During the in-season, every training session counts and the name of the game is to recover quickly from one session to move on to the next.

Milk, specifically chocolate milk, has long been touted as the ultimate recovery beverage.  But are dairy farmers just milking the sports industry cash cow, or is there truth to this claim?

Luckily for athletes and exercisers, this is one food marketing campaign that isn’t complete bull.

Although it’s not necessarily chocolate milk that holds the key to recovery, cow’s milk in general can support your recovery needs because it addresses the three principles of recovery nutrition.

The Goals of Recovery Nutrition

Proper nutrition is fundamental to helping you shorten your recovery time and get the most out of your training (1, 2).

Because training can cause dehydration, muscle damage, and depletion of energy stores, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that optimal recovery nutrition hinges on rehydrating, refueling, and repairing the body (3).

Along those lines, post-workout consumption of carbohydrates and high quality protein has been shown to reign superior when it comes to producing training adaptations (4, 5).

Why Milk Scores High

Repair & Refuel

With carbohydrates and high quality proteins, milk contains the ideal nutrient profile for replenishing energy stores and building muscle (6).

Milk proteins include casein and whey which are especially effective at muscle repair (7). Whey is actually regarded as the gold standard for muscle building because of its rapid digestion and amino acid profile (3).

Amino acids are the building blocks for protein and milk supplies all of the essential amino acids that our bodies can’t make themselves (3).

While casein is more slowly digested than whey, the mixture of casein and whey found in milk may work together to create a rapid yet sustained delivery of amino acids to the muscles. This may be more favorable than whey protein alone (2, 7).

As important as protein is in the recovery process, the carbohydrates in milk are equally essential because they are responsible for topping up our energy stores – a process which dictates the time required for recovery (8). As well, carbohydrates may help alleviate muscle soreness and inflammation (5).

Rehydrate

Milk contains a blend of nutrients, fluid, and electrolytes which serve to slow down digestion to a point which allows enhanced fluid absorption and retention (1, 3, 6).

In fact, one study has shown that milk may actually be a superior option to either sports drinks or water when it comes to rehydration capability (6).

Overall, studies have found 500 mL of milk (semi-skimmed or fat-free) to be the amount necessary to get the ball rolling for recovery (1, 3).

 

It’s quite possibly just a happy cow-incidence that milk checks off all the recovery nutrition boxes.

However, whether or not your recovery nutrition is in solid or liquid form does not seem to matter in the grand scheme of things (8).

Thus, if a post-workout snack or meal balanced with protein, carbohydrates, and a big ol’ glass of H2O is a feasible option in your busy schedule, then that is an equally effective recovery option.

Case in point, milk is just one whey to rehydrate, refuel, and repair after a workout. To get the best recovery possible, find a solution that works for you to get your dose of proteins, carbs, and fluids.

Thanks for reading!
Kirsten Allen, BSc Kin, RD

 

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