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Milk Was A Bad Choice, Or Was It?

Points You’ll Takeaway -

1. Milk contains 80% casein, 20% whey, sugars, fat, calcium, water, electrolytes and small amounts of vitamin A, vitamin B-12, vitamin D, vitamin K, riboflavin and many others.

2. Results have shown that a mix of slow and fast digesting protein, casein and whey respectively, can be superior for lean body mass gains compared to whey alone.

3. Research has therefore shown milk can be superior to water and sport drinks for rehydration post training.

4. You can even enjoy chocolate milk! Results have shown chocolate milk to be an affective recovery drink.

We all know nutrition is crucial for muscle recovery and rehydration and the common trend amongst gym goers and athletes is drinking whey after a session is best because because of it’s high bioavailability and easily digestabilibty.

So does this mean whey is one and only drink we should consume?

Now I am not writing this article to say you have to drink a protein supplement or source straight after your workout because a mixed meal is just as beneficial. I haven’t used a shake post workout in a long time. I prefer a solid meal that consists of protein, carbs and some fats. However, many weight lifters and athletes could benefit from drinking milk as a recovery drink. After reading this post you’ll know why!

Per 100ml Whole Milk provides -

Energy 67kcal

Fat 4.0g

Carbohydrate 4.5g

Total Sugars 4.5g

Protein 3.3g

Salt 0.10g

Vitamin B12 0.93µg

Calcium 121mg

Milk contains the following -

80% Casein - a slow digesting protein that can keep you full longer and aid muscle repair.

20% Whey - a fast digesting protein, identical to you whey protein powder, which aid muscle repair.

BCAAs - Milk is rich in branched chain amino acids, leucine, isoleucine and valine. Which have been shown many times to be key to muscle growth and recovery. (1-4)

Sugars - Your body uses this sugar to replenish your energy stores and use as an energy source.

Fat - Milk contains fats which can keep you full longer, thus decreasing hunger, and have been shown to have many health benefits ranging from a fuel source, protection, warmth, helping your body absorb fat soluble vitamins, regulating inflammation, and hormone production.

Calcium - Dairy calcium can increase fat loss (5-6) (secondary to a calorie deficit obviously,) and improves bone health, which is especially important to prevent injury

Water - Milk contains water too which will aid hydration and muscle recovery.

Electrolytes - Milk contains sodium and potassium. Electrolytes such as these are critical in allowing your cells to produce energy, maintain their cell starchier, and function too. They also aid muscle contractions and move water and fluids within the body.

Milk also contains small amounts of vitamin A, vitamin B-12, vitamin D, vitamin K, riboflavin and many others.

So why does the nutrition content of milk make it a good drink for athletes?

There is lots of research into milk and hypertrophy and results have shown that a mix of slow and fast digesting protein, casein and whey respectively, can be superior for lean body mass gains compared to whey alone. (7-9)

Milk is a fluid and as I said earlier contains electrolytes. Research has therefore shown milk can be superior to water and sport drinks for rehydration post training. (10) Therefore it could be of huge benefit to endurance athletes for recovery and rehydration.

Rehydration is crucial for muscle recovery since dehydration can cause a drop in performance. Signs of dehydration can be increased fatigue, dry mouth and headaches. I am not advocating milk over sports drinks as every endurance athlete will have their preferences based on the the results they produce, but the evidence is there. For normal weight training I don’t recommend the need for a sport drinks. Their content is just not needed and a solid meal, milk, or protein shake with water will suffice. Sport drinks are for endurance athletes, not weight lifters.

Milk based supplements have also been shown to be more effective compared with traditional sports drinks by Desbrow, Ben, et al. (13) The calorie protein and sodium content of milk was concluded to improve rehydration and recovery.

Milk is also relatively cheap and requires no prep, compared to many whey supplements, especially when sometimes you are paying for the packaging.

So Whole or Skimmed?

This is something I would not bother stressing out about too much, I would base your choice on your calorific and macronutrient targets. It depends on your taste. While you've probably always been told to drink skimmed milk, the majority of scientific studies I have shared have used whole milk. Base your decision on you daily calorie and macronutrient targets. If you're dieting, the lower-fat option is an easy way to save a few calories. When it comes to building muscle, though, whole milk may be your best choice.

Hell, You Can Even Enjoy Chocolate milk!

Results have shown chocolate milk to be an affective recovery drink. (11)

‘Chocolate milk has become an affordable recovery beverage for many athletes, taking the place of more expensive commercially available recovery beverages. Low-fat chocolate milk consists of a 4:1 carbohydrate:protein ratio (similar to many commercial recovery beverages) and provides fluids and sodium to aid in post-workout recovery.’ (12)

So the bottom line is if you are not lactose intolerant milk can help you build muscle and improve performance. The nutrient content in milk is easily absorbed and used in the body, which is why milk and milk products are reliable, easy and beneficial to anyones diet.

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References -

1. Norton LE, Layman DK.  Leucine regulates translation initiation of protein synthesis in skeletal muscle after exercise.  J Nutr. 2006 Feb;136(2):533S-537S.

2. Negro M1, Giardina S, Marzani B, Marzatico F. Branched-chain amino acid supplementation does not enhance athletic performance but affects muscle recovery and the immune system. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2008 Sep;48(3):347-51.

3. Blomstrand E1, Eliasson J, Karlsson HK, Köhnke R. Branched-chain amino acids activate key enzymes in protein synthesis after physical exercise. J Nutr. 2006 Jan;136(1 Suppl):269S-73S.

4. Howatson G1, Hoad M2, Goodall S3, Tallent J3, Bell PG3, French DN3. Exercise-induced muscle damage is reduced in resistance-trained males by branched chain amino acids: a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012 Jul 12;9:20.

5. Zemel MB1, Thompson W, Milstead A, Morris K, Campbell P. Calcium and dairy acceleration of weight and fat loss during energy restriction in obese adults. Obes Res. 2004 Apr;12(4):582-90.

6. Zemel MB1. Role of calcium and dairy products in energy partitioning and weight management. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 May;79(5):907S-912S.

7. Roy BD1. Milk: the new sports drink? A Review. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2008 Oct 2;5:15. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-5-15.

8.Tipton KD1, Elliott TA, Cree MG, Wolf SE, Sanford AP, Wolfe RR. Ingestion of casein and whey proteins result in muscle anabolism after resistance exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2004 Dec;36(12):2073-81.

9. Elliot TA1, Cree MG, Sanford AP, Wolfe RR, Tipton KD. Milk ingestion stimulates net muscle protein synthesis following resistance exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2006 Apr;38(4):667-74.

10. Shirreffs SM1, Watson P, Maughan RJ. Milk as an effective post-exercise rehydration drink. Br J Nutr. 2007 Jul;98(1):173-80. Epub 2007 Apr 26.

11. Karp JR1, Johnston JD, Tecklenburg S, Mickleborough TD, Fly AD, Stager JM. Chocolate milk as a post-exercise recovery aid. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2006 Feb;16(1):78-91.

12. Pritchett K1, Pritchett R. Chocolate milk: a post-exercise recovery beverage for endurance sports. Med Sport Sci. 2012;59:127-34. doi: 10.1159/000341954. Epub 2012 Oct 15.

13. Desbrow B1, Jansen S, Barrett A, Leveritt MD, Irwin C. Comparing the rehydration potential of different milk-based drinks to a carbohydrate–electrolyte beverage. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism 39.12 (2014): 1366-1372.

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