Milk has been promoted for ages to be a great supplier of calcium, necessary for bone growth and strength. The truth is, there are better food sources than milk but it is readily available, inexpensive and still a good product.
What you rarely hear people talking about is drinking milk for muscle growth and recovery after a workout. There is a movement out there that promotes low fat chocolate milk for a post workout drink and it's great for certain sports and athletes! It has the correct carb-protein ratio, tastes good and has many vital substances to aid recovery. For serious gains however, you will need more than chocolate milk. You would need high quantities in order to fulfill your body's need for growth (we are talking about weight lifting, high resistance training etc.).
Milk has its supporters and opponents, often both radical in their ideas. If you have seen 'Pumping Iron', the documentary about Arnold Schwarzenegger, then you probably noticed his reply to the question whether he drinks milk. If you didn't, this is what he said: 'Milk is for cows.'
And indeed it is. It is unnatural for an adult being to drink the milk of another species. However, that does not mean it is bad for you and no matter what, it is still a natural product and much better for you than any chemically produced supplements. If you have an intolerance or an allergy, you obviously do not want to start drinking high quantities of any milk whatsoever. It is also shown that different ethnic groups have a different tolerance towards milk.
Personally, I have always loved milk. I grew up with it and drank tons of milk growing up and I have never experienced any intolerance, which makes it easy for me.
Throughout the last few years, as I started doing more resistance training, I have realized the advantages of drinking milk for my recovery and progress. A few advantages:
- it is cheap, much cheaper than most other sources of protein
- it is readily available everywhere
- it provides high quality protein, both whey and casein so your body gets protein instantly with fast acting whey and progressively with the longer release time of casein
- the calcium in milk does not only give you strong bones but also helps relaxing your muscles. Too little calcium combined with intense activities may give your cramped muscles
- drinking a lot of milk has proven to cut fat (calcium also plays a role in fat mobilization, as well in reducing stress, lowering blood pressure etc.)
Arguments against milk:
- it has growth hormones, cancer causing steroids etc. in it because the farmers want their cows bigger and more productive
Yes, the growth hormone rBGH is used for higher milk production. This hormone however only works when injected. If ingested, our digestion tracts destroys these hormones. This does not justify the fact that the cows are being injected with it but it does not affect you when drinking milk. You can also buy milk from sources that guarantee not to use any hormones in their live stock (Whole Foods for example who sells antibiotic and hormone free milk).
- it makes me gain weight
Milk has been proven to lower cholesterol levels. Actually whole milk lowers levels more than skim milk! Milk also lowers the chances of getting a heart attack or stroke.
I mostly drink non fat milk since my calorie intake is pretty high and I gain easily. For a better ratio though, try 2% milk or even whole milk if you have a hard time gaining.
The quantity of milk you should drink varies. I go through about 2 gallons/week and have great gains with my training and diet combination. Other supporters of milk go through 1 or 2 gallons per day! It will completely depend on your diet, calorie intake, amount of protein, body type etc. But at least give milk a chance!
Sander Vanacker is the owner of Define Defense Martial Arts in Boulder, Colorado. Sander has been practicing sports his entire life. These consist of mostly martial arts (since 1993) but also semi-professional cycling in Belgium, triathlons, weight lifting and overall fitness training.