SEATTLE -- After another exhausting practice, Washington
football players trudge to the edge of the Husky Stadium turf where
coolers brim with refreshing drinks.
Of course, water and Gatorade are there, along one that appears
out of place on a football field -- filled with chocolate milk.
"It tastes good to me and, hey, if it's nutritious and helps my
body, I'm all for it," wide receiver Cody Ellis said.
The Huskies are experimenting with a new form of nutritional
replacement following practices. Along with giving the usual water
and sports drinks to rehydrate and replenish during grueling
preseason practices, Washington's football staff is requiring its
players to drink a small carton of fat-free chocolate milk.
And no, Oreos are not included.
"This is just another way to facilitate post-exercise
carbohydrate replenishment. This is another facet that we can use
in our supplement program," Washington director of sport
performance Trent Greener said. "The research substantiates it and
it's something too that the kids are going to be compliant with."
The decision to implement the program came after a study last
fall from scientists at Indiana University that was published in
the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise
Metabolism and was supported in part by the Dairy and Nutrition
The small study found no significant difference between using a
fluid-replacement drink or chocolate milk for athletes following
exercise, with dairy folks touting the nutritional benefits of
drinking milk -- chocolate or otherwise.
It was a limited study, but caught the eye of Greener and UW
sports nutritionist Emily Edison. Along with athletic trainer Rob
Scheidegger, the trio developed a plan to take the use of chocolate
milk one step further, building upon a program already in place.
"We've always used Gatorade," Scheidegger said. "But we're
always trying to find ways to get natural foods into people. So if
we can find a natural product at the end of practice that aids with
recovery, keeps them hydrated and gives them the energy that they
need we're going to go with something like that."
So, following practices this month, while players are taking ice
baths to cool their legs, they are required to drink a bottle of
Gatorade and a carton of milk back-to-back before leaving the
Certainly, there was hesitation on the players' part. Not so
much that it was chocolate milk, but more so, drinking it before or
after downing a fluid-replacement drink that could be any sort of
flavor -- orange, watermelon or lemon-lime for example.
In stepped head coach Tyrone Willingham to calm some of the
"It was good. I love chocolate milk anyway," said Willingham,
who tried the combination in front of his players at the start of
practice earlier this week.
"I check to make sure as much as possible what is going on and
what they're going through. There are somethings that I don't have
to experience because I've already done them, but in this case I
hadn't done that. So I wanted to see what it was, the combination,
and get a feel for it."
There is little exception for players who don't like milk. Only
those who are lactose intolerant are excused from the requirement,
and those players are given a substitute drink with similar
Wide receiver Marcel Reece -- a stout 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds --
couldn't remember the last time he voluntarily poured himself a
glass of milk.
"You just trust what the strength and conditioning coach say,
you trust what the trainers say, you trust what our coaches say,"
Reece said. "They say it helps this, so it helps that. So we just
Does that mean he likes it?
"You don't have to taste it, you just do it," he said.
Greener said Washington isn't alone in experimenting with
chocolate milk, but wasn't sure how extensive the use. The Huskies
plan to work a similar regime into their regular season nutritional
plans as well.
Should the Huskies win a big game, fans aren't likely to see
Willingham getting doused with chocolate milk instead of the
traditional Gatorade. But the idea is a hit with some players.
When asked recently what was the best part of being a Husky,
center Juan Garcia had a unique answer: "I said 'tradition and
chocolate milk.' "