In the past, good old-fashioned milk played a vital role in the bodybuilder’s diet. In the late ’80s, guys even mixed protein shakes with whipping cream — a recipe that could be found in Arnold’s Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding. Yet over the past several years, lifters have moved away from milk as a regular source of protein. Why? It’s primarily due to misplaced fear based on anecdotal claims that milk will make you fat and has low biological value.
News flash: This couldn’t be further from the truth!
With the extensive marketing of protein supplements, we commonly overlook the fact that all whey and casein protein products are isolated from cow’s milk. Whole milk can be broken down to 87% water and 13% solids. Within the solid fraction there’s 37% lactose, 30% fat, 27% protein, and 6% ash and minerals. The protein fraction is made up of 80% casein and 20% pure whey, which contains a high concentration of essential amino acids including the branched-chain version.
The fact that dairy products contain an abundance of high-quality aminos should make them an attractive protein source; after all, milk was designed by nature to encourage muscular development. It’s a food that has evolved to near perfection, and we all know that eating a variety of high-quality foods optimizes growth.
MORE THAN JUST A SOURCE OF PROTEIN
The amount of protein, in grams, per 1-1/2 cup serving of cottage cheese, making it among the very best protein-rich dairy foods. Milk provides complete and balanced nutrition including protein and calcium, and is usually fortified with vitamins A and D. Its protein, calcium and D promote healthy bone development and provide buildingblocks for muscular growth. Not only that, but these key nutrients maintain substrates needed for forceful and repeated muscle contraction.
Milk also contains valuable immune system support factors such as lactoferrin and anabolic hormones like bioavailable insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1). Science shows the calcium in milk is beneficial for bone and dental health, supports many metabolic processes and is uniquely bioavailable. In addition, milk consumption has been shown to lower the catabolic
The amount of protein, in grams, per 1-1/2 cup serving of cottage cheese, making it among the very best protein-rich dairy foods.
MILK AND FAT LOSS
Over the years, we’ve seen mixed feedback on whether you should drink milk while dieting. Many bodybuilders tell us they avoid all milk products before a show, but researchers say consuming dairy products regularly can help you lose fat. According to the science, enhanced weight loss may be linked to increased calcium and vitamin D in the blood. This is supported by studies illustrating that low vitamin D levels are associated with weight gain and increased calcium ingestion leads to greater fat loss. Believe it or not, most athletes are vitamin D deficient! Sure, you could simply take vitamin D and calcium supplements to get the fat-loss benefit, but recent re- search shows that consuming dairy while dieting trumps dieting with calcium and vitamin D supplements alone.
MILK TO INCREASE LEAN MASS
Research conclusively states that the faster you increase blood amino acids after exercise — known as hyperamino- aridemia — the greater the anabolic response. In addition, increasing levels of blood leucine, an essential amino acid, stimulates muscle recovery and growth.
A recent study published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism compared the impact of several protein sources on blood amino acids, blood glucose and insulin levels. Subjects consumed 20 grams of protein from skim milk, soy milk, beefsteak, boiled eggs and a popular brand-name post-workout protein/ carbohydrate supplement. Notably, skim milk outperformed all other sources with the greatest and fastest increase in blood aminos. It also resulted in the fastest and highest blood leucine levels, which were nearly twice that of the liquid meal supplement.
So it’s no surprise that researchers believe milk significantly increases muscle gain and fat loss in those who lift weights. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, scientists at McMaster University (Hamilton, Ontario) put 56 young men through a rigorous 12-week weight-training program. Subjects drank either two cups of skim milk, a soy beverage with equivalent amounts of protein and calories, or a carbohydrate beverage with equal calories after each workout. By the end of the study, the milk group had lost twice as much fat (2 pounds) as the carb group and the soy protein group registered no fat loss.
Even more remarkably, those who drank milk after training saw a 40-60% greater increase in muscle mass compared to the other groups. A follow-up study by the same research team showed that after a 12-week resistance training period, subjects who drank fat-free milk after heavy exercise enjoyed greater increases in muscle mass, strength and fat loss compared to trainees who received a placebo or carbohydrate-only supplement.
THE SKINNY ON MILK
Based on all this research, milk appears to be the perfect supplement for bodybuilders. After all, it’s convenient, affordable and tastes great. So is there any reason for lifters to not drink milk? In a word, yes. If you’re lactose intolerant, chugging 2-4 cups (16-32 ounces) of milk in one sitting could upset your stomach and cause enough flatulence to clear out Grand Central Station! The good news is that lactose-free milk and lactase (lactate enzyme) supplements that enable gas-free milk consumption are readily available.
Milk’s fat content is another bugaboo. Whole milk is 3.25% fat — or 96.75% fat-free and high in fat soluble vitamins A and D. However, fat-free milk has most of its A and D vitamins stripped from it. So if the extra saturated-fat calories in whole milk is a concern, buy nonfat milk that’s fortified with A and D. Remember, you must adjust your caloric intake accordingly when adding milk to your diet. And if you’re on a ketogenic diet, the lactose in milk will definitely keep you from entering ketosis and limit your fat loss.
Finally, some people may find they retain water or look smoother after introducing milk or dairy’ to their diet. This is an effect of increased sodium intake; one cup of low-fat milk has about 107 milligrams of sodium, if this happens to you, try drinking at least 12 cups (100 fluid ounces) of water a day to limit water retention.
CHOCOLATE MILK: Better for Recovery?
Drinking 500mL (roughly 2 cups) of fat-free milk immediately after intense resistance exercise has been shown to reduce muscle damage and increase performance in subsequent exercise sessions. This makes milk an ideal post-exercise recovery drink.
Chocolate milk is also a proven post-workout partner. The low-fat variety contains an approximate 4-1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein, which is similar to many carb-rich post- workout formulas on the market. A recent study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that drinking chocolate milk after intense exercise results in glycogen resynthesis rates comparable to is caloric carb supplements, yet leads to better muscle recovery and greater signaling for protein synthesis to stimulate growth.
After a strenuous work-out, it’s imperative that you replenish your fluid stores to ensure proper muscle function and recovery. Research published in the British Journal of Nutrition indicates that chocolate skim milk — with and without added sodium — rehydrates subjects better than sports drinks or water after heavy exercise.
To take advantage of what milk can offer your physique, try mixing your post-workout whey protein with fat-free, whole or chocolate milk, depending on your goals and caloric intake. You’ll not only boost the protein content of your shake but also significantly improve its taste, rehydrate more efficiently, and get much-needed vitamins A and D, calcium and growth factors — all of which will help you gain more lean mass.
How does milk stack up?
This chart ranks the values of various milk sources by their caloric loads and grams of protein, carbs and fat. The values of a scoop of whey protein powder are included as a barometer, but remember: mixing whey with any of these protein sources can help max out your protein intake.
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