Milk and recovery

Similar to my post on ‘Dairies & Weight Loss’, this topic may spark some controversy. Before I begin, I’d like to point on that with milk, I’m primarily referring to its benefits relating to exercise and recovery. So please keep this in mind while reading!

Milk isn’t for everyone. Some people are lactose intolerant, some dislike the taste and some think it’s too processed of a food to include in their diet. To each their own.

When it comes to exercise and recovery, milk plays its part quite effectively. The constituents help its case. Composed mainly of casein (80%) and whey (20%) proteins, milk contains a good balance of carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. Amino acids wise, milk is quite high in branched chain and other essential amino acids. It’s also cheap, easily accessible and contamination-free.

Given the composition of milk, it has been deemed as an excellent post-exercise recovery beverage. And here’s why:

1. Repairs muscle damage

The high amino acid content, along with the combination of fast (whey) and slow (casein) digesting proteins makes milk effective at repairing damaged muscle tissue post-exercise. At the same time, the protein content helps increase the creation of new proteins within the muscle, thus helping with muscle recovery.

2. Repletes carbohydrate stores

Following resistance or endurance exercise where the body may have utilized all, or almost all, carbohydrate stores, milk has been shown to effectively replenish lost carbohydrates. Not only does milk contain carbohydrates to help with replenishment, but the protein found in milk increases the replenishment of carbohydrates. Carbohydrate ingestion triggers the release of insulin (a hormone) which helps uptake glucose and be stored as energy for later use.

3. Rehydrates the body

Indeed, milk is “nature’s sports drink” as it contains necessary minerals, such as sodium and potassium, which help rehydrate the body. Sodium and potassium are among the minerals considered as ‘electrolytes’, which as we know, are important for fluid retention.

So how much milk is actually needed post-exercise? Well, the evidence suggests 500ml of milk to be sufficient to elicit the benefits experienced from the protein available in milk. If you add 1 scoop of whey protein (~20g) to this mixture, you can further enhance muscle recovery because of the extra protein.

With this post, the key message I want to get across is that milk makes a great recovery beverage if you’re one not to take or have access to any supplements. While there seems to be a negative light shed on milk, as a post-exercise recovery beverage, it’s excellent. The protein, carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals allow you to recover effectively and make the most out of your training session!

So, got milk?