Milk – A Good Post-Workout Drink?

Milk is wholesome food; no wonder it is the first food that nature intends you to have! Cow milk is considered homologous to human milk.

Recent interest in bovine milk in fitness circles is due to suggestions by researchers that milk may be more effective than most commercially available sports drinks. Not only does it serve as a great post-workout drink for resistance training but also after an endurance training session.

Milk causes improved nitrogen retention (meaning more muscle protein synthesis) and in combination with resistance training has been shown to improve muscle strength and size (hypertrophy) (Wilkinson et al., 2007).

Benefits of Milk When Combined With Resistance Training

Milk has several benefits for human health (Haug, Hostmark, & Harstad, 2007). More recently, it has been suggested that milk may make a great post-exercise recovery and anabolic drink. This is due to the fact that milk is one of the most nutrient-dense foods out there; it is packed with proteins, lipids, vitamins and minerals.

Research has shown that ingestion of proteins, amino acids, carbs and essential minerals within a few minutes after workout enhances muscle growth induced by resistance training (Tipton, Ferrando, Phillips, Doyle, Jr., & Wolfe, 1999; Tipton et al., 2004; Borsheim et al., 2004; Roy, Tarnopolsky, MacDougall, Fowles, & Yarasheski, 1997).

Post-exercise muscle growth and recovery are greatly aided by consumption of milk; suggested mechanisms are:

• Presence of lactose – great carbohydrate source to replenish muscle glycogen used up during exercise

• Presence of protein (casein and whey) – ensures rapid as well as slow absorption and breakdown of proteins – thus steadier plasma levels of amino acids than most other drinks – amino acids aids in growth and recovery of skeletal muscles

• Presence of branched-chain amino acids – leucine, isoleucine and valine – which play a crucial in muscle growth

• Presence of electrolytes – these replace electrolytes lost through sweating and thus maintain fluid and electrolyte balance

• Long term effects of combining resistance training with low-fat milk improves body composition as well – increase in lean mass and decrease in body fat (Hartman et al., 2007)


Although further research in warranted, current evidence suggests that milk is as effective (possibly even more so) as most commercially available sports drinks or post-workout drinks. And, the benefits of resistance training can be improved multiple folds by combining it with ingestion of milk soon after workout.

Reference List

Borsheim, E., Cree, M. G., Tipton, K. D., Elliott, T. A., Aarsland, A., & Wolfe, R. R. (2004). Effect of carbohydrate intake on net muscle protein synthesis during recovery from resistance exercise. J Appl.Physiol, 96, 674-678.

Hartman, J. W., Tang, J. E., Wilkinson, S. B., Tarnopolsky, M. A., Lawrence, R. L., Fullerton, A. V. et al. (2007). Consumption of fat-free fluid milk after resistance exercise promotes greater lean mass accretion than does consumption of soy or carbohydrate in young, novice, male weightlifters. Am J Clin Nutr., 86, 373-381.

Haug, A., Hostmark, A. T., & Harstad, O. M. (2007). Bovine milk in human nutrition – a review. Lipids Health Dis., 6, 25.

Roy, B. D., Tarnopolsky, M. A., MacDougall, J. D., Fowles, J., & Yarasheski, K. E. (1997). Effect of glucose supplement timing on protein metabolism after resistance training. J Appl.Physiol, 82, 1882-1888.

Tipton, K. D., Elliott, T. A., Cree, M. G., Wolf, S. E., Sanford, A. P., & Wolfe, R. R. (2004). Ingestion of casein and whey proteins result in muscle anabolism after resistance exercise. Med Sci.Sports Exerc., 36, 2073-2081.

Tipton, K. D., Ferrando, A. A., Phillips, S. M., Doyle, D., Jr., & Wolfe, R. R. (1999). Postexercise net protein synthesis in human muscle from orally administered amino acids. Am J Physiol, 276, E628-E634.

Wilkinson, S. B., Tarnopolsky, M. A., Macdonald, M. J., Macdonald, J. R., Armstrong, D., & Phillips, S. M. (2007). Consumption of fluid skim milk promotes greater muscle protein accretion after resistance exercise than does consumption of an isonitrogenous and isoenergetic soy-protein beverage. Am J Clin Nutr., 85, 1031-1040.

1 Comment

  1. Very informative article.

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Dr. Deepak S Hiwale

Dr. Deepak S Hiwale, a.k.a "The Fitness Doc" specializes in sports medicine in addition to being an elite personal trainer. He currently runs an elite personal training company in West London. As a sports injury and fitness writer-presenter, he tries to disseminate as much knowledge as possible for the benefit of all. MBBS (University of Pune); MSC, Sports and Exercise Medicine (University of Glasgow); Diploma in Personal Training (YMCA Dip. PT, London).

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