores in your musculature. This is the energy that is most accessible to your muscles during your workout, and if it is not properly replenished you will take much longer to recover and your fatigue will be longer lasting. This means you will feel sluggish for longer and your next workout will most likely suffer. Research suggests that the best foods for recovery are those containing a 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio, providing enough carbohydrates to replenish your glycogen energy stores and enough protein to build muscle back to help you get in the best shape possible.
Chocolate milk has received a great deal of attention in the past as being a golden recovery drink due to its near perfect 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio, but it is probably not the best option out there. Post workout your body needs those carbohydrates to replete those glycogen stores, but avoiding added sugars is always going to be in your benefit. Rather try half a PB&J sandwich on whole grain bread, or a Chocolate Banana Shake
8 oz. Chocolate Milk: 26g Carbohydrates, 8g Protein, 3.4:1 Ratio
½ PB & J Sandwich*: 30g Carbohydrates, 7g Protein, 4.3:1 Ratio
Banana Cocoa Protein Shake**: 40g Carb, 11g Protein, 3.6:1 Ratio
Regardless of your fitness goals you always need to be sure you are properly fueling your body and allowing for proper recovery. When in doubt, I would always error on the side of more protein (closer to a 3:1 ratio). It is not an exact science, so just try to get as close as you can.
* 100% whole grain bread, 1 TBSP peanut butter, 1 TBSP whole fruit berry jam
** 1 banana, ½ cup low-fat milk, 1 TBSP cocoa, 1 TBSP protein isolate (soy or whey)
Becca Capell, iFit Head Trainer