Milk Your Workout for all It’s Worth—5 Wheys Low-Fat Dairy is a Nutrient Powerhouse

Is your body getting what it needs after a workout? So many sports and health products are released every year; each one boasting superior benefits for workout recovery. Neon-colored drinks are posed as the best source of hydration, while formulations designed to emulate human milk are advertised as optimal muscle-building fuel, with little or no research to support the claims. If your blender is simply building clutter, and doing little for your muscles, look no further than cooler or your local grocer or convenience store for a convenient, effective post workout. Plain old non-fat or low-fat milk is a perfect post-workout recovery drink.

So what are some traits of a good workout supplement?

1. Provides carbohydrates in the form of sugar

2. Good source of high quality protein, but is also low in fat

3. Protein content also has branched-chain amino acids

4. Contains liquid and electrolytes

5. Inexpensive and convenient


1. Provides carbohydrates in the form of sugar

After a workout, the body needs recovery food to completely benefit from the exercise. Carbohydrates are important after a workout for a few reasons. First of all, they help to maintain blood sugar, especially for people who are likely to experience hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) symptoms; Type 2 diabetics fall into this category.

Also, sugar is a potent stimulator of insulin. Following a workout, insulin binds to recpetors on the muscle and sends a“signal” that it is time to make protein. An insulin spike right after a workout tells the genes for making muscle proteins to become activated. Finally, sugar is a good source of carbohydrate for the quick replacement of glycogen stores. This is especially important for athletes (of any age and competition level) who will be playing in a tournament or several matches back to back. Athletes “hit the wall” when muscle glycogen is depleted; the sooner carbohydrate makes it to your muscles, the better. Skim milk contains the two-unit sugar lactose.

Also, sweetened low-fat milk products are also good to have after a workout. One study, conducted by Karp and his colleagues, compared low-fat chocolate milk to either a traditional hydration drink or another carbohydrate-containing beverage in between two hard endurance workouts. The athletes who got the chocolate milk were able to exercise longer in the second bout. In addition to chocolate milk, low-fat ice cream or low-fat yogurt are also good choices.

2. Good source of high quality protein, but is also low in fat

Once the muscles get the signal to increase protein synthesis, they need a steady stream of building blocks, or amino acids, to complete the process. Amino acids are obtained from protein in food. Milk is an especially good source of protein because it contains both quick-absorbing whey and slower-absorbing casein. Both of these protein types are shown to increase protein synthesis after a workout; however, some researchers think that the muscle-building benefits of each protein are maximized when the two are taken together.

Unfortunately, many high quality protein sources are in solid form and also packaged with a lot of extra fat. Fat slows the rate at which food is emptied from the stomach into the small intestine, so having too much fat after a workout slows the adsorption of much-needed sugars and amino acids into the blood. This is why high-fat post-workout drink may not be a good choice. Low-fat dairy is one of the few natural, high-quality protein, low-fat post workout options.

3. Protein content also has branched-chain amino acids

Not all amino acids are created equal. Some cannot be made in the body and are considered “essential.” Branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) and the BCAA leucine, in particular, are special for a couple of reasons. First of all, the muscle prefers to use BCAA as fuel during a workout; the body will break down your own muscle mass to get them if your supply if insufficient, since all BCAA are essential amino acids. Also, the BCAA leucine, like insulin, tells the muscles to make more structural proteins, so leucine is both a nutrient and a “signal.”

Low-fat milk is a great source of leucine; specifically, milk contains about 0.8g of leucine per 8oz (240mL) cup. Typically, sports nutrition experts recommend about 1.5-2 grams of leucine following a workout; therefore, 2 cups of fat-free milk would put you the ball park by providing 1.6 grams of muscle-building leucine.

4. Contains liquid and electrolytes

Until recently, it was assumed that the best post workout hydration source is an fruity electrolyte drink. However, a recent article published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that low-fat milk promotes hydration after exercise better than either commonly used sports drink or water.

5. Inexpensive and convenient

Last, but certainly not least, you shouldn’t have to go out of your way to give your body what it needs after a hard day and an even harder workout. Low-fat milk, ice cream and yogurts are everywhere! In summary, according to Karen Kafer, RD, National Dairy Council, “[Milk is a] nutrient-rich package…for athletes: protein, carbohydrates, fluid and electrolytes, and vitamins and minerals. The vitamin and mineral package in milk includes calcium, phosphorus, vitamin D, vitamin A, riboflavin, vitamin B12, niacin and potassium. Together these help with strong bones, convert energy to fuel working muscles and maintain fluid and mineral balance.”


One response to “Milk Your Workout for all It’s Worth—5 Wheys Low-Fat Dairy is a Nutrient Powerhouse

  1. i like your posting

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