Benefits of Milk for Athletes
The benefits of milk are doubted by some and widely promoted by others. This article will look at some of the issues from a neutral observer’s perspective. The Dairy Education Board would like you to believe milk is poison but are they right?
Regardless of their goal, my clients have not had an issue with using milk as a protein and calcium source. I have been asked a number of questions about some of the claims posted online so I dug into some of the bigger ones. Here is what I found:
Too Much Milk Can Kill You
I found a few sites with an article written about a Swedish study in the 80’s and 90’s involving bout 100 thousand people. They claim that over-consumption of milk (more than 1 glass a day) increases the risk of death in both sexes and bones breaking in women. The problem I have with their claims:
– the demographics of their test group are all people over the age of 40
– they openly admit that “confounders and reverse causation” effects may interfere with their results. This basically means that a woman already at risk of breaking bones will drink more milk so the results are not accurate. They did not determine pre-existing conditions that may cause death or bones breaking.
Until you see more studies showing the same results, do not take this one seriously.
A Fat Burner
University of Tennessee researchers showed that overweight people lost more belly fat when consuming three servings of dairy products a day when compared to those who had only one serving. The remainder of their diets were the same.
The researchers determined that the benefits of milk as a fat burner are from the combination of calcium and milk proteins. A calcium supplement will help to burn fat but not nearly as well as milk.
Benefits of Milk as a Muscle Builder?
Chocolate milk has been shown over and over again to be a very good post-workout drink. It has the optimum combination of carbohydrates and protein in a 3:1 ratio. The Ottawa Senators in the NHL have officially made chocolate milk their team after game beverage. One of its largest benefits of milk is the protein it contains. Milk has 20% whey (a fast digesting protein) and 80% casein (a slow digesting protein) and both are high-quality proteins. Having both fast and slow digesting proteins helps to fuel your muscles right away and over a longer period of time as they need it. With a larger percentage of casein in milk, it is ideal for ties when you will not be eating as often like when you are sleeping. Eating cottage cheese or drinking a glass of milk before bedtime will give your muscles a steady supply of protein n small doses for the 8 hours you are in bed.
Dairy Cow Hormones
The FDA approved recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) for use in cattle in 1993. Its use created an increase in milk production with far less cost to the farmers and ultimately to you as the end user. The problem with using rBGH is that it boosts the concentration of insulin-like growth factor (IGF) which has been linked to cancer. Both rBGH and IGF are protein based hormones which is important because they can’t survive in the digestive system. If you ate either of these hormones, they would be destroyed. Drinking milk from these cows does not mean you will be affected by the hormones.
Canadian researchers have determined a connection between these injected hormones and the cows developing an udder infection called mastitis.
This one is interesting. Some people believe that the antibiotics that are given to cows can cause antibiotic resistance in humans. This would make them less effective in treating human health conditions. The problem with this claim is that it has never been proven.
Skim, 1%, 2% or Whole Milk
Most nutritionists steer you away from higher milk fat versions but this is more due to the added calories than the health issues. Most studies have shown that drinking milk improves cholesterol levels The only real difference is that skim milk is more effective than whole milk. It really comes down to taste and your fitness goal. If you are trying to lose weight, skip the added calories found in higher fat milk.
Are you a “super” drinker? I met a parent with a concern that their son was drinking LARGE quantities of milk everyday. The only issue I have been able to find (besides the added calories) is from a Danish research study that found drinking 6 glasses of whole milk a day can lead to men having a slight (6 point) increase in LDL (bad) cholesterol. BUT, triglycerides (a marker of the risk of heart-disease) still decreased by 22%. In the end, the benefits of milk can be significant. Drinking 2 – 3 glasses of milk a day, regardless of which type, will lower your risk of stroke and heart attack as proven by British research studies.
Whole milk has an added benefit for muscle building as shown in research at the University of Texas. Drinking whole milk after lifting weights will boost muscle protein synthesis 2.8 times more than drinking skim milk.
The benefits of milk as a quality protein source and as a post-workout beverage has been proven in research. Those who are opposed to its use are proponents of plant based diets which I am not opposed to in most cases. I simply see no valid reasons why milk should not be a valuable part of an athlete’s diet.
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