Loving the BITE: Homemade Syrup for Chocolate Milk Recovery


A few months ago we got the conversation going about Chocolate Milk for recovery.  And, as a fan of this approach, I was inspired to go to the store and get some chocolate syrup for this purpose.  For months, I’ve been hooked on using milk with honey for recovery, but variety is the spice of life, and I was ready for some chocolate.  I wanted an add-in chocolate, rather than a pre-made chocolate milk so that I could determine how much to put in myself, based on my own needs for recovery carbohydrates after riding.  I assumed, naively, that I would be able to find at least one good option for dark chocolate syrup, made with only a few real-food ingredients, even if I had to pay a couple extra bucks to avoid cheap junk sugars, colorings, and chemicals.

I was wrong.  We all know what happens when we assume.

It wasn’t a health food store, to be fair, but generally, my favorite grocer has a good variety of organic and healthy options.  I was dumbfounded as I looked at the shelves over and over again, reading horrible lists of ingredients and nutrition labels. I do this for living, after all, and I couldn’t find a good one.  Of course, I should have known where to start.  In my own kitchen.


Recipe of the Week: Homemade High-Antioxidant Chocolate Syrup

  • 1 C unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 C water
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 C organic honey
  • Dash of cinnamon (optional)

Place cocoa, water, and salt in a medium saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, whisking to remove all lumps and mix thoroughly.  Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and allow to thicken, about 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat, stir in vanilla, honey, and cinnamon.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.

To make chocolate milk, add 1-2 Tbsp to 8 oz. dairy or non-dairy milk.

Nutrition information: (1 Tbsp chocolate syrup) 30 calories, 10 mg sodium, 8 gms carbohydrates, 1 gm protein

For even more variety: Try real maple syrup instead of honey, add 1 Tbsp of pure mint extract instead of the vanilla, or add in some coffee with the milk for a recovery mocha.


Want a high-antioxidant, powerhouse of a recovery drink?  Of course you do and now you’ve got it.  Here’s why this combination of honey, cocoa, and milk will work for you:

  • Cocoa is a concentrated source of antioxidants that reduce oxidative stress, fight free radicals, reduce inflammation, and improve insulin sensitivity.  Click here for more details on the health benefits of cocoa
  • Organic Honey also contains antioxidants.  What’s more, it provides the carbohydrates needed to replenish glycogen stores (the most crucial function of recovery) and natural enzymes that aide digestion and improve nutrient absorption.  Take care to buy organic honey, though, as non-organic honey has been found to be little more over-processed and void of all the healthful benefits.
  • Milk: As we discussed in our previous chocolate milk post, milk is certainly NOT the only good choice for recovery proteins.  But, with both quick- and slow-acting proteins in whey and casein respectively, it’s a good choice.  I realize there are many athletes who cannot tolerate or choose to not consume casein or dairy.  One option would be to use soy milk instead, and if you tolerate whey, add a whey protein isolate to provide a quick-acting and an intermediate-acting protein.  In order to spare muscles, you need to consume a carbohydrate source for default energy needs, and a protein source for rebuilding…most any protein source will help (although some are better than others).  If you’re looking for an alternative to dairy milk, though, realize that coconut milk and almond milks contain virtually no protein.
  • Fluids: No, this won’t work for your recovery fluid needs.  While milk is technically a fluid, I tend to not count it toward fluid needs for athletes as the kidneys have to do quite a bit of work to filter out and use the proteins.  Instead, consider any fluid it offers icing on the cake in terms of hydration and drink another fluid on the side for recovery (aim for 32 oz. per hour of your ride minus your intake during your ride).

While this information might not be groundbreaking, especially since we just discussed Chocolate Milk Recovery just a couple months ago, it certainly is an improvement over commercial chocolate syrup options – in the nutrition and deliciousness categories.  And, although some of the benefits of the ingredients will be diminished with cooking, they will still far outshine the high fructose corn syrup-laden chemical chocolate concoctions at the store.  So simple, I’m not sure why I didn’t think of it before.  Hadn’t spent much time in the chocolate syrup aisle, I guess.  This week, for recovery nutrition, let’s minimize the junk and keep it real.

Fuel Your Ride.  Nourish Your Body.
Enjoy Your Ride

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13 Responses to “ Loving the BITE: Homemade Syrup for Chocolate Milk Recovery ”

  1. Heather on September 17, 2017 at 8:03 am

    I am a bee keeper and I am here to tell you Organic honey is really just honey. Simply buy local from beekeeper and you will get the best you can get. There is no requirement to “over process” honey. It does not need to be pasteurized. Honey is naturally antibacterial. It does not harbor bacteria. It may be heated gently simply to get it back into liquid form from crystals. All honey will crystallize eventually. If you think the beekeeper keeps bees off non-organic property…then go ahead and pay the extra money…it is ludicrous though.

  2. Maggie Floyd on August 17, 2015 at 1:01 pm

    Make hemp milk (extremely high in protein) with 2-3 tbsp of hulled hemp seeds in a high power blender.
    Strain or not. Add chocolate syrup above. Enjoy!!

  3. Tony Ruiz on March 4, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    The Almond Coconut Milk I drink only has 1 g of protein in a cup, should I throw some Greek Yogurt or whey protein powder in it to get to 3 to 1 Carb to protein ratio?

    • Kelli Jennings on March 6, 2013 at 7:14 pm

      Hi Tony – YES!:) One issue with non-dairy milks (excluding soy) is the lack of protein – and many are unaware. Since they are called milk, many assume they have protein. Not sure if you’ve seen/tried Hemp Milk (it’s popped up in my local store) – it does have 4 gm protein per cup, so more than the others. For recovery, a 3:1, or even 2:1 carbs:protein is effective. Hope you enjoy the syrup! Take care!

  4. Kelli Jennings on January 14, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    Shannon, Kate, and Jase – Thank you very much for your comments on this chocolate syrup. It’s always in my fridge as well for my own recovery. I always look forward to it. Sometimes I ride a little longer than planned just to justify the recovery chocolate milk :). Soon, I’ll post a hot chocolate variation. It’s 10 deg F where I live right now, and recovering with a warm drink is a welcome variation. Coming soon…

  5. Jase on January 14, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    Turned out very well. Healthier and more affordable than store bought since less is needed for the same degree of chocolatey flavor. Thank you.

  6. Kate on July 10, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    We’ve been making this consistently for the last couple of months, and I’m finding I really crave it. Very easy to make and very tasty.

  7. Shannon on May 16, 2012 at 11:00 am

    This is a great recipe! I ran out of regular chocolate syrup and I’ve been looking for an alternative with no artificial ingredients, anyway. My son is extremely picky and the only way he will consistently get any protein is chocolate milk. I made him a cup of milk with a spoonful of syrup and he chugged it! Thank you for posting it.

  8. Kelli Jennings, RD on May 10, 2012 at 11:30 am

    It’s passed my (picky) kids’ test :). And, since it’s richer in chocolate taste than store-bought, I can use just a small amount. Hope they like it!

  9. Rob at OceanAirCycles.com on May 10, 2012 at 11:04 am

    Thank you for this hint. As a person who is gluten intolerant, it has been hard to find a chocolate syrup that is also gluten free. It kind of makes you wonder why so much other stuff is in the prepared foods on the shelf at the store. My wife is going to be stoked at this work around.

    • Kelli Jennings, RD on May 10, 2012 at 11:28 am

      I agree – it’s amazing how many extra ingredients are packed into processed foods. The extra chemical colorings (strawberry syrup for example) and flavorings drive me nuts. I think this recipe is also much better tasting…I hope you enjoy it! Kel

  10. Jessica on May 10, 2012 at 5:23 am

    Awesome! I’ve been meaning to search for a healthier way to make chocolate milk for the kids! And now I can enjoy it after my long runs too!

    • Kelli Jennings, RD on May 10, 2012 at 12:04 pm

      Hi Jessica – I definitely can always feel a difference when I recover properly after training (I’m drinking this syrup/milk as I type after riding) – and this recipe is easy, cold, and refreshing. Serves the dual purpose for me and my kids in my household, too. Hope you enjoy!


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Sugar Alternatives for Energy and Hydration

Question: I am using the homebrew sugar formulations (sometimes added to green tea).  I am also trying to wean myself off 1/2 dose adrenalean “lip tonic delivery system” (biorhythm brand- caffeine, hoodia g, synephrine, yohimbe) capsule for energy.

My question is other than juice, can you suggest modifications in lieu of table sugar for energy and hydration.


Both raw/organic honey or agave can work great in the homebrew (substitute in the same quantities for the sugar, or to taste), but you do have to shake well in order to make sure they don’t settle out.  Have you tried either of these?  Also, make sure to use at least the minimum amount of salt recommended in the homebrew as the temps rise, you need the sodium replacement if you’re sweating.

Sports Drink Homebrew

Please send us your questions for our Expert Sports Nutritionist, Kelli Jennings to “Ask the Sports Nutritionist“. Kelli Jennings is a Registered Dietitian with a passion for healthy eating, wellness, & sports nutrition. For more information go to www.apexnutritionllc.com.

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