RK Tip of the Week|Milk: Does an athlete’s body good? Or does it?

Posted on July 7, 2010


If you’ve been around the athlete community awhile you may have heard the chatter about chocolate milk being a better recovery drink than the other specifically-geared-for-athletes drinks that are out there. And if you’re a parent of young children, you probably have heard the NesQuik commercials telling kids to get their NesQuik ready for after a long day of playing.

So what’s the deal? IS chocolate milk really better than other recovery drinks that are out there?

A study was done to prove this so it must have some legitimacy, right?

Legitimacy via the study – not really. Legitimacy via the basic composition of milk itself – sort of. Here’s the thing, when you workout strenuously (weight lifting or cardio training that is longer than 45 mins are two examples) you make micro-tears in your muscles that, when repaired, make the muscle stronger, leaner, denser.

There’s really only one thing that the muscles want to accept in those micro-tears and that’s amino acids from proteins. Which is why any good trainer or nutritionist will tell you to ‘make sure you consume protein within your “window” post-workout.’ You have 1 hour post-workout to get nutrition in to the muscles, otherwise the window closes and the muscles will no longer readily accept nutrition for healing & growth. And ideally, you take part of your nutrition post-workout in liquid form because of how easily absorbed that nutrition is when compared to the same nutrition taken in food form.

(Don’t freak out if you don’t have your protein shake but do plan ahead so that doesn’t happen too often.)

So how does milk fit in here? Well, it’s liquid – so it meets those requirements for post-recovery. It contains some protein (8-10g per 8oz). It also contains some vitamins & minerals (although the quality of them is totally unreliable if the milk is from a cow that is pumped full of hormones & antibiotics from a factory farm i.e. all cows that are not raised organically & pastured). More on that in a minute.

So is chocolate milk better than other recovery drinks??? That’s what this study says but if you look at the study there are some major flaws

1) It was done on 8 subjects – that’s it! You cannot conclude solid data from a study that small.

2) The exercisers were given either the chocolate milk or (here it is, here’s the stupidity in full effect!) a carbohydrate drink that was absent of protein.

Let’s back the train up…any good trainer or nutritionist knows protein & proteins’ amino acids are what go into muscle tears to recover them. NOT carbohydrates! So of course the milk would perform better when compared to a drink that has no nutritional value to the muscles!

Let’s be clear – carbohydrate-only recovery drinks are NOT going to help you repair your muscles. If you compare a carb drink to a protein drink – even if it’s a protein enhanced tequila (could such a thing exist?!), the protein-enhanced drink wins hands down every time.

So if chocolate milk meets the requirements for liquid form, protein content, & vitamins & minerals, why would it NOT be a good recovery drink.

1 ) Many people have an unknown intolerance to casein – one of the proteins in milk. A casein intolerance is not an “allergy” & it’s not a “lactose intolerance” – it’s a subtle inflammatory response that happens as the body tries to digest the casein – over time, this can create things like skin inflammation, sinus issues, irritable bowel symptoms & many more things that occur when the body has to deal with increased inflammation in the body. Inflammation leads to disease -> eating foods that raise inflammation = increased risk of disease –> limit foods that raise inflammation. Make sense?

2) Milk that comes from factory farmed cows is a weak imitator of what milk should be. It’s nutritional profile barely compares to that of raw milk from cows that have not been genetically mutated to produce triple the milk but will probably be crippled & diseased before their early death. You can get valuable information from the extremely reliable natural-health source in the world today, the Weston A. Price Foundation here.

3. There are perfectly good protein shake powders that can be stirred or shaken in water that have less sugar (most good ones have less than 3g sugar) than milk (10-13g sugar/serving of milk) & usually contain more vitamins & minerals than the milk, as well as more protein per serving (you can find protein powders that range from 15-3og/protein per serving) compared to milk that only has 8-10g/8oz serving. And since many protein powders are made of whey, a component of dairy – you can even find whey protein powders from companies that only use antibiotic/hormone free cows for a very fair price!

The choice is yours to make – but in my opinion – this is nothing more than a fine “product placement” by the Dairy Council to get us drinking more of their product. And since there are other, far superior products on the market, I will be choosing those instead. What will you choose?