“Refuel with chocolate milk” has become a popular tagline for the dairy industry in recent years, and with good reason. More and more research shows that the electrolytes, calcium, phosphorus, and other nutrients plentiful in milk help build back muscle and rehydrate athletes after workouts. Sports stars like Katie Ledecky and Al Horford are part of the “Built with Chocolate Milk” team, and local sports groups around the country have picked up the effort, too.

But milk — full of protein, calcium, vitamins, and more — is far from a new trend for athletes. A recent Sports Illustrated article in the magazine’s online “Strength Issue” highlights the long (and interesting) history professional athletes have with drinking milk to fuel up, refuel, and celebrate.

“From the beginning of sports, cow milk was the GOAT (greatest of all time) milk,” wrote author Steve Rushin.

The story begins by recounting how basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain guzzled an entire carton of milk in the locker room after the record-setting NBA game in which he scored 100 points. An accompanying photo shows the muscular Chamberlain, still in his uniform, with milk streaming down his chin as he drinks. As Rushin described it, “On that historic night of March 2, 1962, he stood in the locker room as the ultimate proof of what parents had been telling their children for decades in American life: Milk will make you grow big and strong.”

Other athletes with a deep connection to milk are featured, from fellow NBA center Manute Bol’s 3-gallons-a-day habit to the NHL’s Sutter brothers and Olympian Elle Purrier St. Pierre, who grew up on their families’ dairy farms. Of course, each year’s winner of the Indianapolis 500 is presented with a glass of milk of their choosing.

Rushin’s piece, titled “Who’s still got milk?”, acknowledges that milk can be a polarizing food in sports and society. He points out the slide in fluid milk consumption in recent decades; the story’s art even features a digital cover that reads “Bovine decline.” Part of the subtitle asks, “Amid an increasingly crowded dairy section, can milk survive?”

To that question, Rushin’s modern examples of milk fanatics in the sports world are promising. The Seattle Seahawks’ D.K. Metcalf is a vocal fan of strawberry milk, even doing commercials for Nesquik, the story illustrates. Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks shared his enthusiasm for milk and Oreos as an “every night snack” in a captivating Twitter video.

And offering the farm perspective, Rushin shares optimism from Purrier St. Pierre, who draws attention to the fact that hard work and passion go into making the quality product that is milk. “There isn’t milk on the table every night like there used to be, but I kind of feel it will come back around,” she shared.

You can read the full Sports Illustrated article from July 6, 2022 here.

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July 18, 2022
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