Milk might be known for its calcium but it has many science-backed benefits other than just strengthening your bones. Expert dietitian Ethan Lowry is here to tell you everything you need to know about the benefits of milk if you’re tea-totaling on the white stuff.
Growing up on the benefits of milk
The push for milk in schools and community groups stems largely from the calcium and vitamin D requirements needed for healthy teeth and bones, but this is a shame because the true list of health benefits courtesy of milk is longer than you might think. Consider the following three questions:
- What is the best drink to meet your hydration requirements?
- What’s the best drink for building high-quality muscle mass?
- And the best drink for reducing heart disease, cancer and diabetes?
You wouldn’t be blamed for picking different drinks for each one, but the answer to all three may in fact be milk. Optimum hydration demands an adequate volume of liquid, the correct amount of carbohydrate and electrolyte replenishment. Milk fulfills all three of these, especially in the post-exercise recovery phase, found research in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism
Not only does milk’s carbs provide a source of energy, but they also draw water into muscles cells facilitating the hydration process. Milk contains a significant amount of both sodium and potassium needed to replenish the electrolytes lost during exercise, and a person would need to drink less milk compared to water to attain the same level of hydration.
Whey to go, milk!
The whey found in milk is one of the fastest digesting proteins available, making it ideal for post workout, whereas casein is digested at a much slower rate, perfect before a long fast or bed.
Taking a combination of these two means your body has a consistent amount of protein available for muscle growth and recovery. Fortunately this exact combination is found in milk.
Coupled with the fact that milk contains carbohydrates and minerals, and is calorie dense, it could be argued it’s a perfect, cheap and readily available post-workout refresher, which was supported by research in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutritionists. So, if you’re after more muscle, it’s a worthy staple keeping in your fridge.
All good news for milk?
The primary nutrition rule is that almost every food should be eaten in moderation – and milk is no exception. In fact, research in the >British Medical Journal< found people who regularly drank milk actually died sooner compared to those who avoided it. However, that study was on older guys aged 45-79, so it’s tough to know if there were other dietary factors at play.
Though milk does get a bad press it has been linked to better health and improved longevity. It reduces the risk of colorectal and bladder cancer, according to research in the Annals of Oncology.
The global epidemic of diabetes is one of the biggest strains on healthcare budgets. However, the consumption of milk and dairy has also been tied to a specific reduction in the risk of developing the condition, found a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. America’s biggest killer, heart disease could also be prevented through the consumption of milk and dairy.
The investigations around this food are continuously evolving, though the FDA does warn against unpasteurized milk. Conversely, other experts suggest that pasteurization destroys vitamin C and B while making calcium unavailable and destroying the enzymes needed to digest it.
Whichever variety you choose, the benefits of milk for the average exerciser are worth wrapping your lips around.